Trainspotting is a 1996 British black comedy drama film directed by Danny Boyle, and starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle and Kelly Macdonald in her acting debut. Based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh, the film was released in the United Kingdom on 23 February 1996.
Let’s see some interesting facts about it!
1. Renton, deeply immersed in the Edinburgh drug scene, tries to clean up and get out, despite the allure of the drugs and influence of friends.
2. Kelly Macdonald got the part when the production crew were handing out flyers across Glasgow, for anyone eager to audition. When Danny Boyle first laid eyes on her, in a corridor with a plain hairdo surrounded by many glamorous girls, he knew she was the one. He wanted someone unknown, so no-one would guess a 19-year-old is playing a schoolgirl. Macdonald still has the promotional flyer at home.
3. The sex scene between Ewan McGregor and Kelly Macdonald had to be trimmed for the American release by a few seconds, mainly because it appeared that Diane – a schoolgirl in the film – seemed to be enjoying it too much.
4. Danny Boyle used twins to play the part of baby Dawn, which meant neither of the babies were forced to be in front of the camera for too long. All of the cast used to play with the two babies in between takes so they could break the tension of the often difficult scenes they were about to shoot.
5. Danny Boyle used creative methods while directing, necessitated by the film’s low budget. For example, in the scene where Renton shoots a dog with a BB gun and it then goes crazy and attacks its owner, Boyle got the dog to freak out simply by positioning himself just outside of camera range and screaming at it.
6. Danny Boyle had his actors prepare by making them watch older movies about rebellious youths like The Hustler (1961), The Exorcist (1973) and A Clockwork Orange (1971). 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. Indeed, the track playing in the Volcano club is by Heaven 17 who took their name from A Clockwork Orange (1971).
7. In 2009, Robert Carlyle, who played Begbie, told a BAFTA interviewer that he played Begbie as a closeted gay man whose outbursts of violence were due to his “fear of being outed”. Irvine Welsh, who wrote the movie’s source novel, confirmed that he wrote the Begbie of the book to have an ambiguous sexuality, and agreed with Carlyle’s interpretation of the film’s version of the character.
8. Ewan McGregor read books about crack and heroin to prepare for the role. He also went to Glasgow and met people from the Calton Athletic Recovery Group, an organisation of recovering heroin addicts. He was taught how to cook up heroin with a spoon using glucose powder. McGregor considered injecting heroin to better understand the character, but eventually decided against it.
9. Ewen Bremner (Spud) had previously played Renton in a stage adaptation of the novel.
10. In order to look the part of a heroin addict, Ewan McGregor lost 26 pounds. And his diet was surprisingly simple. “I grilled everything, and stopped drinking beer,” he told Neon magazine. “I drank wine and lots of gin instead. The weight just falls off.”
11. In the film, Jonny Lee Miller’s character, Sick Boy, is a major 007 fan. Appropriately, the actor himself has family ties to the franchise. Miller’s grandfather was Bernard Lee, the original M.
12. To prepare for the movie, McGregor read several books on crack and heroin addiction and spoke with members of the Calton Athletic Recovery Group (who served as consultants for the movie).
13. When Renton moves to London, he says in a voiceover, “There was no such thing as society, and even if there was, I most certainly had nothing to do with it.” This is a jab at former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who was widely derided in 1987 for observing that “there is no such thing as society.”
14. To play the skinny heroin-addicted Renton, Ewan McGregor was placed on a simple diet consisting of no alcohol or dairy products in order to lose weight. It only took him two months to reach Renton’s desired size.
15. The scene where Sick-Boy and Renton lie in the park and take potshots with their Westlake .22 Air Rifle was originally going to be set to the theme from Mission: Impossible (1966). Unfortunately Brian De Palma was setting up the film version of the TV show at the time so getting to the rights to the music simply proved to be too expensive – approximately three times the film’s budget. Both actors were very hungover for the scene in question.
16. Although it looks thoroughly off putting, the feces in the Worst Toilet in Scotland scene was actually made from chocolate and smelled quite pleasant.
17. For the close-up shots of Ewan McGregor injecting himself with heroin, a prosthetic arm was constructed by the make-up department, complete with pulsing veins, smack tracks and small pockets of blood that would appear when the skin was punctured by a hypodermic needle.
18. Jonny Lee Miller’s character, Sick Boy, is obsessed with James Bond trivia. Miller is the grandson of Bernard Lee, who played “M” in the Bond series until 1979.
19. There has been some confusion over the title as none of that particular activity actually takes place in the film. Irvine Welsh has since gone on record to explain the title, comparing the unusual hobby to heroin addiction, ie, something that only the people who indulge in that pastime truly understand. To them, it makes perfect sense.
20. The whole film was shot in just seven and a half weeks.
21. When Renton overdoses at Mother Superior’s, he seemingly sinks several feet into the carpet. This effect was created by a bit of low-budget ingenuity: The crew simply slipped McGregor through a platform with a trap door.
22. Kevin McKidd lost his chance to be part of the iconic poster campaign because he was on holiday at the time of the shoot.
23. Kelly Macdonald, although supposedly 14 in the film, was 19 when making it. It was released on her 20th birthday.
24. The opening scene in which Renton is run over by a car takes about five seconds, but it required 20 takes. During breaks, McGregor had to be patched up by the on-set nurse, according to Empire’s 1996 behind-the-scenes article.
25. The producers didn’t want to “condone” drug-taking, but they did want to make sure that they portrayed it realistically.
26. The scene where Renton sinks into the floor after overdosing on heroin was achieved by building a platform above a trapdoor and slowly lowering McGregor.
27. The Calton Athletic drug addiction counsellors make an appearance in the film: They’re the football team you see at the beginning.
27. Robert Carlyle has said that he played Begbie as a closeted gay man whose outbursts of violence were due to his “fear of being outed”.
28. Irvine Welsh confirmed that he intended Begbie to have an ambiguous sexuality when he wrote the novel, and agreed with Carlyle’s interpretation.
29. Carlyle doesn’t enjoy watching himself on film. According to Kelly Macdonald, during the test screening he “was almost crawling on the floor with embarrassment. Every time he came on screen he would dip lower in his seat.”
30. Its working title is T2: Trainspotting 2, it’s set 20 years after the events of Trainspotting, and it will feature most of the same characters and actors, including Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller, Ewen Bremner, and Robert Carlyle.
31. The title of the book and film do actually refer to the slightly obsessive hobby of waiting for trains and then writing their numbers down in a little book.