Trainspotting (1996) Poster



Shot on a budget of £1.5 million over a period of 35 days. Despite that low budget, PolyGram allocated an almost unprecedented £800,000 to go towards promotion and advertisement, such was their faith in the film.
Jump to: Cameo (3) | Director Trademark (1) | Spoilers (7)
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.
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.
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.
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.
Although it looks thoroughly off putting, the feces in the Worst Toilet in Scotland scene was actually made from chocolate and smelled quite pleasant.
The whole film was shot in just seven and a half weeks.
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.
To play the skinny heroin-addicted Renton, Ewan McGregor lost 26 pounds. It only took him two months to reach Renton's desired size. He achieved this by grilling everything and by drinking wine and gin instead of beer.
Kelly Macdonald, although supposedly 14 in the film, was 19 when making it. It was released on her 20th birthday.
Due to the skimpy budget, most scenes had to be shot in just one take.
There has been some confusion over the film's title, as none of that particular activity actually takes place in the film (apart from Renton forced to stay inside his bedroom which has train-themed wallpaper). Irvine Welsh has since gone on record to explain the title, stating that it started out as a euphemism for taking drugs (often done at a train station). The term gradually evolved to be describe an obsessive hobby that is not understood by people who do not practice it. Welsh thus compared the unusual hobby to heroin addiction, i.e, something that only the people who indulge in that pastime truly understand. To them, it makes perfect sense.
Kelly Mcdonald, in her naiveté, invited her mother and brother to the set while filming her sex scene with Ewan McGregor.
Ewen Bremner (Spud) had previously played Renton in a stage adaptation of the novel.
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.
Various options were considered to make the film more intelligible for American audiences. Subtitles were ruled out as they would spoil the effect of using them in the disco scene. Instead, the actors re-recorded the first 20 minutes of dialog, softening their accents to atune American ears to the Scottish dialect.
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.
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).
Jonny Lee Miller was cast on the strength of his performance in Hackers (1995) and his ability to do an uncanny Sean Connery accent.
The writing on the wall of the Volcano Nightclub is the same as that in the Moloko bar in A Clockwork Orange (1971). There are also paintings of Robert De Niro and Jodie Foster from Taxi Driver (1976).
One of the reasons why the film proved to be so popular, particularly in its native UK, was its vibrant marketing campaign. It was actively modeled on the way that Pulp Fiction (1994) had been pitched to the public.
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. His cast mate Robert Carlyle would later play the villain in the Bond movie The World Is Not Enough (1999)
Created much controversy when it was released in the USA for its content. Senator Bob Dole charged the film with glorifying drug use, but later admitted he hadn't seen the film. See also: Priest (1994), Natural Born Killers (1994), and Kids (1995)
From the minute the film went into pre-production, Ewan McGregor was always first choice for the part of Renton.
Kevin McKidd (Tommy) missed the photo shoot for the promos because he was on holiday. This resulted in him being the only lead cast member not to be in any of the promotional posters or even the video cover.
Before he took up screenwriting, John Hodge was a doctor and had to frequently deal with heroin addicts. Some of his experiences have been worked into the script. One such example is the junkies stealing a television set from an old folk's home.
Oasis were asked to contribute to the soundtrack, but Noel Gallagher declined, as he thought the film was actually about trainspotters.
Danny Boyle credits the Spike Jonze-directed music video for "Sabotage" by the Beastie Boys as a major influence on the opening sequence of the film.
Ewan McGregor was cast as Renton on the strength of his performance in Danny Boyle's previous film, Shallow Grave (1994). Boyle wanted an actor with the charisma of Michael Caine in Alfie (1966) and Malcolm McDowell in A Clockwork Orange (1971).
The "Choose Life" monologue was originally planned for the middle of the film. Danny Boyle and his writer John Hodge were struggling to find a suitable opening when they hit on the idea of moving the monologue to the beginning. An iconic moment was born by that one simple act.
In 1999, it was ranked #10 on the British Film Institute's 100 Greatest British Films of the 20th Century.
Of the main cast, only Jonny Lee Miller is not a Scot.
Filming took place in the height of summer. This was problematic when it came to the night shoots - given it doesn't get dark in Scotland until around 11pm in the summer and the sun's up again by 4.30am. On the plus side, the short nights meant that Danny Boyle and co could cram an awful lot of filming into one day (the director was usually on set around 7am and often didn't finish until 8.30pm), which given the fact they didn't have that long to make the movie came in very handy indeed.
The football team pictured in the opening credits is the Calton Athletic Club, who are actually drug addiction counselors and were the primary consultants for the film.
