Arts: A cast more extraordinary

Forget Eton, Cambridge, Rada. The class of 'Trainspotting' are graduating top of them all. By Daniel Rosenthal

At the beginning of 1995, the names Macdonald, Hodge and Boyle meant nothing to British cinemagoers. For all we knew back then, they might have been a firm of solicitors. But that was before they gave us Shallow Grave. And Trainspotting.

Today, the two Scotsmen, producer Andrew Macdonald and writer John Hodge, and Manchester-born director Danny Boyle - let's call them MacHoyle for short - have emerged as the British film industry's holy trinity.

With their third collaboration, A Life Less Ordinary, about to be released, they are viewed as standard-bearers for an advancing brigade of home-grown film makers whose hip and comparatively low-budget work stands a good chance of giving Hollywood a run for its money at box offices worldwide. Small wonder that Screen International magazine places the trio at number three on its list of Britain's 10 most powerful movie "players".

Shallow Grave, the chillingly comic tale of three Edinburgh flatmates driven to murderous self-destruction by a suitcase of money won the Bafta for best British film and took pounds 5m here. Trainspotting, MacHoyle's bleak and hilarious vision of Edinburgh heroin addicts, adapted from the Irvine Welsh novel, clocked up pounds 12m at home, and twice as much abroad. The soundtrack went multi-platinum.

For A Life Less Ordinary, the team has moved from Auld Reekie to Utah to produce a lighter, less visceral movie, a romantic fable about a hapless Scottish janitor (Ewan McGregor), the millionaire's daughter he kidnaps (Cameron Diaz), and the angels (Holly Hunter and Delroy Lindo) who try to make the pair fall in love.

McGregor, so good as the cocky journalist Alex in Shallow Grave, symbolises "the Trainspotting effect", which has done wonders for the careers of the five cast members who peered and sneered at the world from a zillion advertising hoardings. Every month seems to bring a new film, TV drama or play featuring Kelly Macdonald (Diane), Ewen Bremner (Spud), Jonny Lee Miller (Sick Boy), Robert Carlyle (Begbie) or McGregor (Renton). But as their profiles rise they are all steering clear of Trainspotting clones; there hasn't been another festering bedsit or bloody hypodermic in sight.

There's not much to say about 21-year-old Macdonald's pre-Trainspotting CV because she doesn't have one. She was working at a Glasgow pub when, without so much as a second shepherd in a nativity play to her credit, she auditioned for Diane. Since her schoolgirl seduction of Renton, she's had two equally rough-edged parts: a child-abuse victim in the 1996 Screen Two drama, Flowers of the Forest, and a prostitute in the forthcoming Stella Does Tricks. Her stage debut came as a sexually pliant American hitch-hiker in Hurlyburly, at the Old Vic in March; and her first period role, in a film of Balzac's Cousine Bette, and an appearance opposite Colin Firth in Hugh Hudson's Scottish coming-of-age drama, My Life So Far, are already in the can.

Bremner played Renton in the London stage version of Trainspotting. His jittery performance as Spud in the film has led to roles in forthcoming films of two other recent hit plays: Jez Butterworth's Mojo and Simon Donald's The Life of Stuff.

Miller, the only Sassenach in the quintet, was the American hero of Iain Softley's computer-nerds-are-sexy thriller, Hackers; he married his co- star, Angelina Jolie (daughter of Jon Voigt). Variety has praised his "controlled, intense" officer in the film of Pat Barker's novel Regeneration (out in March), and he is currently shooting Plunkett and Macleane, an action adventure about 18th-century highwaymen. Miller is Macleane; Plunkett is played by Robert Carlyle.

After the psychotic Liverpool fan in Cracker, Linus Roache's gay lover in Priest and the eponymous Highland bobby in Hamish Macbeth, Carlyle's sly grin and wiry frame were familiar before Trainspotting. His ability to act vulnerable or vicious in whatever accent is required is currently shown to full effect in The Full Monty (Sheffield male stripper) and Face (Cockney hood).

