Many trailers and posters for his subsequent work tout it as being “from the director of Trainspotting,” but Boyle’s drive to deliver fresh and eclectic cinema will be a surprise for anyone expecting a redux of that film. His follow-ups have run the full gamut; from bleak sci-fi to zombie horror, through spiritual romantic comedy and traveller thriller. If there’s one thing Boyle’s not, it’s predictable.
Indeed, his most recent previous outing was 2007’s Sunshine, about a crew of astronauts in the not-too-distant future who are on a mission to reignite our dying sun. But it’s a far cry from his new film, Slumdog Millionaire, a fantastical romance set on the streets and in the television studios of India. The story of a young boy’s tragic upbringing in the slums and his appearance on India’s version of Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, it’s already attracting awards by the bucketload.
As you’d expect from his body of work, his five favourite films are diverse and disparate. “I’ve got an odd list,” he told RT. “Things like your ‘top films’ or your ‘top end playlist songs’ — these are the things that keep me awake at night. I watch all of these films through the director’s eyes, and I’ve watched them multiple times — well, except for The Bicycle Thief — to try and bow down and learn.”
Always, and always number one for me in every list is Apocalypse Now. There are lots of reasons. It’s imperfect; which every film should be. I love action movies. I believe in motion, in the motion picture industry. And Apocalypse Now is the ultimate action movie.
Firstly, it’s the only period film you’ll ever watch where nobody ever says it still ‘stands up after 30 years.’ Every other film — like Alien, and I’m a huge fan of Alien, I even did some promotion for it when they re-released it — the main thing you say are phrases like “Even after 25 years it still stands up.” You never have to use that (phrase) for Apocalypse Now. Everyone always just says: “Wow.”
The second reason it’s the ultimate action movie is every time it stops moving it’s weird and unnatural and disturbing. Everytime it stops moving: they stop to collect mushrooms, they get attacked by a tiger; they stop and watch the playboy bunnies arriving; the boat stops and they end up shooting these people over a puppy in a little boat. And it stops, of course, with the ultimate stop: When he (Martin Sheen) meets Marlon Brando, Colonel Kurtz at the end. You can tell by how unnatural the stops are, how natural an action movie it is.
To my everlasting shame — the film is so good I hate to admit to it — I never watched it until last Saturday because I was in Italy promoting Slumdog and they loved Slumdog and I felt abject because I hadn’t seen The Bicycle Thief. Nobody asked about it but I ran out and got it the Saturday following. It’s the most beautiful film.
Do not be put off by the fact it’s black and white or in Italian. It is the most beautiful film about a father and a son than I’ve ever seen.
I’m a huge, HUGE fan of animation — and that sequence at the end, when he’s on the little mini train, is even better action than Apocalypse Now. Nick Park is one of the most underrated action directors in the world. If he weren’t only interested in doing Claymation they’d have him doing every action movie. That is the best action sequence I’ve ever seen in a film. Talk about breathless action! And with the multi, multi, multi-millions of dollars spent on explosions — nothing is as great as that action sequence on the train at the end of that film.
Louis Malle is one of the great, underrated French directors. That’s the best film I’ve ever seen about children. It’s a very, very adult film so of course you have to take the kids very seriously. What is it they say? ‘Kids are father to the man,’ or something like that. What you are is what you were, really. It’s one of the most beautiful films I’ve ever seen; one of the saddest, most moving, genuine films ever.
As a director I’ve done kids films — Slumdog has kids, and, I made a film called Millions — and it’s not easy to get kids to be good. You work hard at it. What is really difficult is to get every kid to be in the same film at the same time and I watch that film and every kid — and there’s a lot of kids in it, it takes place at a school — they’re all in the same film at the same time.
I can guarantee you this film isn’t on anyone else’s list. It stars Gene Hackman and it’s made by my favorite British film director, even more than Nick Park. He’s a guy named Nick Roeg, and he’s most famous, probably, for Don’t Look Now. Eureka is the film that probably ended his American career. I think it was a disaster when it was released.
The first half of this movie is as good as you’ll ever get in a movie. It’s about a guy who discovers, literally, liquid gold. He becomes the richest man in the world and the man who has everything and the man who has nothing. The second half of the film is a trial and takes place in a courtroom and that part doesn’t work as well, which is what probably led to it being a flop, but the first half is as good as it gets.
And I love Nick Roeg. He’s idiosyncratic, highly individual and yet for a ten year period he was working in the studio system with big stars like Gene Hackman. Hackman’s never been better. People say “Hackman” and think of The Conversation but he’s never better than he is in Eureka. If you can imagine a man who has everything and he (Hackman) just plays it as a guy who has nothing.
Slumdog Millionaire opens today in the UK and is out now in the US and Australia. And come back, because RT will have more from Danny Boyle later.