Boyle's `Millions' is a kid's story but with an edge

Director is known for his dark, adult stories

Movies: On screen, DVD/ Video

March 31, 2005|By Paula Nechak | Paula Nechak,NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Shallow Grave, Trainspotting and 28 Days Later are three cult phenomena from British director Danny Boyle. He's back with Millions, another imaginative flight -- this time into the mind of Damien, a young boy who, though blessed with a rich fantasy life and all-encompassing faith, struggles to make sense of the tragedies and changes of the adult world. Then a "miracle" happens, one that teaches him the meaning of "personal wealth."

It may seem an odd choice for a man who has crafted adult cinematic morality tales with the darkest of consequences, but Boyle has given a kids movie his visual flair and creative brilliance while retaining touches of his signature sinister edge.

Did you collaborate with the screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce (Hilary and Jackie) on the script?

We did. It was quite an old script, and you never find this out because people are too polite, but I think it went round to every director in the U.K. Nobody had liked it, and I think they sent it to me as a last resort because they thought I was an inappropriate director for it. I adored it, and we worked together for about a year. He's a fantastic writer, and he's got seven children! I think it's where a lot of the script's energy comes from.

I ask because the film is set in Manchester and you were born there. What did you inject from your childhood?

I came from a working-class background, but I was encouraged to use my imagination. The character of Damien is a portrait of an artist at 8 years old. His interest in the saints is just temporary. That's what I had as a kid, I was brought up a strict Catholic. But soon he'll find other things -- girls, whatever, he'll channel it into other areas. He will be an imaginative person. I was like that, though the film's not autobiographical.

Trainspotting was a small, indie film that reached pop culture iconography. Has your work ethic changed since you reached that status?

It changed a bit on The Beach, what with the scale of the film and what happened making it. I've tried to keep my principles. You lose some ideology but you keep principles, I think. The film business can be very fickle in the way it treats people so I always try to treat people very well. You benefit from that. I've tried to make difficult films and make them popular because I'm not interested in making art house films for a narrow audience. Having said that, you try to make it as interesting as possible for them.

As to The Beach, you were a golden boy after Trainspotting working with another golden boy, Leonardo DiCaprio, who was coming off Titanic. Did that pressure help or hurt the collaboration?

It wasn't great, it wasn't a brilliant experience. It didn't suit me, working with that amount of money and where there are so many people involved. I like to turn up and, though there's a superficial plan, I like to make it up on the day. It's very dangerous, and you can get a bloody nose with it, but my best work is done that way. Having said that, those directors who can do big films I really admire. That they can keep them feeling fresh is a difficult thing to do.

Is Millions a movie you could only have made at this point in your life, with that introspection we're given to as we get older?

Yeah, I think so. I wanted to make a film for my mom, who's dead, and my dad. She was a very strict Catholic and though there's a bad side to that, she believed in goodness being created by having faith in people. And you're right, you come to an age when you think, "I should do that." So it was a total labor of love. If it's a catastrophe, I don't care. It's a defense mechanism, I know, but in this case I love and cherish this film, and I have an answer now when people ask what my favorite of my films is. I usually answer the one that people haven't liked; I think Robert Altman said that, and it's true. It's this one for me because it's close to home in so many ways.

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