In one scene in London, while Renton is "visited" by Begbie, he's reading a book about actor Montgomery Clift who had lots of experiences with drugs and medication of all kinds.
This movie was Kelly Macdonald's film debut.
According to the liner notes from the second volume of the soundtrack, David Bowie's "Golden Years" was supposed to be what Diane sings to Renton during the withdrawal scene. Instead she sings New Order's "Temptation.'' Diane also sings the lyrics while having a bath and they can be heard again very faintly in the background during breakfast.
Danny Boyle was excited by the story's potential to be the "most energetic film you've ever seen - about something that ultimately ends up in purgatory or worse."
Kelly Mcdonald recalled that she almost wrecked her screen debut by getting drunk: "I think it was my first day filming - a whole day and night shoot. All the boys were quite naughty and were drinking, so I was drinking. I'd been in the pub for hours with various people who weren't filming scenes, and Shirley Henderson [who played Gail] said, 'You might want to stop drinking'. She was totally right. I think I was actually hungover by the time I did the scene. I was so young. I was flipping between the excitement of these boys I was hanging around with because they were all so cool and charismatic and had lots of stories and then being a nervous wreck and hiding in the toilets."
The biggest grossing British film of 1996.
Christopher Eccleston was offered the role of Begbie, because he resembled how Danny Boyle imagined the character in the book.
For the scene where Renton sinks into the floor after overdosing on heroin, the crew built a platform above a trap door and lowered Ewan McGregor down.
The toilet-diving scene is a reference to Thomas Pynchon's 1973 novel "Gravity's Rainbow".
Jonny Lee Miller retained the Scottish accent he used for Sick Boy throughout principal photography, even when he wasn't filming. It wasn't until after the wrap party that he reverted to his native English accent, much to the surprise of his co-stars.
Ewan McGregor shaved his head and lost 2 stone (28 lbs - 12.7 kg) for the film.
The scene where Renton is hit by a car took two hours and twenty takes to film, complete with a whole lot of intervention from the on-set nurse.
Although set in Edinburgh, most interiors, and some of the exteriors, were shot in Glasgow. A notable exception is the chase down Princes Street.
In the book, Begbie is a tall, intimidating big guy.
Renton is a vegetarian. In the novel, his reasoning is that meat makes him sick.
The film was shot in mid-1995 over seven weeks on a budget of $2.5 million with the cast and crew working out of an abandoned cigarette factory in Glasgow.
Begbie's moustache was based on Liverpool striker Ian Rush.
Many of the book's stories and characters were dropped in order to create a cohesive movie script of adequate length.
After moving to London, and immediately after requesting the keys for "Talgarth Road," Renton states in a voice-over that there was, "no such thing as society". This is a quote from former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.
References to The Beatles:
  • The scene where the store detectives chase Renton down the street is reminiscent of the scene in A Hard Day's Night (1964) where The Beatles are pursued by fans.
  • While watching the train, the four friends arrange themselves in the same manner as The Beatles did on the back of the album "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band".
  • The scene where the four friends cross the road and enter the hotel is reminiscent of the cover of the album "Abbey Road".
  • The scene where Renton wakes up on the couch in the morning at Diane's home and says hello to someone passing through the hallway while covered with a blanket to his chin, is reminiscent of a scene in Help! (1965) where Ringo is found in a trunk of a car covered up with a blanket, and upon being found, says hello.
-The "Mother Superior's" written in the dealer house is a reference to the Beatles song Happiness is a Warm Gun, a song about heroin, which has the line "mother superior jump the gun".
Shirley Henderson and Kelly Macdonald went on to star as ghosts in the Harry Potter films. Henderson played Moaning Myrtle; MacDonald played Helena Ravenclaw.
Irvine Welsh had been approached by film-makers before about adapting "Trainspotting" for the screen but had resisted their offers. He was won over by Andrew Macdonald and John Hodge's enthusiasm for the project but only on the condition that they didn't adopt a Ken Loach semi-documentary approach to the material.
First feature film of Kevin McKidd.
Danny Boyle told Empire that those involved with the film were making 'around 700 quid a week'.
Danny Boyle also directed the revamped music video for Iggy Pop's "Lust for Life", which was used to promote the film.
For the look of the film, Danny Boyle was influenced by the colours of Francis Bacon's paintings, which represented "a sort of in-between land - part reality, part fantasy".
The opening chase scene after the robbery is a nod to The Clash's video for 'Bankrobber,' in which the bank robbers in the video are being chased in a similar fashion and similar camera shot.
Danny Boyle convinced Irvine Welsh to let Andrew Macdonald option the rights to his book by writing him a letter stating that they were "the two most important Scotsmen since Kenny Dalglish and Alex Ferguson". Welsh remembered that originally the people wanting to option his book "wanted to make a po-faced piece of social realism like Christiane F. (1981) or The Basketball Diaries (1995)". He was impressed that Boyle, Hodge and Macdonald wanted everyone to see the film and "not just the arthouse audience".
