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
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
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.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments