Robert Carlyle in Trainspotting (1996)
French promotion card by Cardcom. Photo: Liam Longman for Polygram Film Distribution. Promotion for Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996).
Trainspotting (Danny Boyle, 1996) is a British black comedy film starring Ewan McGregor, Ewen Bremner, Jonny Lee Miller, Kevin McKidd, Robert Carlyle, and Kelly Macdonald in her acting debut. It was one of the most popular and controversial British films of the 1990s. John Hodge received an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay based on the novel of the same name by Irvine Welsh.
Trainspotting (1996) follows a group of heroin addicts in an economically depressed area of Edinburgh and their passage through life. The film focuses on Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor) and his attempt to give up his heroin habit. Renton's two best friends are also junkies: Sick Boy (Jonny Lee Miller), a snappy dresser obsessed with James Bond, and Spud (Ewan Bremner), a guileless nerd who suggests Pee Wee Herman's debauched cousin. Renton and his pals also hang out with Begbie (Robert Carlyle), a borderline psychotic who loathes junkies even though he drinks like a fish. After one too many brushes with the law, Renton kicks heroin and moves to London, where he finds a job, a flat, and something close to peace of mind. However, Sick Boy, Begbie, and Spud all arrive at his doorstep on the trail of a big score, leading Renton back into drugs and crime. Rebecca Flint Marx at AllMovie: "A twisting, riff-filled, almost plot-free story, Irvine Welsh's novel was almost unfilmable in its original form. The screen adaptation successfully streamlined Welsh's ungainly material into a slick social commentary that smoothed the book's rough edges without losing its vitriol and insight. Trainspotting is not merely about drug addiction, but about the relationship between wasted youth and the spiritually bankrupt society that has alienated them."
Producer Andrew MacDonald worked with Miramax Films to sell Trainspotting as a British Pulp Fiction. They flooded the market with postcards, posters, books, soundtrack albums and a revamped music video for Lust for Lifeby Iggy Pop directed by Boyle. The poster became a must-have on every student's bedroom wall. PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, the company responsible for the distribution of the film launched a publicity campaign of half as much as the film's production costs (£850,000) in the UK alone, making the film stand out more as a Hollywood blockbuster rather than a smaller European production. Trainspotting was able to portray itself as British and as an 'exotic' element to the international market while also staying relevant to the American public, making it an international success in its marketing.Trainspotting was screened at the 1996 Cannes Film Festival but was shown out of competition, according to the filmmakers, due to its subject. It went on to become the festival's one unqualified critical and popular hit. Trainspotting was nominated for two British Academy Film Awards in 1996, Best British Film and John Hodge for Best Adapted Screenplay. Hodge won in his category.Hodge was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay but lost to Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade. Trainspotting has been ranked 10th by the British Film Institute (BFI) in its list of Top 100 British films of the 20th century. In 2004 the film was voted the best Scottish film of all time in a general public poll. In 2017 a poll of 150 actors, directors, writers, producers and critics for Time Out magazine ranked it the 10th best British film ever. A sequel, T2 Trainspotting, was released in January 2017.
Sources: Rebecca Flint Marx (AllMovie), AllMovie, Wikipedia and IMDb.