Edited by Amy Raphael
Danny Boyle In His Own Words
(Faber and Faber, 2010)
Danny Boyle: in His Own Words is the latest in Faber and Faber’s “Directors on Directors” series. The book is broken into chapters, each—in interview format—covering one of Boyle’s nine films. The exception is the “Introduction” chapter, in which Boyle and Raphael talk about the conditions of his pre-directing life which is—by a long distance—the most interesting part of the book.
The strange thing about Danny Boyle: In His Own Words is that Danny Boyle is most conversationally arresting when he isn’t talking about the films he’s directed (including Slumdog Millionaire, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, and The Beach). Talking, say, about his parents being “fanatical about [Boyle and his sisters] getting into university and learning to drive,” he’s touching, funny, smart, and charming. Or talking about his idea of film: “You shouldn’t be able to walk away. You should feel trapped in a dark room.” But when he’s talking about his films, this book is, at times, like hearing drunk people eulogise about friends they don’t see any more:
Raphael: When you were filming the eye-burning scenes in [Slumdog Millionaire], Azhar throws up for real. How did he do it on command?
Boyle: The two boys—the youngest Salim and Jamal—are brilliant in different ways. Ayush is an incredible professional. For a kid of that age he understood story structure right away. […]
Boyle’s answers frequently read like the polite, disinterested responses someone gives after a solid week of interviews, even though this book is where he should be at his most personal and insightful.
The book feels incomplete in its editing, especially when Raphael, prefacing questions, appears to be advancing a platitudinal artistic manifesto: “All you can do is be in control of the film as you’re making it and then let it go.” And the unpredictable exclamation marks!
Boyle is most authentic when enthusing about his life, his time shooting Slumdog Millionaire in India, and the films of other directors. Anecdotes about his films are sparse, although I did find out the zombies in 28 Days Later were former athletes. Boyle reads best when he’s looking elsewhere, when, for instance, he’s talking about the films of Alan Clarke. That seems to be the biggest problem with Danny Boyle: in His Own Words: having read this book—over 300 pages of Boyle interviews and discussion of Boyle films—the next film I want to see is Elephant, by Alan Clarke, not Boyle’s own six-Oscar nominated 127 Hours.