Interview – Danny Boyle – 127 Hours

When it comes to the whole of his body of work it is apparent that Danny Boyle’s career is one ripe with diversity.  Never allowing his self to be pigeonholed as any sort of genre director all the while contributing influential movies to genre filmmaking, is what sets him apart from a lot of his contemporaries.  From the Hitchcockian independent thriller, Shallow Grave to the fast paced overcrowded world of the Academy Award winning, Slumdog Millionaire Boyle has kept his subject matters, fresh, energetic, and ever changing.  He took a novel considered un-filmable and made an international hit that was embraced by a generation with Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting, and pumped a much needed rejuvenated shot of adrenaline into the wasted genre of zombie-apocalypse fiction, with 28 Days Later. 127 Hours, Danny Boyle’s latest film treats us to a nerve rattling tale of a man trapped in a canyon and the extraordinary lengths he goes to in order to free himself.  It is a film that many, me included, would not have expected from Boyle.  I think perhaps this is something he enjoys.   There is a sense of relishing the surprise he induces in his peers and critics that comes through in his interviews.

Several weeks ago I was afforded the opportunity to sit down with the skilled, eclectic director at the Fairmont Olympic Hotel in downtown Seattle.  I was originally under the impression; due to the email I had been forwarded, that this was to be part of an online roundtable discussion.  When I arrived I was quickly introduced to another writer, Brian Zitzelman from the Examiner, who informed me that we would be doing the interview together, with Mr. Boyle there in person.  To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement.  Boyle’s approach to filmmaking, regardless of critical or audience reaction has left an influential mark on me.  Enthusiastically Brian and I sat in the lobby discussing our reaction to 127 Hours (you can read my review here).  Before long we were greeted by a nice woman named Sara who led us up the elevator to the hotel room where Danny Boyle was at.  In the suite’s foyer a poster of the movie, with its star James Franco traversing a rock landscape that is intersected by open space and a boulder blocking it, sits on a tripod.  Voices can be heard in the other room saying their gratitude’s and farewells.  The double doors open and accompanying another writer out of the room is the man in question.

Danny Boyle is not tall by any means, his hair slightly ruffled and graying.  He wears eye glasses and sports a blazer that fits comfortably on his slender frame.  The greeting is friendly and sincere.  He offers us food and beverages from a display on a table in the middle of the room.  Brian and I situate ourselves in chairs as Mr. Boyle takes a seat on a couch across from us, leaning towards us with enthusiasm.

Brian Zitzelman: How long has the tour been going on?

Danny Boyle: We’re nearly finished now.  We go into Denver tonight and then Salt Lake tomorrow.  We’ll be back in London on Monday.

BZ: When’s the movie coming out in London?

DB: It’s not there until January; I’m not quite sure why they’re doing that.  I think they like – or hope – that they will get a kind of platform in the awards season that will help a movie.  It’s one of the things I learned, which is a regret, but you can’t deny, it’s much better to open a movie in America first.  I used to always insist that my movies opened in England first, but it’s not wise.

Benjamin Nason: Why is that?

DB: Because if a film is a success in America, it will be twice as successful in Britain.  It’s sad, but it’s true; whereas if you have a success in Britain, it doesn’t make a difference in America.  It has to prove itself in America on its own terms.  Where in Britain, to be a success in America is to be one in Britain too; guaranteed.  I’m not particularly fond of that, but it’s a law of the universe. It’s like gravity.  There’s no point in just going, “No!”

BN: What was your first movie that opened here before England?

DB: Slumdog I think. The Beach may have as well [The latter was released simultaneously].


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Benjamin Nason is a writer, film-maker and critic from the Pacific Northwest, where he lives with his cat Lulu.

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