It’s one of the things that emerges from, again, post-industrial malaise. Begbie has a speech later in which he says, “What do I get? What do I fucking get? I’m not smart, like you cunts.” Smart people get everything: What’s left for the working man? So, it’s not meant to be a political film, obviously. But it’s there. And the deepest irony is that we were filming when the Brexit vote happened. And we woke up expecting to narrowly remain in the EU….
Orr: I’m familiar with an experience like that one.
Boyle: But Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in. And the consequence of that is that Scotland will leave the United Kingdom. It will take two years or longer but they will leave. I can absolutely guarantee it. With this provocation of “we’re going to retreat back into a little England with Scotland attached”—the Scots will always pick Europe over England. Ironically, the Englanders who dreamed of the old days and of Britain as an isolated kingdom away from Europe, they will have broken up the United Kingdom and reduced England even further.
Orr: Speaking of Scotland, I felt like Edinburgh—and not just Edinburgh, but the surrounding country, too—was much more of a character in this film than in the original. Was that a conscious decision?
Boyle: For sure. Because it’s a homecoming film. it’s inevitable that place will play a bigger part in it. What is he coming home to? In the first film, there is a famous scene on Princes Street where they’re running away from the store detectives. But otherwise they’re just locked away in their world, their interior world of drug addiction and scamming and scheming. You barely see any of the outside world. But now Edinburgh has changed; it’s a much younger city than it ever was. Up to a quarter of the population are students, so the place is full of young people.
Orr: Without giving details away, while Renton was the narrator of the first film, the narrator of the second film, in a certain sense, is ultimately Spud. Do you think this makes the film more or less optimistic?
Boyle: The first one is more exuberant, and it feels more optimistic because it has that energy that has to do with their ages. And it’s also self-destructive and reckless and chaotic and carefree. But that energy is attractive. This film is a bit more considered, and the hope in it is a bit more considered, too.
Orr: So, optimistic but within a much more constrained set of expectations? When the first movie ends anything seems possible. Renton’s got £12,000 in a bag, and he’s young….
Boyle: So we worked it out, this money that Renton stole and that they all go on about. We worked it out and it would pay for a packet of cigarettes a day over those 20 years. That’s all it amounts to. It’s nothing.
Orr: Last question. Among the nice little cameos in the film is Sick Boy’s pellet gun, which Renton had used to shoot the pit bull in the first movie. Where had it been all these years?
Boyle: They just store props of films, and stuff got kept, mostly by the costume designers. We found lots of costumes as well, and so some of the kids that run around are actually wearing costumes that Renton and Sick Boy wore in the first film.
You look at the shirts they wore, and you think “How did they fit in them? They’re like baby shirts.” It’d be hard to find a better way to capture the passage of time.