Irish actress and model Caitriona Balfe (R) poses with British actor Sam Heughan (L) on the red carpet arriving to attend the world premiere of the film T2 Trainspotting in Edinburgh on January 22, 2017. Andy Buchanan / AFP
It was the shocking, surreal, drug-fuelled movie that defined a generation. Two decades later, the ageing Scottish lowlifes of “Trainspotting” are back with a new sequel which premiered Sunday in Edinburgh.
“T2: Trainspotting” reunites Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, Jonny Lee Miller and Ewen Bremner with now Oscar-winning director Danny Boyle.
Renton, the character that launched the career of “Star Wars” actor McGregor, returns to Edinburgh after years away — and his friends Begbie, Sick Boy and Spud are waiting, as dysfunctional as ever.
While the first movie was shot mostly in Glasgow, despite being set in the once heroin-blighted Edinburgh suburb of Leith, “T2” sees the Scottish capital take on a central role.
“It was lovely to shoot here in Edinburgh, and you feel that Edinburgh is much more of a character in this film than it was in the first one, and it’s absolutely right that we are here for the premiere,” McGregor told AFP on the red carpet.
Two decades on, Sick Boy (Miller) is a pimp exploiting the wave of gentrification that has swept the city, psycho Begbie (Carlyle) is an escaped convict and burglar, and Spud (Bremer) is still “on the skag”.
Heroin has been relegated to a bit-part behind cocaine and Viagra, Begbie is even more foul-mouthed and menacing than ever, and there are plenty more gut-wrenching gross out scenes to match Spud’s breakfast table surprise in the first movie.
But despite the tough scenes, Bremer said the film has “a lot of humour in it”.
“It’s based on the real struggle of what it is to get by, you know, why people fill their lives with something… whether it is heroin or whatever they find to fill the void and heal the pain,” he told AFP.
– Betrayal and reconciliation –
There are references throughout to the first movie, including to its hugely successful soundtrack with a remix of Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life”.
Irvine Welsh, author of the “Trainspotting” novel, said the inclusion of Edinburgh group Young Fathers gave the new film a “distinctive Edinburgh feel”.
“They’re fantastic artists, and Danny very much saw them as being the voice of Trainspotting 2,” he told AFP at the premiere.
While new voices appear on the soundtrack, Boyle said bringing the earlier cast back for “T2” saw them add their two decades of experience.
“They stepped back into the roles… they factored in their own 20 years of experience into their characters and they were off and on their way,” he told the Associated Press.
Expectations are high after the first film, which was made for just $3 million in 1996, won critical acclaim and grossed over $70 million worldwide.
Reviews so far have been largely positive — The Guardian said it was not as good as the first, but “has the same punchy energy, the same defiant pessimism, and there’s nothing around like it”.
“T2” is about betrayal and reconciliation, both in front and behind the camera.
In “Trainspotting”, Renton ditched his friends and ran off to Amsterdam with the takings of a big drug deal.
Boyle and McGregor, who worked together on “Shallow Grave” and “A Life Less Ordinary”, also fell out after the director cast Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Beach”.