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Irvine Welsh Talks Filth, Trainspotting & Awards


Filth was a frenetic and highly-successful take on Irvine Welsh's novel of the same name, featuring an outstanding performance by James McAvoy as Bruce Robertson, an unhinged policeman wreaking havoc on his friends, family and coworkers.

To celebrate the release of the film on DVD and BluRay, we caught up with Irvine to discuss awards, Trainspotting, his HBO EDM comedy series, Scottish talent and the upcoming independence vote...

Let's start by talking about Filth - the film was overlooked by the BAFTAs, in favour of maybe bigger budget, more Hollywood stuff - were you disappointed by that, or did you expect it?

Kinda both - I kind of expected it because the BAFTAs tend to have this fetish for Hollywood - they want to make it into a TV event and to get people from Hollywood over there. But I was disappointed as well because also you think they should really be supporting British film too - and it was a proper British-made independent film, with a guy [James McAvoy] who's already a recognised Hollywood A-lister, who's given the performance of his life. I can't see what else he could have done, in terms of the emotional transitions and all that. He's been very laid-back and philosophical about it and I think I'm kinda more bothered on his behalf in a way!

Does critical reception bother you these days? Or is it all about how it goes down with audiences?

I haven't been...I've never really worried about that in terms of books, I think because I've always sold really well and I've had an audience and y'know they've done OK, so I've never really relied on critical reception. But film and TV and stage is different - if people are hostile to it...you become very close to the people you work with in film and TV and it's almost like your family's being insulted and you know how much they've put into it. So you get more upset on other people's behalf than you do your own.

Our readers are huge fans of Trainspotting - it's coming up to 20 years since that film came out and it's a huge cultural touchstone - is there anything that people might not know about it?

It's been so talked-about over the years...I think everything's been written about it that you possibly can!

Is there anything you look back on and think, 'maybe I could have done that differently'?

I think once something is out there..it's just in the nature of the way that people work on things...for me whether it's a movie or a book, once it's done there's nothing you can really do about it, it is out there, so you move on - you emotionally disengage and move on to the next thing. I mean Trainspotting, obviously, the bit with the baby on the roof - the electronic baby - if you had more money, you could do something more real-looking...but something about the grunginess of it that actually works like, y'know?

Would you ever consider a remake, or set it in the present day?

I think you never say, never, you never rule anything out, and I know there is a move to remake movies that have been successful, but I don't know. I kind of think 'why bother?'. Whenever I see the original movie again it does hold up really well - the performances are really great, the script's really sharp and it's kind of cool, and it's of its time as well - it has that cache. I think if you're making something, you're making something that isn't really a cultural event any more, it's just a facimile of the same thing, so I'd have to be convinced - you could convince me with a suitcase full of cash!

You've said that Trainspotting 2 could happen and that it might be more of an original film rather than being based on Porno - is that still the case? What's Danny Boyle saying these days?

Yeah, we're talking and taking tentative steps towards seeing what we need to do and all that. I think I'm gonna come over in April for an extended time and hopefully we'll get together then. Basically get out and get on with it! We're moving slowly towards it - we're all on the same page and we want to do it and that's the most important thing - looking at timetables and all that. It's all down to scripts - how we can generate a script that's gonna excite the actors...because most of the guys involved in the original Trainspotting, they've all done really well, so they don't need the cash, and they've got a lot of integrity anyway...they're not the kind of people that would just at the money. It would have to be a script that would add to the whole thing rather than diminish the legacy of it and I think that we're all pretty much like that as well - myself, Danny, John and Andrew - we're all of the opinion that if we can't get a really cracking script together, there's no point in taking something to the actors.

What about Skagboys - any plans to turn that into a film?

I've been thinking about that...I've been thinking about the idea of a TV series - maybe a 3-part - one of these things that could do really well in the UK. I think America trashes us in terms of sort of premium TV series but one of the things we really do well in the UK is a 3-part series...the sort of Red Riding type thing...that's our strength. I think Skagboys would be good material to do that with. You could actually go on and do another 3-parter as Trainspotting, as a sequel to it, on TV, y'know?

Is it true about the EDM sitcom, that you're teaming up with Calvin Harris, Jay Z and Will Smith? Is it true, and if so who approached who? Have you had a meeting yet?

It is true, and it is exciting, but again, it's in the infancy stage. But actually I'm going to meet people this week, myself and some of the producers on the show and just really look at what we want to do, and what we need to do to move it on.

So who came up with the idea? Is it Calvin?

I've been thinking about doing something around music for a while and particularly dance music. Arthur Baker [legendary producer and DJ] and I have been involved on working on something...I think the concept of this probably came from Calvin, I'm not sure. I think there's so many people that have been saying...it's just such a big thing now, EDM, and it's taken over America...dance music's been such a huge thing culturally in Britain and in Europe now for years and years and years - since 1988 basically - there's just such a distinctive culture around it. I think there's about half a dozen EDM-slash-rave movies that are planned over the next couple of the years so everybody's thinking that it's time to do this. So I think probably we are the first ones that have come up with an idea for a series.

What sort of project is it going to be? Is it a satire?

I think if you talk about a project too much when it's in its infancy, you jinx it...I'd much rather kind of get the script done, get the thing shot, then see how it looks. Because it's such a kind of ongoing project really.

Talking generally, have you got any great stories of excess from DJs in the present day, because the sums of money they make is incredible. Have you seen the DJs Complaining twitter feed and that sort of stuff?

I think if you're a real top DJ now, I think you have to be pretty switched on and pretty together. You're in the most hedonistic environment possible and you're the kinda the god so the opportunity to go absolutely fucking crazy is just beyond...it's probably unprecedented since the top guys in the Roman Empire basically! So they are in this incredible place...so to kinda survive that...I mean you notice that all these guys like Calvin and Tiesto and Deadmau5 and all that, they work so hard, they just do, they just graft - they're out there all the time, they're touring, they're playing...they've just got to keep it together basically.

When I was DJing back in the 90s, myself and Chris Bates we could barely get on a fucking plane, y'know we missed planes all the time, stuck in airports, and kind of shouting at each other in a jokey recrimination over who caused who to miss the plane. With us it was just complete fucking drug, debauchery, excess...and you can't really do that year-after year as it just takes its toll on you.

So given that the new breed of EDM DJs are so professional, what angle are you thinking of taking for the comedy element?

Well, again, we don't really know, it's like there's a current EDM but there's also old school rave culture, so I think we're gonna kind of be as generic as we possibly can y'know.

Who are your top Scottish tips for new talent coming through - anyone we should be looking out for in the next year or two?

In music, there's a guy called Callum Beattie, an Edinburgh singer-songwriter who I think's really good. He's been gigging around Edinburgh, he's done a couple of songs, he's just shooting a video for his second single, I think he's very good, very talented songwriter. There's a band I really like called The Begbies - West Lothian guys, they're really good, I really like them.

They must be pretty chuffed that you like them...

Yeah! They send me their stuff and I think it's great. There's quite a lot of talent now in Scotland...there's such a lot of good stuff coming out of the country now - maybe the excitement to the build up to the independence referendum - it's a good place to be right now.

What are your thoughts on that? Are you strong one way or the other?

I think it's something that probably has to happen now, because it has to chart its own course...and the kind of government, and build the kind of society it's aspiring to, rather than go along with what's being foisted on it. But I don't like pontificating about it too much - because, living over in America, you think to yourself it's really up to the people there to decide what's best for them. I don't want to be the expat from afar who says 'this is what you should be doing' because I don't really know - it's up to the people there to decide."

Filth is out now on DVD and BluRay

(Images: Rex/AllStar/Getty)



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