Ewen Bremner, Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle in T2 Trainspotting. ABOVE RIGHT: Jonny Lee Miller in a scene from the TV series Elementary.
Ewen Bremner, Ewan McGregor, Jonny Lee Miller and Robert Carlyle in T2 Trainspotting. ABOVE RIGHT: Jonny Lee Miller in a scene from the TV series Elementary. Jaap Buitendijk

Coming of rage in T2 Trainspotting

WHEN John Hodge first watched T2 Trainspotting, which he scripted, he couldn't help but notice how many of the sporting and musical "greats" the film features have died. Johan Cruyff, seen performing his famous turn at the start of the movie, dead; George Best, talked about in adulatory fashion by Renton and Sick Boy for his love life as much as for his brief time playing for Hibs, dead; Lou Reed, whose Perfect Day is heard briefly on the soundtrack, dead; Joe Strummer of The Clash, dead; David Bowie, whose albums Renton so cherishes, dead. The list goes on.

"It hadn't really occurred to me until afterwards, the mortality ... there are so many dead people in the film," Hodge cheerfully reflects. "These are the people Renton and Simon (Sick Boy) have grown up idolising and they are all disappearing. To me that's part of the film - loss. It's what Renton talks about, the people you love ... disappearing."

As Hodge's remarks suggest, anyone who goes to T2 expecting just a romp may be taken by surprise. The film takes a despairing as well as comic look at masculinity and middle age.

"Young people tend to be more reckless and self-destructive. We know in cinema that watching people being reckless and self-destructive can be really entertaining ... but when you get to 40, 50, you're not so reckless and self-destructive. If you are, it's not so admirable. It's more tragic. That's the shift," Hodge explains. "Life can be terrible when you're 20-something and there's still hope. Life can be okay when you're 50-something but there's no hope."

In T2, the four main characters are continually reminded of their pasts. This, Hodge - in his early 50s himself- insists, isn't just an attempt to invoke the best moments in the original film.

"You can't separate who they are from where they've been and what they've done," he says.

Hodge, a qualified doctor turned screenwriter, freely admits that, 20 years ago, he never even considered there would be another Trainspotting film.

"In those days, especially in Britain, you didn't automatically think 'sequel'," he remembers. It was only when Irvine Welsh wrote Porno, his follow-up to Trainspotting, in 2002 that director Danny Boyle first thought another film might be possible.

Hodge attempted a first draft of a script.

 

Jonny Lee Miller is back in T2 Trainspotting.
Jonny Lee Miller is back in T2 Trainspotting. Jeff Neumann

"It wasn't very good. I think the problem with it was that it was too soon to do anything with the material."

The team didn't want to make just another film about sex and drugs and violence in downtown Leith.

"Not enough distance had gone by to do something new. We just abandoned it really," Hodge says.

It didn't help, either, that actor Ewan McGregor, who played Renton, had briefly fallen out with Boyle after being passed over for the main role in The Beach. Hodge had thought reviving Trainspotting was a difficult prospect anyway and was happy, as he puts it, "just to let it go by".

It was Boyle who, two or three years ago, suggested that they should try again. The actors were all committed - and it was up to Hodge to come up with a script that satisfied everybody.

Like its predecessor, T2 both celebrates and ridicules Scotland and Scottishness. The two films are flagship productions for the Scottish film industry and Hodge suggests that the barbed humour should be taken with a grain of salt.

"The ambivalence about Scotland is just honest," he says. "I think of Scotland football fans who've suffered over the years. There's now a fantastic cynicism about the national team and there has been for a long time. It's humorous and despairing."

Hodge adds that you should have a healthy cynicism about your own country and learn how to "embrace its faults".

T2 Trainspotting opens nationally on Thursday.



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