At South By Southwest this weekend—and oh, how I hate to start a paragraph with that phrase—one interesting nugget drifted up through the mire of tech blather and start-up cultishness: Danny Boyle is working on a sequel to Trainspotting. He’s got everything in place to start shooting a sequel to his beloved 1996 Scottish heroin romp—everything except for a script and a cast. But, as Boyle told Indiewire, he’s feeling “very optimistic.”
“This has been a long time coming,” he said. “There’s always been this long term plan for ‘Trainspotting 2,’ if John can produce a decent enough script, I don’t think there will be any barriers to Ewan or any of the cast coming back,” he said. “I think they’ll wanna know that the parts are good so they don’t feel like they are letting anyone down.”
Of course, he’s said this before, making me wonder if Trainspotting 2 isn’t the British version of Ghostbusters 3, which I can only assume Bill Murray will be forced to field questions about while doing press junkets in the afterlife. But at least Boyle has some source material in the form of Porno, Irvine Welsh’s 2003 sequel to the original novel. I had a copy of Trainspotting in high school, but never got past the first chapter, turned off as I was by Welsh’s celebrated stream-of-consciousness-in-a-Scottish-brogue, which reads like Robert Burns on steroid rage. I hadn’t realized that the book was a British sensation—just like Jordan!—and famous for being the most shoplifted book of 1993.
(Incidentally, how do they track that? Do they notice what’s going missing through inventory, or do they track the number of people who are caught trying to steal a book? If it’s the latter, than the distinction should be known as the “most popular book among talentless amateur shoplifters,” which doesn’t sound as cool.)
If anything, the sensation around Welsh’s original novel reminded me of the rhapsodic response to Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club—a mindblowing book that seemed to promise the arrival of a new literary talent, whose appeal was only amplified by the film. Reading reviews of Porno and Welsh’s other sequels to Trainspotting, it seems like he may have gone in the same direction—the Times review of the book says that “nothing he has published since Trainspotting…has come close to matching that book’s furious iridescent glare.”
The ending of Trainspotting always seemed to be a bit of a cheat—a happy ending to a story that had no business ending well. But the sight of Ewan McGregor’s Rent Boy scurrying off into the dawn, his friends hard-fought drug money clutched in his fist, was so feverishly delightful that I didn’t mind. After all, what’s a heroin comedy with a cheery ending? I’d always wondered where Rent Boy ended up, but also not wanted to know—a recovering heroin addict with a sack full of stolen money is not a man you expect to live very long.
And yet, it seems, Rent Boy survives. Porno opens with him living in Amsterdam, long sober, but having converted his addiction into (sigh) life as a gym rat. Back in the Isles, Sick Boy has decided to return to Scotland to take over a pub and start shooting porno; Begbie has just gotten out of jail, and Spud is writing a book…for some reason. It sounds like a terrible way to start a book—even the more positive Guardian review admits it doesn’t get going until Begbie’s entrance around page 100—but perhaps Danny Boyle can do more with it. Just so long as he doesn’t spoil the image of Ewan McGregor, smiling his way across London Bridge, his future stuffed into the bag on his shoulder.
Oh, who am I kidding? Nothing can spoil that.