T2 Trainspotting

Interior scene, pool hall

Sick Boy to Renton: “So, what have you been up to … For 20 years?”

THERE is a sequel to Trainspotting coming out. You may have noticed. What with the trailers and the posters and the magazine covers and the soundtrack reveal – Young Fathers are on there: huzzah! – and the general level of SCREEEEEAAAAMING hysteria that has come along with it, you’d think people had been waiting for a while or something.
But here we are finally. Some two decades on from the original, the film that rendered Scotland cool (or something), that transformed its stars into Hollywood names and ultimately would have had much to do with director Danny Boyle getting the Olympics opening ceremony gig in 2012. T2. It’s a big deal, right?
Jonny Lee Miller, aka Sick Boy (as if we have to tell you) realised that on the first day of filming. “It was really nerve-wracking. We were filming in a basement in a pub and when we came out there were paparazzi everywhere. It was really weird. It was like we were filming Star Wars.”
You could pitch it as the Scottish equivalent, with syringes standing in for light sabres perhaps. The first film certainly feels like it belongs to a galaxy far, far away all these years later.
So why has it taken so long to get here? “Personally, I don’t really see the point of doing it unless it’s 20 years later,” Lee Miller says. “If you wait an inordinate amount of time you can say more.”
Well, so he says. But he’s not saying that much. We have limited time for a start and it turns out Lee Miller is a quiet, restrained presence who picks his words carefully. He couldn’t be less hysterical if he tried.
Lee Miller is in New York when we speak. Sirens doppler past in the background. This is home now. He lives in the city with his wife and his seven-year-old son and has done for the last four-and-a-half years. “It’s a great place to raise a kid,” he says. “I shoot a TV show here. We shoot all over the five boroughs of New York City so I get to see a lot of it. It’s a great city.”
He speaks with a soft Home Counties accent, unweathered by those years in New York. It’s a reminder that Lee Miller was the odd one out in the Trainspotting cast. He was born in Kingston, the grandson of Bond actor Bernard Lee. A world away from Sean Connery-impersonating, dog-shooting junkie loverman Sick Boy.
So, T2. About that delay. Why has it taken so long for the gang to get back together? What’s the inside gen on the fights and the fallouts? “I don’t think Danny felt there was a script worth making before. I have a huge respect for his quality control and his standards. Any movie begins and ends with the script and is it any good? And this script was worth doing.”

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Ha. That sounds like the official version. It’s pretty common knowledge that Ewan McGregor fell out with Boyle after the director cast Leonardo DiCaprio in The Beach. Indeed, McGregor recently said he avoided Boyle for the ensuing 10 years or so.
That said, Lee Miller is keen to stress that this time around there was a sense of rightness about the idea of a sequel. “The opportunity was not lost on anybody. We were all extremely grateful to have that opportunity and for it to be happening.”
How very well mannered. How very un-Sick Boy, you might say. But then that’s the thing about acting. You aren’t playing yourself. “When the first movie came out Sick Boy was this in-control stud who’s really cool and that’s just not me at all. People were constantly like: ‘Oh, my God, it’s Sick Boy!’ And I’m not like that. I’m not really the cool dude at all. I might have tried to be back in the day.”
Well, yes. This is, after all, the guy who was once married to Angelina Jolie. The bride reportedly wore rubber trousers and a white T-shirt with her tattooed lover-boy husband’s name written upon it. In blood. Her own. Reportedly. (I don’t know about you but my invitation never turned up.)
Fair to say, then, Lee Miller has had a few rock ’n’ roll years himself. “I did, but essentially, deep down, that’s not who I am.
“I went off on my own life adventure, went to California and disappeared for a couple of years. I was chasing my own things. I wasn’t a particularly focused individual back in the days. Nothing wrong with that, I don’t think.”
Perhaps. Although while McGregor and Robert Carlyle parlayed their
post-Trainspotting fame to Hollywood success via Star Wars and Bond villainy respectively and Ewen Bremner went full-tilt indie, Lee Miller’s filmography is a mix of British movies (anyone else out there think Gavin Millar’s adaptation of Iain Banks’s novel Complicity, starring Miller and a young Keeley Hawes, deserves being rediscovered?), Jane Austen adaptations (Mansfield Park and a TV adaptation of Emma) and the odd Woody Allen film (Melinda and Melinda) and turning up as Graeme Obree in the film The Flying Scotsman. He’s never been out of work but for a time he didn’t seem able to develop his role in the cultist film in recent British movie history into mainstream success.
“As far as Trainspotting changing my life,” he says, “I think I’ve said before I probably squandered a few opportunities. But I’m fine with that because everything’s fine.”

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If only Sick Boy could say the same. Where do we find him in the new film? “He’s got sort of stuck and he’s not really emotionally matured that much and he’s sort of trying to cling onto things and though it might not be apparent – and he certainly wouldn’t admit it – he’s struggling to be that. He’s a bit desperate really and a little bit lost and he’s looking for the wrong things. We can all identify with that, I think.”
Change is only natural. We all get older. Last time, when they were all young, the cast of Trainspotting would follow up their days’ filming by spending their nights in wild bacchanals. This time around? “It’s different for sure. We’re not going to the pub after work. We’d go out for a quiet dinner or go for a run. Yeah.”
Middle age comes to us all, Jonny. “Exactly.”
What was the pleasure of going back and doing it again? “Reconnecting with a wonderful group of friends.”
Who has lost the most hair? “Oh man, that’s a toss-up between me and Bremner. Me and Ewen are neck and neck.”

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These days Jonny Lee Miller is 44, married to the American actress Michele Hicks and father of Buster, that aforementioned seven-year-old. He’s also the star of the hugely successful TV show Elementary, an American reboot of the Sherlock Holmes stories that’s contemporaneous with the BBC’s Cumberbatchian version though it substitutes Lucy Liu for Martin Freeman and New York for London.
“We’ve made over 100 episodes and it’s a milestone in television and we’re all extremely proud of that. Lifelong friendships have been made. I’ve been able to put some money in the bank, buy a place to live. And all of those things I do not take for granted.
“And I’ve got to play Sherlock Holmes more than anyone ever has. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is a personal thing for the viewer. But I’m really proud of that and I like what we do with the show.”
Given that he appeared on stage with Benedict Cumberbatch in the Danny Boyle adaptation of Frankenstein (they took it in turn to play the title character and his creature), did they ever discuss all
things Sherlock?
“We don’t swap notes. What I was really keen to do was to try to be as different as possible as you can playing the same dude.
I just didn’t want to be copying him. I didn’t want to be ripping him off. So I went through the books and did my due diligence and tried to put as much information as I could from the books that wasn’t in other performances I’d seen and try to put it into my interpretation.”
For now though Sherlock will have to retreat to Baker Street. For the foreseeable future he’s going to be Sick Boy again. Is he ready for the storm? “Uh no, I …” He hums and haws for a moment. “I think it’s a good movie. I find it hard to be objective at the moment. I’ve only seen it once and it’s like a trip. You learn not to have large expectations. I try to keep it much more low-key than that.
“I’m prepared for anything. You can pay attention to it or not. Or try to keep things in perspective. At the end of the day, it’s a movie.”
Is it possible that there is nobody less worked up about the fact there is a Trainspotting sequel coming out than Jonny Lee Miller?

T2 Trainspotting is in cinemas on Friday.