It’s difficult to think about 90s pop culture without Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ ringing in your ears and the image of a skinny Ewan McGregor being chased by security through the streets of Edinburgh immediately entering your mind.
One of the best films of that decade, the iconic Trainspotting celebrates its 20th anniversary today.
With that in mind, what better way to celebrate than to catch up with Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Begbie, while taking a look at 20 things you (probably) didn’t know about the film?
1. Irvine Welsh took a lot of convincing to get the film made…
Understandably, the book’s author, Irvine Welsh, had concerns about a feature length adaptation.
Danny Boyle managed to win him over by writing him a letter stating that the films writer and producer, John Hodge and Andrew Mcdonald, were “the two most important Scotsmen since Kenny Dalglish and Alex Ferguson”.
2. …but he ended up having a cameo
In the film, the author of the source material can be seen playing a drug dealer – the guy who gives Renton those suppositories, and has a key role in the plot later on.
3. Ewan McGregor really did his homework
Researching the role of Renton, Ewan McGregor decided to read books about crack and heroin and, in an attempt to learn about the life of a drug addict, he also visited Calton Athletic Recovery Group in Glasgow, where he was taught how to cook up heroin with a spoon using glucose powder.
4. McGregor lost two stone to play Renton
To play the skinny addict, the actor was forced to give up alcohol and dairy products for two months, in order to reach his character’s desired size.
5. Doctor Who was originally going to play Begbie
Danny Boyle’s original choice for the psycopathic Begbie was future Doctor Who Christopher Eccleston, as he resembled what Boyle pictured the character to be in the book. When it didn’t work out, Robert Carlyle was cast in the role.
6. Begbie was (probably) gay
Since the film’s release, Robert Carlyle, who played Begbie, has said he chose to play Begbie as a closeted gay man whose outbursts of violence were due to his “fear of being outed”. Irvine Welsh responded to Carlyle by confirming that he wrote the Begbie of the book to have an ambiguous sexuality.
7. Jonny Lee Miller can do an excellent Sean Connery impression
The only non-Scottish cast member in the film, Jonny Lee Miller was cast not only due to the strength of his performance in Hackers, but because he could also do an excellent impression of Sean Conney’s accent.
Coincidentally, his character in the film, Sick Boy, is obsessed with James Bond trivia.
8. This wasn’t the first time Ewen Bremner had starred in Trainspotting
The actor who plays Spud in the film previously played Renton in a stage adaptation of the novel.
9. Kevin McKidd isn’t even on any of the posters
McKidd, who plays Tommy in the film, missed the photo shoots for the film’s promotion as he was on holiday, which resulted in him being the only lead cast member not to be in any of the promotional posters and video cover.
10. Kelly Macdonald played a 14-year old at 19-years old
Responding to a flyer that was handed out all over Glasgow, Macdonald auditioned for the part of 14-year old schoolgirl, Diane, and got the gig despite her age – as Boyle felt she was the most natural presence in a room full of glamorous girls. The film was released on the actress’ 20th birthday.
11…and she went on to be a Disney Princess
As well as voicing Princess Merida in Disney’s Brave, Macdonald also appears in Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows: Part 2, as Helena Ravenclaw.
12. ‘The worst toilet in Scotland’ was actually quite pleasant
Even though it’s one of Trainspotting’s more disgusting sequences, the faeces used in the scene were actually made from chocolate and, by all accounts, smelled lovely.
13. Dialogue was re-recorded for American audiences
Fearing that American audiences would struggle to understand the Scottish accents in the film, a number of options were considered to make the dialogue easier to decipher.
Subtitles were an option at one point, but ruled out as they would spoil the effect of using them in the disco scene. Instead, the actors re-recorded the first 20 minutes of dialogue and toned down their accents to make the speech easier on the American ear.
14. There’s no actual trainspotting in the film
Despite the film’s title, there’s not one scene where Trainspotting actually takes place.
Irvine Welsh has since gone on record to explain the title, comparing the unusual hobby to heroin addiction, saying that “it is something that only the people who indulge in that pastime truly understand. To them, it makes perfect sense”.
15. The iconic opening sequence almost never happened
Originally intended for the middle of the film, the “Choose Life” monologue was moved to the opening when Danny Boyle and John Hodge were struggling to find a suitable starting point. That moment is now iconic.
16. A Clockwork Orange was used as inspiration
Danny Boyle made the cast watch older movies about rebellious youths like The Hustler, The Exorcist and A Clockwork Orange.
The latter film is directly homaged in the scene set in the Volcano nightclub, which is very similar to that set in the Milk Bar in Stanley Kubrick’s film.
17. Baby Dawn was played by twins
Using twins to play the part of baby Dawn meant neither of the babies were forced to be in front of the camera for too long.
During breaks, the cast would play with the babies to break the tension of the difficult scenes that were to follow.
18. It was received unbelievably well by critics, as well as fans
Trainspotting stands at number 10 on the British Film Institute’s all time best British films.
19…and was a huge financial success as well
Considering the film was shot on a budget of £1.5 million, the fact it went on to earn £48 million worldwide is pretty impressive.
20. It’s getting a sequel
In September of last year, it was confirmed that Welsh’s follow-up, Porno, would be getting the big screen treatment, with all the original cast members set to return. Read all about it here.
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