Interview: Ewen Bremner on 20 years of Trainspotting, Danny Boyle and the success of Wonder Woman

Ewen Bremner is a calm and thought provoking actor who has seen a broad variety of roles over the years in stage, TV (My Name is Earl, The Lost Room) and the silver screen (Pearl Harbor, Black Hawk Down, Trainspotting 1 & 2, Wonder Woman). Some of the best characters Ewen portrays are very left of normal, with the success of those portrayals thanks to a gift of balancing gritty character drama and a great sense of humour. Throw in his heavy Scottish accent and he has become a huge fan favourite over the years.

Now with his return in the role of the beloved Spud in T2: Trainspotting 2 and the DVD, Blu-Ray and digital home release 20 years after he first appeared in Danny Boyle’s original Trainspotting, he hits our sights again. We got to speak with Ewen about his work in T2 just after his glorious effort on the battlefields of the First World War in his new film Wonder Woman.

Thanks so much for taking the time with myself on behalf of The Iris today! I have loved you since your stuttering character of Red Winkle in Pearl Harbor, finally glad to be able to say thanks for all the years of love and laughter!

Ewen Bremner as Lt Red Winkle in Pearl Harbor (2001)

The first time we see your Trainspotting character of Spud on screen he is giving Johnny Lee Miller a big fat kiss, which set the bar for off-kilter at the time, until of course Trainspotting 2. As mentioned your character of Red Winkle in Pearl Harbour and now Charlie the crazy PTSD Sniper that works alongside Diana Prince in Wonder Woman! Do you always aim for these slightly left of normal characters to play or they choose you?

I’m not exactly conventional casting for a lot of the mainstream regular guy parts, visually I don’t really come off as a regular guy, I’m a bit unsymmetrical I guess.

I think casting directors see me more as something unexpected I think and I enjoy the subversive, I enjoy playing and if you’re playing it’s the unexpected that is most fun, whether it’s the playground when you’re a kid or at work as an adult, it’s the surprises that are the most fun, the subverting normality. That is what I enjoy in my work and having the opportunity to find those possibilities.

We see that coming through most of your characters, one of my favourites is Spud, the emotional range you reach with Spud in Trainspotting 1 & 2 is incredible, he’s not just the crazy junkie we all knew and loved from the first Trainspotting film but he’s a character basically looking for help, for companionship and It’s a pretty phenomenal move in the film industry to be called back to a role after twenty years and with the same Director Danny Boyle, what have you taken away from him over the years and brought back?

Ewen Bremner as Spud (Trainspotting 1996)

Well, he (Danny Boyle) really empowered us the first time around and this time around, he really trusts the people he’s working with. He pieced together this cast and crew that he trusted, that he knew could go out and do the job and deliver something. He didn’t have to micro manage anything, he put the crew together with the material and went out and got the best parts of all of us. I think he does that consistently, that’s his mode ya know!?

Working with Danny this time, his methods had become more concentrated, he knew what he could achieve, he knew what he could pull off in a day. Shooting enormous amounts of material and then decides afterwards what’s going to make the most sense in the film. Most directors will spend their time shooting each scene in the script from a variety of angles and sizes and in the edit room they can make it look like a million dollars, but Danny only spends a few takes on one scene and then moves on, he has this vision of bringing something unexpected, so all the shots in the film are incredible and I loved looking at the monitors (during filming) and I wouldn’t have a clue what I was looking at but it looked incredible.

Will there be a Trainspotting 2 stage play? Not many people knew you actually played Mark Renton in the original Trainspotting stage play in 1995 before the film was released in 1996!

In the original production yeah in Glasgow, Edinburgh and London, touring it around a little bit. I dunno, I expect there probably will be, there probably already is a production that’s going around based on the second film, not with any of us guys, but yeah, I think there are a few productions gearing up to do something with that.

There were so many productions going around (after the initial) though, that’s also testing Irvine Welsh’s (Trainspotting Author) vision as well, the revolution his writing was, really and at that time it was so shocking and very intense to behold on stage, in film and especially the novel.

Your new film Wonder Woman! Are you as excited as I am that it’s had amazing success for everyone involved, Patty Jenkins, Gal Gadot, yourself!?

From Left to Right – Saïd Taghmaoui, Chris Pine, Gal Gadot, Eurgene Brave Rock and Ewen Bremner Wonder Woman (2017)

I’m delighted, I’m delighted, Patty got such great performances out of Gal and all of us. Patty is Wonder Woman, she really is, the strength and energy she has got and in the real world. There are so many pressures with influence and trying to protect their investment as much as possible on making a big screen movie, she had to really hold her metal to deliver the film she felt needed to be delivered. Patty is just a really exhilarating influence on the whole crew.

Are you a comic book or comic book movie fan?

No, not really, as a kid I read a few comic books, but year I kind of steer away from stories where people can make everything all right because they got superpowers. To me that’s too easy, I know real life is a bit more gnarly than that, a bit more tricky.  If you don’t have superpowers at your disposal your options are a bit more limited. If your talking about the situations we are in today with international politics and the global chain of events, we don’t have superpowers at our disposal and we’re not going to have superpowers. There are all kinds of powers that are deployed, but I am personally more of a realist. I like stories where people solve things by digging down into themselves, but that’s what superheroes represent, that courage that we all need to find at times to solve our problems.

What are some of your favourite all time movies?

Wow, there are so much great films, films that really feed you and expand your mind and open you up. Favourite is so hard because there are so many great films that I loved, that have spoken to me and helped me expand my mind. A film that really does it for me is a film called Black Cat, White Cat by Director Emir Kusturica, it’s a comic fairy tale, romance and love story. It is absolutely hilarious and just really visionary, a great laugh and great characters. I really love characters, that’s my work and I love to see the best of the best.

What does a crazy Scott like you do for a hobby on your quiet days?

I really enjoy my downtime as much as possible, as an actor you never know how much downtime you’ve got, it used to drive me crazy, that unknown and unpredictable feeling. You’ve got all this mad nervous energy when you come off a production or set and you’ve been working hard, you feel like you need somewhere to put that energy. As I got older I got much more appreciative of that down time and enjoying it as much as I can.  I love music and I’m always listening to music, I make a lot of music and writing and recording stuff, I put my time into that when I have some to spare.

One more big thank-you thank you for clobbering a certain someone (Begbie) over the head with a toilet seat and thanks for your time!

Trainspotting 2 is out now On DVD, Blu-Ray and digital!