For the role of Diane, Danny Boyle wanted an actress with no previous experience "so no-one would twig that a 19-year-old was playing the part" of a 14-year-old. The filmmakers sent flyers to nightclubs and boutiques and even approached people on the street, eventually hiring Kelly Macdonald.
Sick Boy has black hair in the book (in the sequel novel Porno, he is described as looking like Steven Seagal. In the film, he's blonde.
Danny Boyle says that the reason Oasis didn't want to contribute to the soundtrack was because they didn't want their music used in a movie about trainspotters. He was however delighted that the band were at the movie's premiere party because of the huge publicity it generated.
Scott Rudin apparently wanted to give Danny Boyle, John Hodge and Andrew Macdonald $250,000 towards making any film they wanted, off the back of Shallow Grave (1994). Boyle dismissed the offer as 'ridiculous', adding, 'We haven't even met the guy.'
Producer Andrew Macdonald read Irvine Welsh's book on a plane in December 1993 and felt that it could be made into a film. He turned it on to director Danny Boyle and writer John Hodge in February 1994.
The shot of Sick Boy's finger ringing Renton's doorbell in London is almost identical to a shot in Shoot the Piano Player (1960).
The film is Dale Winton's first (and only) feature film appearance.
The film's soundtrack features two different songs both titled "Temptation" by Heaven 17 and New Order.
Picked by Entertainment Weekly magazine as one of the "50 Greatest Independent Films" in a special supplement devoted to independent films that was only distributed to subscribers in November 1997.
Robert Carlyle said that he was very amused by the appeal of his Begbie character, with videos popping up on the internet of people reenacting entire scenes, especially the bar fight. By his own admission, some people performed the scene better than he himself had done.
Renton has ginger hair in the book, to the point where he is described as resembling Alex McLeish. He has a shaved head in the film.
The first twenty minutes of the film had to be edited for American viewers, as it was thought that the Scottish accents would be too strong for them to understand.
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Baby Dawn had to be re-cast as the original child cried too much when left on set.
Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider.
The park where Renton and Sick Boy discuss was also the site of the grave in Danny Boyle's previous film, Shallow Grave (1994).
Jonny Lee Miller dyed his hair blonde for the film.
Was chosen by Time Magazine as one of the "Best of Film 1996" at position #3 in the in their year end review issue dated December 23, 1996.
The c word is used 18 times.
Alec Guinness has been succeeded in two of his roles by actors from Trainspotting (1996). Guinness portrayed Adolf Hitler in Hitler: The Last Ten Days (1973). Robert Carlyle portrayed Adolf Hitler in Hitler: The Rise of Evil (2003), while Ewan McGregor succeeded him in the role of Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In the book, Mark Renton has an older brother named Billy who is a soldier in the British Army. In real life, Ewan McGregor has an older brother in the RAF.
Tommy's last name was changed from Lawrence in the book to Mackenzie in the film.
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 Ewan McGregor through a platform with a trap door.
Kelly Macdonald and Kevin McKidd would later have voice roles in Brave (2012).
Ewan McGregor and Ewen Bremmer have worked together in five movies to date: Trainspotting (1996), Black Hawk Down (2001), Perfect Sense (2011) and Jack the Giant Slayer (2013) and T2 Trainspotting (2017).
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Robert Carlyle and Ewan McGregor also appear in Being Human (1994) and T2 Trainspotting (2017).
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Irvine Welsh: as Mikey Forrester, Renton's heroin dealer.
Andrew Macdonald: the prospective buyer of the "Victorian Townhouse" that Renton is trying to sell.
John Hodge: store security officer in pursuit of an unruly pair in the opening scene.

Director Trademark 

Danny Boyle: [bridge] Renton is briefly seen crossing a large bridge.


The trivia items below may give away important plot points.

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.
The last scene with Spud getting the money in the locker is almost identical to a scene in Once Upon a Time in America (1984). Even the circumstances behind the scenes are very similar.
Although the film eliminated several characters from the book, some of their traits and/or situations made it into the film. Spud's 'Traditional Scotish Breakfast' scene originally happened to Davie Mitchell. Tommy's decline into abuse and death originally happened to Matty Connell. Spud also inherited traits from Rab "Second Prize" McLaughlin. Allison was combined with Lesley, who was Dawn's mother in the book.
It is generally accepted that the baby died of starvation and/or dehydration.
Kevin McKidd is notably missing from the movie poster depicting the main characters, as he was on a holiday during the promotional photo shoot. Ironically, his character Tommy is also the only one of the main cast to die.
Although it's heavily implied that Sick Boy was baby Dawns father, it isn't actually confirmed until the sequel.
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In the movie Sick Boy is obsessed with Sean Connery and his movies. Renton's father is played by James Cosmo, who was Angus in Highlander (1986), starred by Sean Connery.
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