Dear Danny Boyle,
If there ever was a British director who embodied all of the rarest qualities in the entertainment industry – humility, graciousness and sheer passion – it is you.
Your films were some of the first to make me release that I had a real passion for films, and the art of filmmaking. Your films made me realise that making a film didn’t just consist of using a camera to simply record conversations, landscapes and action sequences. Your films made me realise that there were no rules; that there were no limits to a director’s creativity. People often say that you watch a good film, but you feel a great one, and that’s certainly what sets your work apart.
Trainspotting (1996) gave us an insight into the crazy and dangerous world of heroin addiction, allowing us to see the dark underworld of the Edinburgh drug scene. The opening sequence is one of the most iconic of all time, throwing audiences straight into the action with Mark ‘Rent-boy’ Renton’s ‘Choose Life’ speech with Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust for Life’ booming over the monologue. Although accused of glorifying heroin by some, I would argue it simply highlighted the reality of the unsustainability of a drug addicted life, full of highs and lows. If people haven’t seen many of your films, they’ve usually still seen this one.
I’ve always admired your stance on big budget filmmaking; that you much prefer to have a ceiling to try and break through, so you can make your film “look like $100 million dollars” but to do that “with a cap on them”. One film where this is truly put into action, and where the world really noticed, is Slumdog Millionaire (2008). Jamal is born into the slums of Mumbai where moments in his life all lead to one fateful event where he attempts to win the Indian version of ‘Who Wants to be a Millionaire?”, and subsequently win back his childhood love. With a budget of $15 million, it made a whopping $377.9 million in the box office, and took away an incredible eight Oscars including best picture and best director.
Stylistically and visually, this film is just stunning. It may be set in the slums of Mumbai but from the beginning it is clear that there is hope in this story. The soundtrack is so fitting and so exhilarating that it had us rooting for Jamal and his win as if we too were on the streets of India caught up in the excitement. Your signature style is interspersed all the way throughout this film, and it was sure to be a success from the moment production started. You could say “it was destiny.
Other stories you have told surely couldn’t have been executed so well were they not under your influence and direction: 127 hours, the story of a man who is alone for the majority of the film after trapping his arm in between a boulder and a canyon wall; 28 Days Later, the tale of a man who wakes up in a deserted London, soon discovering that the population has been infected by the rage virus; Trance, a story that follows the search for a stolen painting in an auction heist which requires hypnosis to jog a memory for the painting’s location; The Beach, the story of a hidden community on a paradise beach in Thailand. Not only do these films demonstrate your versatility, but your willingness to constantly try something new.
Not all of these films are Oscar winners, but they all tell incredible stories in the most beautiful and creative of ways. Your unique camera work, quirky editing and exceptionally unique soundtracks make every one of your films both a visual and audio spectacle.
Your films always find a perfect meeting point between indie and mainstream. You tell the big stories and the small ones. You win Oscars and you win the hearts of the people. You make films and you plan Olympic opening ceremonies. I hope you never lose your signature style, because it is a perfect embodiment of everything aspiring filmmakers should remember- in both production, and in attitude.
The public acknowledge you as a British treasure whom we are lucky to have, and after turning down the highest honour of a Knighthood, I’m confident that you will continue to be “a man of the people”.
Thank you for your passion and thank you for the stories.