The cast of Trainspotting: then and now
trainspotting cast

As the original cast of Trainspotting reunite to film the sequel on the streets of Leith (and Glasgow), we look back at their varying fortunes over the past two decades

Choose life. Choose other roles to a varying degree of success. Choose a sequel.

Ewen Bremner (Spud)

With his distinctive looks and super-strength Edinburgh brogue, Ewen Bremner was perfectly cast as the naive Spud in Trainspotting, becoming an instant cult favourite, thanks to his prevalence for lying in the gutter, embarrassing laundry incidents and that job interview while on speed (“my pleasure in other people’s leisure”).


Since those days Bremner has carved out a career as a prolific character actor, without ever really becoming a household name. He has appeared briefly in some major films, including Snatch and Pearl Harbor, and more recently in Bong Joon Ho’s Snowpiercer, but he’s found most of his post-Trainspotting work on TV.

Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy)

In the mid-90s Jonny Lee Miller’s career was in the ascendancy. When he was cast in Trainspotting he had just starred alongside future wife Angelina Jolie in the (now enjoyably dated) cyber-security thriller Hackers, and his turn as the endlessly quotable, Sean Connery-loving Sick Boy marked him out as a versatile screen presence.

sick boy

But for whatever reason it didn’t quite work out for the London-born actor. While Oscar-worthy films have eluded him, he has focused on interesting British cinema (Regeneration, Complicity, The Flying Scotsman) and more recent TV dramas (Eli Stone, Dexter, Elementary).

Let’s just forget about Æon Flux.

With the boy @mcgregor_ewan in a high stakes tweed hunt at @stewartchristie_co

A photo posted by jonny lee miller (@jonnylmiller) on

Kevin McKidd (Tommy)

The tousle-haired Tommy was, alongside Renton, the relatable character in Trainspotting.

The good guy whose spiralling drug habit seemed as tragic as it was admittedly far-fetched.

tommy trainspotting

Like several Trainspotting alumni, McKidd has paid the bills with regular roles in big-budget US TV dramas (Rome, Grey’s Anatomy) while pursuing interesting work back on these shores (The Acid House, 16 Years of Alcohol).

For Father Ted fans, he’ll be remembered as one of the priests who get lost in “the largest lingerie section in Ireland“.

Robert Carlyle (Begbie)

The elder statesman of the Trainspotting cast, it would have been easy for Robert Carlyle to be utterly typecast as the hardman after his unforgettable turn as Begbie.

Francis Begbie

And while he’s not risen to A-list status, he has cultivated a CV beyond the pen-knife-wielding, glass-chucking thug that bolstered his credentials.

Already a well-known face on UK TV thanks to Hamish Macbeth, Carlyle followed up his breakthrough film role in Trainspotting a year later with the similarly successful The Full Monty, which was followed by high profile turns in The World Is Not Enough, Angela’s Ashes and The Beach.

Recent roles haven’t been quite as substantial, but he did make his directorial debut last year with The Legend of Barney Thomson.

begbie trainspotting 2
Robert Carlyle filming Trainspotting 2 – picture: Johnston Press

Ewan McGregor (Renton)

Ewan McGregor was the star of the show, and he always seemed destined for big things, especially after his initial breakthrough in Shallow Grave. And so it has turned out for the Perth-born actor.


A legitimate global star, his track record ranges from CGI-driven blockbusters (The Phantom Menace, Black Hawk Down, The Impossible) to character-driven dramas (Young Adam, The Ghost, August: Osage County).

His decision to return to the character of Mark Renton follows years of speculation over his frayed relationship with director Danny Boyle. It all stemmed from The Beach: Boyle had apparently given McGregor the impression he would be cast in the lead role, but it ultimately went to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Luckily, the pair have both gone on to greater things, and have since settled their differences.

Ewan McGregor Miles Ahead
Ewan McGregor in Miles Ahead

Intriguingly, McGregor is yet another film star turning to the small screen, having been recently confirmed for the third series of Fargo.

Kelly Macdonald (Diane)

There’s a neat symmetry to Kelly Macdonald’s place in Trainspotting history.

The original film was released in the UK on her 20th birthday, although there’s still uncertainty whether she’s returning for the sequel, half a lifetime later.

If she does, it will be another high profile addition to a CV that has seen the softly spoken Scot become a familiar face on both sides of the Atlantic.

diane trainspotting

The Glaswegian’s ability to switch between accents has found her using an exaggerated version of her native style as Princess Merida in Disney’s Brave, trying on a proper Texas drawl in No Country For Old Men, and mastering an Irish lilt for her turn as Margaret Thompson in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire.

Macdonald alongside Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire

T2 is set for a January 27, 2017 release


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