It’s the iconic and controversial movie that shook up British cinema and launched the careers of its young cast.
Trainspotting, based on Irvine Welsh’s novel about drug addicts in Edinburgh, has been hailed as one of the country’s greatest films.
Now a behind-the-scenes book to mark the 25th anniversary of the film’s release has revealed how one of its big stars almost missed out on the chance of fame after initially refusing to take the role.
Ewan Bremner, who plays Spud, said Trainspotting was “one of the best experiences of my life”.
But he told the book’s author, Jay Glennie, that he initially had no interest in the role.
Glennie said: “I was surprised how close Ewan came to turning down the part of Spud.”
The actor, the only one of the cast from Edinburgh, had played Renton in the stage adaptation of Trainspotting. After two years
touring the role, he thought the film part should be his. But when the script arrived, his heart sank.
Bremner told Glennie: “As soon as I read it, I knew it had been written for Ewan McGregor.” At this point, he did not like John Hodge’s adaptation, feeling that Welsh’s original story had been “glamourised and designerised”.
When he was offered the part of Spud, he told his agent to turn it down.
With no other Spud in mind, director Danny Boyle kept the job offer on the table in the hope that Bremner would change
his mind. And eventually his patience paid off.
Bremner recalled: “My feelings didn’t change up until the last minute. I cannot believe, looking back, that I turned my nose up at it. I cannot believe that I was on that precipice of making a huge mistake and I sincerely meant it as well. It just shows how silly you can be. It was my ego and snobbery, choking me up about it.”
Glennie says, looking back on the film, it would be impossible to see another actor as Spud.
He said: “It was cast impeccably. When I was researching the book, I was surprised how much everybody loved working on it. They loved the book and they loved the finished film, which is pretty unusual.
“They have all had huge careers from Trainspotting. I couldn’t do a where-are-they-now book because everybody knows exactly where they all are now.”
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Another of the stars, Kevin McKidd, revealed how he was bitter for years about not being on the poster for Trainspotting.
Glennie’s book – Trainspotting 25th Anniversary, published by Coattails – tells how McKidd was not ready for the stardom Trainspotting brought the others and feels his success came at the right time. He admitted he was overawed while shooting the film.
McKidd, who has starred in Grey’s Anatomy and Rome, said: “I am this sweaty Jock from the Highlands standing near the tea urn alongside Angelina Jolie (she was dating Miller at the time). It felt as though I had been invited in to wash the dishes.”
McKidd had booked a holiday to Tunisia the day after the Trainspotting shoot finished. As he flew off to north Africa, the five other stars jetted down to London to be photographed for what became one of the most iconic film posters of the 20th century.
He was told his pictures would be taken when he got back but they never were and his character Tommy was absent from student bedroom walls and CD covers forever.
McKidd also missed out on the Cannes film festival where Trainspotting was the toast of the French riviera and the rest of the stars promoted the movie and partied with Oasis in luxury hotel suites.
Instead he watched the media whirlwind on telly from his flat in Glasgow’s Cessnock.
He told Glennie: “To be totally candid, I sat there and thought, ‘What the f**k happened?’ I’d missed the poster shoot and now my invite to Cannes must have gone astray.”
Glennie said: “What I think happened is that Kevin wasn’t at the photoshoot. When they looked at the photos, they realised they had a great shoot, it was quite joyful. They wanted to keep that joyful nature for the posters.”
Putting Tommy’s face up there, he argues, would have been a buzzkill. He said: “Tommy dies in the film. None of the other characters on the poster die.”
He also says keeping Tommy off the poster makes the plot twist more of a surprise. He added: “For the viewer, it works better that Tommy is nowhere to be seen. When he does die and you realise he’s got Aids, it takes you by surprise.”
McKidd has finally got over the pain of missing out on the film’s worldwide hype.
He said: “I can talk about Trainspotting now because it doesn’t sting any more. When Trainspotting became a great hit, pals were saying to me that I should get over to Hollywood and chase the dream but my gut told me it wasn’t my time. I was in no way ready. I was so green and I knew that LA would chew me up and spit me out.
“It took another 14 years before things started to happen. Rome and Grey’s Anatomy – they were my time to pop.”