Danny Boyle interview

127 Hours director talks films, Slumdog and Olympics


The 30-year career of 54-year-old Danny Boyle has certainly been varied. In the 1980s he was best known for his work in television and theatre, but then he made a memorable shift to cinema, kicking off with Shallow Grave in 1994, and Trainspotting in 1996. The latter alone would have assured him a prominent place in cinematic history, but his impressive output continued, culminating in his triumphant win at the Oscars in 2009 for Slumdog Millionaire. Boyle’s new film, 127 Hours, should see audiences wincing at the fearless and imaginative true story of Aron Ralston, the young American adventurer who was forced to cut off his own arm with a penknife when he slipped down a canyon in Utah in 2003 and became trapped under a boulder miles from anywhere and anyone. While he’s also been handed the mantle as the artistic director for the opening ceremony for the 2012 London Olympic games, in between directing a stage version of Frankenstein in London’s West End. We caught up with the outspoken Englishman

Okay, 127 Hours. Did you have to convince anyone it was a good idea to make a film about a guy who hacks off his arm?
When I told the story to people as we tried to set the film up, you could see them thinking, ‘That’s never going to work.’ It always felt to me like it would work – if you got the right actor, you’d be feeling every minute of it and it would be difficult to watch, but you’d get there. But then they look at you and think, ‘Well, everyone says that, and, from our point of view, this is a guy alone in a canyon for six days and then he cuts his arm off – that’s, like, not gonna work.’ So we only got to make it because of how much money Slumdog took. We would never have financed it otherwise. They could lie to me now, but I know what it’s like: you cash in your credit, and that’s what we did.

You knew there would never be an easier time to get it made?
You’d never get it made otherwise. I mean, maybe triple-A directors – Steven Spielberg, Peter Jackson – people like that would push it through. Chris Nolan would push it through, but even then it would be a struggle because it’s very tough at the moment for this kind of story, for independent films.

You must have been offered some big projects after Slumdog.
Offers, yeah: you get all sorts of stuff. But I don’t even look through them – I know enough about what I’m good at. I just know I wouldn’t make a very good job of it. I’m not very good at that kind of thing. I mean, I admire Chris Nolan. I think he’s an amazing director, but I just know I couldn’t work under the conditions that you have to with that level of expenditure.

Let’s talk about the London Olympics. How are you juggling that with Frankenstein and promoting 127 Hours?
It’s a bit hectic at the moment, but I’ve got a small team of people just like you’d make a film with, really, but it’ll be live based. And the key things are obviously I’m not going to try to build on Beijing, because how could you?

When does it start for you?
The first big step is that we have to do a 20-minute presentation for the International Olympic Committee in March. So that’s why we’re working on it now, because by the time we’re done with Frankenstein it’ll be March and we’ll have to give them our central ideas, and then they have to give them the nod. Then the IOC will make their suggestions, and there’s a lot of politics as it has to go before the Government and the Mayor.

Does this rule you out of doing another film before the Olympics?
In theory, yes!

127 Hours is out in cinemas across the UAE cinemas on February 3.

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