Irvine Welsh

10 years of 'Trainspotting' and a new book

Irvine Welsh

"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. ... Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pishing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life." – from screenwriter John Hodge's adaptation of Trainspotting

Scottish author and playwright Irvine Welsh chose something completely different with the publication of his luridly comic debut novel, Trainspotting, in 1995. The sordid tale of a band of deliriously anarchic twentysomething junkies living the high life that only the low end of the dole can provide, Welsh's runaway bestseller capped the still-ascendant Cool Britannia movement (such as it was) with a crown of 20cc syringes and savaged the liver of the UK's increasingly laboured and fatuous post-Tory zeitgeist with gleeful abandon.

And then, the movie.

Ten years ago this summer, director Danny Boyle and screenwriter John Hodge's adaptation arrived in theatres, laughing and snarling and stoned to the gills on giddy black-tar mojo and boasting enough visual and sonic flair to capsize even soundtracking Scots superstar Bobby Gillespie's archly flip ego. Supercool. Junkie XL. Heroin chic. Stoned roses. All that dark stuff.

Both Welsh's novel and Boyle's film groove like Dante Alighieri's take on The Graduate retooled by William S. Burroughs mainlining Iggy Pop and Lou Reed on speed, but only the film impacted on the stateside pop-culture iconography. The sticky brown residue lingers to this day, and Welsh, currently book-touring the Colonies behind his newest, The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs, and speaking by phone from Dorothy Parker and Harpo Marx's beloved Algonquin Hotel, is unimpressed by all this simmering 10th-anniversary hoopla.

"It's quite hard for me to comprehend, because I didn't realize it had become such a big film in the USA," he says. "I knew it was a big film in Britain, but I thought it was a bit smaller and more culty here in America.

"I remember when the book came out," Welsh says, "and there were all these different people who wanted to adapt it into a film. There were a lot of very good, very sincere people who approached me that wanted to do something quite worthy in a lot of ways but not entirely what I wanted. I didn't want the film to make out these people as victims – I wasn't interested in a Christiane F. sort of thing. I wanted it to be much more about the vibrancy of the characters and not to make them out to be real idiots who didn't understand the consequences of what they were doing. They had to be seen as people who were doing [heroin] because it was good and there was nothing else that good happening around them. And I knew it had to be stylized to the extent that it captured that kind of energy as well as show the consequences. Because there is a big comedown and a big price to pay."

At the time, Danny Boyle's only claim to fame and credit to date was Shallow Grave, a madcap exercise in nihilistic flat-share paranoia featuring young upstart Ewan McGregor and future Dr. Who Christopher Eccleston, which Welsh had seen and dug.

"I liked the energy and stylization of the film," he recalls, "but I thought the characters were unsympathetic yuppies, whereas the characters in Trainspotting were very, very strong. I thought if you married the characterizations in the novel to the vibrancy and energy and the kind of gang mentality in Shallow Grave, it would almost be a perfect match. And that's why I had such a good relationship with [Boyle and Hodge]. And still have, really, because they've got the rights to Porno, which is a kind of follow-up to Trainspotting."


Irvine Welsh: Booksigning and Trainspotting

Alamo Drafthouse Downtown (409 Colorado)

Sunday, Aug. 20, 6:30pm

Admission: free with purchase of The Bedroom Secrets of the Master Chefs

www.originalalamo.com


Also at the Alamo ...

... and also Downtown on Sunday, Aug. 20: For the first time in Austin, the H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival presented by Lurker Films. Starting at 4pm with The Call of Cthulhu and the "Pickman's Model" episode of Night Gallery, it will segue into a 9:45pm screening of the 12-year-old festival's best shorts. And, at midnight, Cast a Deadly Spell, HBO's rarely seen but well-regarded Fred Ward vehicle. Score your Lovecraft Pass at www.originalalamo.com.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Irvine Welsh, Alamo Drafthouse Downtown, H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival

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