Look up "ubiquitous" in the next edition of the OED and it will probably say "Ewan McGregor". Since Trainspotting, the 26-year-old, whom Boyle has likened to "the guy next door", has climbed to number nine on the Screen International chart on the back of Emma, Brassed Off, The Pillow Book and the forthcoming thriller Nightwatch. But if you think he's famous now, just wait until we see him as the young Obi Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequels.

Come the year 2000, posters of the wet T-shirted Renton will still hang in 10,000 student bedrooms, and George Lucas's merchandising boys are sure to guarantee that young Obi Wan will appear on children's lunch boxes and duvet covers from Kansas to Kyoto. By his 30th birthday, McGregor will be a movie icon for twentysomethings and under-10s. Some guy next door.

'A Life Less Ordinary' (15) is released on 24 Oct.

ROBERT CARLYLE

Begbie

'Priest' (1995), 'Carla's Song' (1996)

'The Full Monty' (above; 1997)

'Face' (1997)

'Plunkett and Macleane' (forthcoming)

KELLY MACDONALD

Diane

'Flowers of the Forest' (1996)

'Stella Does Tricks' (above; forthcoming)

'Cousine Bette' (in the can)

'My Life So Far' (in the can)

JONNY LEE MILLER

Sick Boy

'Hackers' (1996)

'Regeneration' (above; forthcoming)

'Plunkett and Macleane' (forthcoming)

EWEN BREMNER

Spud

'Trainspotting', the stage play (1995)

'Mojo' (forthcoming)

'The Life of Stuff' (forthcoming)

'The Acid House' (forthcoming)

EWAN MCGREGOR

Renton

'Emma' (1996), 'The Pillow Book' (1996)

'Brassed Off' (1996)

'A Life Less Ordinary' (1997; above)

'Star Wars' (to come)

Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Healy of The 1975 performing on the Pyramid Stage at the Glastonbury Festival, at Worthy Farm in Somerset

music
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe Withnail and I creator, has a new theory about killer's identity
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
tvDick Clement and Ian La Frenais are back for the first time in a decade
Arts and Entertainment
The Clangers: 1969-1974
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Rocky road: Dwayne Johnson and Carla Gugino play an estranged husband and wife in 'San Andreas'
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emilia Clarke could have been Anastasia Steele in Fifty Shades of Grey but passed it up because of the nude scenes

film
Arts and Entertainment
A$AP Rocky and Rita Ora pictured together in 2012

music
Arts and Entertainment
A case for Mulder and Scully? David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson in ‘The X-Files’

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Impressions of the Creative Community Courtyard within d3. The development is designed to 'inspire emerging designers and artists, and attract visitors'

architecture
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010

GlastonburyWI to make debut appearance at Somerset festival

Arts and Entertainment
Lena Headey as Cersei Lannister

TV reviewIt has taken seven episodes for Game of Thrones season five to hit its stride

Arts and Entertainment
Jesuthasan Antonythasan as Dheepan

FilmPalme d'Or goes to radical and astonishing film that turns conventional thinking about immigrants on its head

Arts and Entertainment
Måns Zelmerlöw performing

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Graham Norton was back in the commentating seat for Eurovision 2015

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James May on stage

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The light stuff: Britt Robertson and George Clooney in ‘Tomorrowland: a World Beyond’
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Radio
Arts and Entertainment

Eurovision
Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
film
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Comics
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

    Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

    Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
    Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

    Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
    Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

    The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

    Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
    The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

    The future of songwriting

    How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
    William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

    Recognition at long last

    Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
    Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

    Beating obesity

    The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
    9 best women's festival waterproofs

    Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

    These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
    Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

    Wiggins worried

    Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Liverpool close in on Milner signing

    Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
    On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

    On your feet!

    Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
    With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

    The big NHS question

    Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?
    Big knickers are back: Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Thongs ain't what they used to be

    Big knickers are back
    Thurston Moore interview

    Thurston Moore interview

    On living in London, Sonic Youth and musical memoirs
    In full bloom

    In full bloom

    Floral print womenswear
    From leading man to Elephant Man, Bradley Cooper is terrific

    From leading man to Elephant Man

    Bradley Cooper is terrific