Oh Danny Boy
I recently attended a screening of Sunshine at a small Tribeca theater for which director Danny Boyle had flown in from London to sit down with MTV’s Kurt Loder and answer questions of the press. He answered a barrage of querrys, both about Sunshine, his past and future projects, and his philosophy of filmmaking.
I was particularly interested in the spirituality that resonates within all of his films. Dreadfully dark at times, there always comes a point where hope, however small, breaks through. Usually this hope springs in the final moments of his movies, causing some to accuse him of adopting “Hollywood endings.”
Boyle told me that he was unnerved that so many of his films turned out so dark and foreboding.
“I’m not cynical. I don't set out to make scary movies. I’m an optimistic person by nature, so I’m actually frightened that I make so many frightening films. If anything I’m a sucker for up-endings, for Hollywood endings. I need hope.”
He acknowledged that his films had a weighty spiritual side, though he dismissed calling his films “Christian.”
“There is something out there bigger, wider than we can accommodate at the moment.”
On the production side of things, Boyle said that he likes financial restrictions and functions better in an oppressive fiscal environment that forces creativity to emerge rather than gives way to an anything-your-heart-desires mentality.
“I made Sunshine for only $40 million but it doesn’t look like $40 million. Shame on $150 million dollar films for looking like shit!”
He admitted that science fiction is very hard to make because the standard of visual excellence is so high. He went into Sunshine with very definite ideas about how he planned on doing things only to discover that even the conceits he wanted to avoid at all costs were absolutely necessary for the dramatic integrity of the narrative.
“I hate star fields flying by. I was absolutely adamant that my movie would have no starfield as that deep in space all one would see would be pitch black. But the first special effect I was shown with the Icarus shot my plans to hell. Without the migration of stars, the human eye can’t perceive movement. Some of the most infuriating things about the genre were absolutely necessary.”
For Boyle, who shot 28 Days Later entirely on digital, “digital filmmaking tears apart established elitism” and makes film storytelling accessible to anyone worthy enough.
He said he is always heavily involved with the production of his films’ scores.
“I love music more than anything. If I could play something, I do that instead of make films.”
Boyle said he rarely ever storyboards, preferring to get to the set each day early and decide on the day where he will place the camera. It seems to be an infuriatingly irresponsible way of filmmaking, but one that he has obviously mastered.
Fans of Trainspotting take heart, a sequel is in the works! Though the script is still being polished, it follows the same gang from the first film only now looks at their lives after the ravages of substance abuse have been coupled with that of time and age.
I’m very excited about it,” he admitted.
Currently working on Slumdog Millionare, a comedy set in India, Boyle said that what he’d really love to direct is a musical.
“There’s nothing harder,” he said with a certain amount of wistful masochism.