How The Olympic Games Helped Danny Boyle's Trance Make Sense

By Eric Eisenberg 2013-04-10 14:49:50discussion comments
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I’m also curious, when you have this kind of story, audiences go in expecting a twist. I mean, you have the heist set-up which is renowned for a twist, but you also add in the hypnosis element, which is a natural set-up for twists and turns. As you’re putting the story together, are you kind of defending, in a way, against that expectation?

I’ve never done a film like this before and I love the fact that you have to find out how to do it. So, when we first cut the film together, we shot the film while we were preparing the Olympic Games. So, we did a rough cut, but after the Olympic Games were over, six months later, we came back to the rough cut and looked at it and you realized straight away that we’d made a cardinal error, which is that we had not put enough clues, because when you’re making these films, you don’t put any clues at all. In fact, if an actor [goes too far with their reaction] you go, “Don’t do that. That will give it away. Everybody will get it.” There’s this kind of neurotic paranoia that you’re giving too many clues. In fact, when you’ve got a bit of distance on it, you think, “If you don’t give them any clues, they’re going to be totally fucking lost.” [laughs]

So, we went back and we straightaway, that was the first things that we did. That [taps on the table] only existed at the end of the film and we looped it back in as a motif, like three or four times, to give you a clue, to let you know there’s something not quite right. You can’t figure it out yet, which is important, ideally, but you know that there are clues that if you could put them together, would help you understand, so if you go back and see it a second time, you’ll see it a different way, but also, even if you see it only once, you’ll know that you’ve not been hoodwinked, the grand reveal is not, “Well, where the fuck did that come from?” You’ll know that there have been clues that you’ve been not quite able to put together and manipulate and assemble in the right way yourself.

Would you say that having the Olympic Games to kind of step away from the film and kind of think about what you were doing, would you say it kind of helped the creative process for you?

Well, I think Trance helped the Olympic Games be what it was, which is a very peculiar thing to say. So, the Olympics is a two year job, okay, and it would drive any sane person mad. There’s only two options. You either go completely insane or you become a committee/corporate man like they are. You just become one of those numb figures that sits in meetings and then flies to another meeting and then gets in a car and goes to another meeting. So, what we knew early on is, we can’t let that happen. So, what we did is we did two sabbaticals. We did one sabbatical where we did Frankenstein as a stage play at The National in 2010 and that kept us sane, very dark story and then we did Trance, which is a very dark story, but it kept us absolutely optimistic and safe and sane. And it’s weird, because these are the evil twin cousins of the Olympic opening ceremony, but without them the Olympic opening ceremony would have been unhealthy. Whereas it turns out, it was the flip side of a coin, which everybody was able to admire and enjoy.

So, it’s not something you’re ever going to be doing again? [laughs]

No. You only do it once in your life. That’s not a career trajectory you’d want to be on, doing that kind of stuff. You do it once off, because it’s in your backyard, you feel a sort of obligation, local and national, to doing it, which I did and I was very proud to do it actually and very pleased with what came out of it and all that kind of stuff. But no, I like the day job better.
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