Faster Higher Stronger: Director Danny Boyle's Biggest Premiere Yet at Olympics 2012

2012 London Olympic Stadium image CGI © Populous;Danny Boyle © S. Bukley/Shutterstock
2012 London Olympic Stadium image CGI © Populous;Danny Boyle © S. Bukley/Shutterstock

The Olympics! Two weeks of celebrating athletes and showcasing events that don’t usually make it to TV screens. Don’t get us wrong: We love sports. But our sports fandom here is trumped by our film nerdery over what British director Danny Boyle has up his sleeve for “Isles of Wonder,” the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games on July 27. Tantalizing hints have been dropped (Underworld! The River Thames! CGI! Live animals!), but we just know that, whatever it may be, Boyle’s vision will be a riveting wonder for the estimated four billion who will be watching.

Of his name-brand colleagues in the British film industry, Boyle is the obvious choice as artistic director of London’s opening ceremonies. (Sit yourself back down, Guy Ritchie.) He almost singlehandedly revitalized British cinema in the 1990s with his first two pictures, the 1994 blackly comic thriller “Shallow Grave” (newly available as a Criterion DVD) and the 1996 indie hit “Trainspotting.” The critical and commercial success of this stunningly confident one-two punch expanded British film beyond heritage cinema — period epics, classic literary adaptations, romantic comedies, working-class dramas — to something edgier and more modern. Boyle’s work felt very much of its moment, an emblem of the creative potential of the era, and its positive spirit has reverberated throughout British culture to this day.

While his career skips across media (cinema, television, and theater) and genre (thriller, comedy, drama, romance, adventure, horror), the major connective thread through his body of work is its propulsive energy. Boyle’s signature style — skillful camerawork, intense visuals, surrealist moments, perfect soundtracks — offers vigor, movement, and exuberance, the ideal approach for a celebration of ath

Here are the five adaptations in Danny Boyle’s filmography:

“Trainspotting” (1996)
Doctor-turned-screenwriter John Hodge (who wrote “Shallow Grave”) was Oscar-nominated for his adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s bestselling debut novel. An episodic narrative about addicts in Edinburgh, the film proved a breakthrough for both Boyle and star Ewan McGregor. “Trainspotting” is perhaps the most iconic example of the director’s style, best represented in the famous opening scene of McGregor running down the street to Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life.” Boyle has expressed interest in directing Porno, the novel’s sequel, with the same cast.

“The Beach” (2000)
Starring a miscast Leonardo DiCaprio (the studio’s pick over Boyle’s choice of McGregor), this was the director’s first Hollywood production. (He had earlier turned down the opportunity to oversee the fourth “Alien,” eventually helmed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet.) Adapted by Hodge from the cult novel by Alex Garland (who later scripted Boyle’s “28 Days Later” and “Sunshine”), the movie oversimplifies the Lord of the Flies-esque story, but offers good performances from Tilda Swinton and Robert Carlyle.

“Millions” (2004)
Former Michael Winterbottom collaborator Frank Cottrell Boyce penned the award-winning novel and screenplay simultaneously. Boyle’s first (and, to date, only) picture marketed toward younger viewers, “Millions” follows the adventures of two brothers who discover a bag of money. Neither writer nor director talk down to their audience, retaining the typical hallmarks of their work in its sophisticated narrative, stylish visuals, and great music to produce a high-quality work for children as well as adults.

“Slumdog Millionaire” (2008)
Adapted from Vikas Swarup’s Q&A, Boyle’s most crowd-pleasing film won multiple Oscars, including Best Picture and Best Director. Starring Dev Patel as an impoverished contestant on “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire,” the story had a little something for everyone: romance, tragedy, drama, action, suspense. Though many accused the film of exoticizing India and its poverty, Boyle’s camerawork and use of color worked to great effect in what is arguably a modern fairy tale.

“127 Hours” (2010)
James Franco stars in this harrowing tale based on Aron Ralston’s memoir Between a Rock and a Hard Place. Ralston, an experienced outdoorsman, fell into a crevasse during a solo hike and remained trapped for over five days, his arm pinned down by a boulder. Boyle does not shy away from the details of the ordeal, culminating in the infamous amputation scene. (Tip: If you want to avoid it, it starts about seventy-five minutes in and lasts three minutes. Frankly, though, we had a harder time watching him drink his own pee.)

So, obviously, we love all of Danny Boyle’s films (even the lesser ones offer something interesting), but feel free to discuss your favorites below. And tell us too your hopes for the opening ceremonies of the 2012 London Summer Olympics!