The Complete Collection: Danny Boyle (Part 2)

To celebrate Danny Boyle directing the Opening Ceremony for London Olympics 2012, over the next couple of days, I will be charting the career of one of Britains top director…

Prior to making A Life Less Ordinary, Boyle was nearly the director behind Alien Resurrection. Personally, as much a I like Jean Pierre-Jeunet, the Danny-Boyle-Alien movie would be something I would like to see. Talk of wooden-planets and man-made-worlds does intrigue me. Nevertheless, Boyle utilised his strongest assets on his next project …

A Life Less Ordinary (1997)
Ewan McGregor on his third outing with Boyle teaming up with, at the time, the exceptionally fast-rising star that was Cameron Diaz. John Hodge was on script, Tufano with the cinematography whilst Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo were playing angels and Ian Holm, Ian McNiece and Stanley Tucci co-starred. A surreal-film clearly, as if the minor dream-sequences in Trainspotting was now taking over the entire film – but instead of the slums of Edinburgh, it was now the affluent LA-lifestyle leading to a road-trip. An estimated $12m budget, the film made a mere $4m… clearly Boyle was not as good as everyone had hoped. The film features the ideas of heaven and angels and we begin to see the Catholic faith that was a centre point to his life, now come through in this film – a script co-written by Boyle and Hodge. The entire film was tongue-in-cheek and utilied a range of unqiue features – claymation animation during the end-credits, a musical number as McGregor flexes his singing-ability prior to Moulin Rouge by singing ‘Beyond the Sea’. This was a film which pulled Boyle back down to reality. After the incredible Trainspotting, Hollywood and all its glory seemed too much to handle…
The Beach (2000)
If we are honest, Shallow Grave was great as a small, indie film – but I find it hard to believe that anyone would believe Shallow Grave is better than Trainspotting. John Hodge, it seems, can adapt material exceptionally well but maybe his original ideas – Shallow Grave, A Life Less Ordinary – are not so well thought out. Perhaps inevitably, Boyle was not ruined by A Life Less Ordinary and so he was given the Leonardo-DiCaprio-vehicle The Beacha popular cult novel by Alex Garland, with the screenplay written by John Hodge . Rumour has it that Boyle and McGregor fell out through this casting as Boyle, who was clearly confident with McGregors acting ability was pressured by the studios to choose DiCaprio. Boyle accepting DiCaprio meant McGregor was out and poor McGregor went on to … Star Wars: The Phantom Menace playing Obi-Wan in all three prequels. I doubt he cries himself to sleep about it. But Boyle made a few changes with Darius Knondji (Prior to the beach, he worked on The Ninth Gate, Alien Resurrection and Evita) as cinematographer, replacing Brian Tufano. Though Underworld featured on the soundtrack, 8 Ball, Brian Eno worked alongside Angelo-Twin-Peaks-Badalamenti for the soundtrack. The budget was the biggest he had handled – $50m – and the film made a profit, garnering $144m.
Robert Carlyle was a clear link to the Boyle-of-the-past and though the film made its money back – for the producers sake, it would never have made as much with McGregor in the lead role – it was DiCaprio’s female fan base established with ’97’s Titanic that pulled the audience in. But ultimately, many critics panned the film. Despite the inevitable strange dream-sequences that we come to expect from Boyle (In The Beach with DiCaprio as a computer-game-character…) and the associations with philosophy and the human-choice versus fate argument, linking The Beach to those roots of faith Boyle has, ultimately audiences felt that, though the film started well, it dragged as it went on. The book had scope and was philosophically dense – the film, less so, playing it too safe. DiCaprio was up for Worst Actor at The Razzies for his performance (its not that bad…) and Danny Boyle left Hollywood.
Back in the UK, Boyle and long-time producer, Andrew MacDonald, utilised what they had learnt. They dumped John Hodge, and begun a new screenwriter-director relationship with the writer of The Beach. The original writer: Alex Garland …  
This post was originally published on 9th July 2010
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2 comments

  1. I was one of those crazed female fans that went to The Beach just for Leo. I agree with the general opinion: starts out pretty good, but drags after a bit. The guy getting bit by the shark was hardcore though.

  2. I kind-of agree, though I think it is underrated as a film. DiCaprio is still a damn good actor – better than Matt Damon – and even it his pretty-boy phase, you could see flashes of genius!

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