To celebrate Danny Boyle directing the Opening Ceremony for London Olympics 2012, this is the final post about his career including Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, The National Theatre’s production of Frankenstein and The Olympics Ceremony itself…
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Why not change styles, again, and focus in on Bollywood and see if, by any chance, it sells. A cheap programme like Who Wants to Be A Millionaire? sounds unlikely to be any good…
Boyle decides to work with Simon Beaufoy on an adaptation on a novel by Vikras Swarup – no John Hodge or Alex Garland in sight. John Murphy is gone too – replaced with a more suitable Bollywood musician in A.R. Rahman. Anthony Dod Mantle seems to be one of the few people Boyle has worked with before that joins him on the project. Having lost a teeny-bit of money on Sunshine, Boyle’s budget is a mere $15m – Celador and Film4 support the film but it doesn’t take long before the distribution company, Warner Bros, got cold feet. They decided it didn’t have mass-appeal and relegated it to straight-to-DVD in the US. Fox Searchlight picked it up and saw its potential … leading to a huge commercial success of $377m and becoming the Best Picture winner at the 81st Academy Awards. Not a bad buy-up from Fox.
We have the two lead children running through the streets of Mumbai – a Boyle set-up establishing pace – at the start, much like Trainspotting, Millions and the recent Olympics Ceremony. We have the huge-sums-of-money in the set-up of a ‘slumdog’ winning millions of rupees – think of the money in Shallow Grave and Millions. The lead actor Dev Patel, from Skins and The Last Airbender, is the British actor holding the film. This is the ‘small-film-that-could’ and it sure as hell did. I was personally in tears at the end of the film – tears of happiness – and it is this beauty that Boyle captures so well. Even in the shitty streets of Edinburgh or the imagination of a Saints-obsessed child, in the slums of India through to the sun in the sky – Boyle captures the immense beauty of nature and people.
127 Hours (2010)
From the crazed-rush of winning Oscars, and carting around the Oscar buzzing crowd, Boyle could do anything he wanted. He could’ve made anything. But, again – like his post-28 Days Later success – he kept it low-key. Small-scale and personal, choosing a true story with primarily one-actor in one-location. James Franco stuck under a rock. It’s interesting to note that Frieda Pinto, star of Slumdog Millionnaire would go on to play Franco’s love-interest in Rise of the Planet of the Apes.
Like The Beach and Sunshine, the film has it’s fair share of ‘crazy bits’. Sequences that make you feel a little uncomfortable as the scene is a little off-the-wall. Franco talks to himself and, like McGregor’s cold-turkey ‘gameshow’ moment with Dale Winton in Trainspotting, Franco creates his own morning radio-show to deal with his isolation. Isolation, you could argue is a theme, as Dev Patel is very-much ‘on his own’ when facing the corrupt presenter of Who Wants To Be A Millionnaire? in Slumdog Millionnaire. And Trainspotting is very-much Renton’s story.
Like Boyle’s finest, 127 Hours deals with faith in exceptional circumstances and it truly utilises the landscape of Utah to great effect. A tour de force from Franco and a great way to calm down for Boyle.
Frankenstein (The National Theatre, 2011)
I guess Boyle was still a little high from the come-down of Slumdog Millionnaire. Then again, 127 Hours became an Oscar-darling too – with Best Picture, Best Adapted-Screenplay and Best Actor nominations to its name. But winning none. At any rate, you could argue the small-scale of 127 Hours was very theatrical in its nature – forcing Boyle to get back in touch with his theatre roots. And his next project moreso, as he directed Frankenstein for the National Theatre on the London Southbank.
Utilising Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy from Trainspotting) and Benedict Cumberbatch, the roles of Dr Frankenstein and the ‘Creature’ swapped during the production. To some extent you didn’t know what you were going to get. I managed to see a performance whereby Cumberbatch was the Dr, whilst Miller was the creature. Utilising Underworld again for the soundtrack, it seems many of the production team may have worked with Boyle on the Olympics ceremony. The performance truly took you by suprise as, in the first sequence we see the creature burst free from an egg-like sack – stretching the material before figuring out how to walk, naked as a baby. Then, suddenly an industrial train bursts onto stage, clanking and banging, as what-represents-the-world bustles around the machine.
Funnily enough, a little of this industialism crept into his next project: Olympics 2012
The 2012 Olympic Opening
It opened as we zoom around the British Isles, shot close to the ground. The small-camera from Shallow Grave is now covering the entirety of Britain. We see the industrial revolution, harking to the industrial-train in Frankenstein. The dream-like NHS beds, floating and highlighted across the stadium. James Bond – what would a Danny Boyle James Bond Film look like? Maybe this is the closest it will ever get? Underworld provides the vast majority of the music, whilst a house – that would not look out of place on the street whereby the boys from Millions lived – portrays the internet and technology, and its influence on society and, crucially, teenage love. Indeed, the playfulness of teenage love – as the guy wears a trademark Chaplin-hat.
Boyle deserves this. He has reached this.
It was a stunning ceremony and and unforgettable opening.
You are a legend.