Have A Think #1: Collaborations

Through his career Chris Eccleston has collaborated repeatedly with several directors and writers. For example, Alex Cox cast him in 'Let Him Have It', then went on to direct him in 'Death and the Compass' and 'Revengers Tragedy', Michael Winterbottom directed him four times, Charles McDougall - three. Jimmy McGovern has written 5 features Eccleston has appeared in, and five writers are responsible for two films each. We would like to look at one specific collaboration, that with director Danny Boyle.

'Shallow Grave', big screen d├ębut, 'Strumpet', one of two TV projects as successful regrouping manoeuvre, '28 Days Later', return to bright lights without dumbing down or giving up the original ideas - these films were important turning points for Danny Boyle. But what about Eccleston? What place do these projects have in his filmography? Are they exceptional in some way for you? How do you think Boyle-Eccleston collaboration is different from others? Can you see them working together again?



joanr16 said...

Wow, you've flushed me out of lurker land with this terrific question, one I've carried around at the back of my mind ever since Oscar night. Will success spoil Danny Boyle... too much to work with Chris Eccleston again?

I've only seen five or six of Boyle’s films, including two of his three with Chris (still trying to find a copy of Strumpet here in the U.S.), but I've noticed some patterns: 1) Danny Boyle looks unblinkingly into the darkest corners of human experience; 2) he has an affinity for fearless leading men, e.g. Ewan McGregor, Eccleston, Cillian Murphy; and 3) he has an unabashed romantic streak that he’s able to contrast brilliantly against those darkest human impulses. I don’t know enough about him to have a sense of whether huge piles of money could suffocate his heretofore unique vision. Of course, I hope not (but I’m a bit cynical).

When I look at the three actors I’ve named above, I notice that Boyle used McGregor and Murphy more consistently as "romantic" leads (if you consider the lead in Trainspotting to be romantic), while Eccleston seemed to be Boyle's “stealth menace.” Again, I haven’t seen Strumpet except for one or two YouTube clips, but as I understand it, Boyle originally intended to cast Chris in the Robert Carlyle role in Trainspotting– pure menace there, without the stealth.

I’ve seen Chris do enough menacing roles that I’m not all that anxious to see Danny Boyle use him that way again. I look at someone like Ewan McGregor with his regular features, his pretty looks, his general blandness (although he is a fine actor), and I expect him to be the romantic lead. I’d love it if Boyle would shake things up more, and let our Chris have some of that.

Alex said...

First of all, very precise summing up of Boyle films. Regarding Eccleston in 'Strumpet', I would say it's the opposite, "stealth kindness".

What do you make of Danny Boyle's wanderings to the exotic? Has he really exhausted the possibilities on his home turf?

I'm always in for another Northern drama.
If the story is cleverly written, I don't mind what type of character Eccleston plays, it won't be one-sided anyway: Good, but cracked like David, dilapidate and kind like Strayman or rational, insane Major.

Tarot said...

I have all 3 of the Boyle and Eccleston collaborative films on DVD. My personal favorite is Strumpet and I really wish that had gotten a wider release on my side of the Pond. I managed to get a copy via Ebay. Fortunately my DVD player will play any DVD as will my computer.

I agree with joanr16 that Boyle has no problem with looking at Humanity's extreme darkness. While Shallow Grave and 28 Days Later remind me to some extent of Poe and Lovecraftian work, Strumpet though set in a gritty world has a bit more of an uplifting quality to it. I've been known to listen to Chris reciting "Evidently Chickentown" during low moments at work, especially given how ironically a good chunk of that poem fits where I work: color scheme, attitude of some of administration, every clock being set to a different time etc.

Having said that, I do hope Boyle works with Chris again and the project is widely released.

chiclit said...

Now, the Boyle theme that I see in the is a statement on finding family and belonging where you can. You expressed my thoughts and hopes for a post Oscar Boyle/Eccleston collaboration. One hopes that a director that makes a point to take his Oscar by his Dad's working man's club in Manchester still is true to his roots ...

Joanr16, Strumpet is only available in Region 2-but if you know the brand name of your DVD player, can use Google, and are familiar with the word "hack" you will discover that all DVDs leave the factory with the capability to be all regions, they are merely and quite simply programmed for your country. I was actually quite livid when I found that out-but I really enjoyed watching Strumpet, Flesh and Blood and the Clocking Off episode here in the US.

Alex said...

Chiclit> Yes, true to his roots, but what about the themes? Do they still entice him?

For some reason I'm always suspicious when people employ foreign environments to tell their story. Not a fan of 'Slumdog Millionaire', me. 'Strumpet' is far superior imo, despite it being a modest digicam TV project.

Tarot> 'Evidently Chickentown' is perfect to vent frustration, I recite it myself, or alternatively lines from Strayman's writings.

Love 'Strumpet' to bits, and I hope if Boyle needs a break again, we'll get something in the same vein, preferably with CE.