Biography of Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle is a stage and film director, screenwriter, and producer from Manchester, England. He is most well known for directing Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, 28 Days Later, Slumdog Millionaire, and 127 Hours. In 2012 he was the artistic director of the Summer Olympics opening ceremony, Isles of Wonder, in London. He was subsequently offered a knighthood in the United Kingdom, but turned it down. He has been nominated for several BAFTA awards and Academy Awards and won three (two BAFTA and one Oscar).

Boyle was born in Radcliffe, a town in Greater Manchester, in 1956. His parents were immigrants from Ireland and raised him in a Catholic household. His family was working class and his mother wanted him to become a Catholic priest. When he was 14, however, his priest persuaded him not to leave school for a seminary, and soon after he got involved in the dramatic arts. He attended Bangor University in Bangor, Wales, where he studied English and Drama.

After graduating from University he began working in theater. He was a member of the Joint Stock Theater Company, then the Royal Court Theater, and directed five plays for the Royal Shakespeare Company. In the late 1980s he started working as a producer for the BBC Northern Ireland, where he produced, among other TV movies, the highly acclaimed and controversial Alan Clarke film, Elephant. He went on to direct episodes of various BBC TV shows, such as Inspector Morse.

Boyle directed his first film, Shallow Grave, in 1995. The film became the most commercially successful British film of the year, and won the BAFTA for Best British Film. It also earned him the Best Newcomer Award from the London Film Critics’ Circle. Shallow Grave marked the beginning of Boyle’s collaborations with the screenwriter John Hodge, producer Andrew Macdonald, and actor Ewan McGregor, all of whom he would work with again on Trainspotting (1996).

The success of his cinematic debut enabled a larger release for his next film, Trainspotting, which launched him to international fame. Producer Andrew Macdonald read the novel by Irvine Welsh in 1993, which had already been successfully adapted for stage, and convinced Boyle and Hodge to turn it into a movie a few months later. The three worked together throughout 1994 and 1995, while Shallow Grave was still in production and release, to adapt the novel for film and secure funding. Boyle and Macdonald cast Ewan McGregor as the lead, Mark Renton, after he impressed them with his performance in Shallow Grave. Though the budget for the film was relatively modest, Macdonald secured large marketing and publicity budgets from Miramax and PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, who distributed the film. Trainspotting was a massive commercial and critical success, becoming the highest-grossing British film of the year, earning wide critical acclaim, a BAFTA for best adapted screenplay (John Hodge), and an Academy Award nomination. It is now ranked 10th on the British Film Institute’s list of 100 Best British Films of the 20th century.

The success of Shallow Grave and Trainspotting earned Boyle international fame, leading to larger budget films over the rest of his career. His next film was The Beach (2000), an adaptation of the novel by the same name by Alex Garland. The Beach had a budget of 50 million USD (compared with 1.5 million British pounds for Trainspotting) and earned 114 million USD in the global box office, but was a failure with critics. Much of the commercial success has been attributed to the star power of Leonardo DiCaprio, the film’s leading actor. Boyle went on to again work with novelist Alex Garland on his next film, 28 Days Later (2002), which has been credited with reviving the zombie-horror genre, and which was a commercial and critical success.

In the mid-2000s, Boyle directed Millions (2004) and Sunshine (2007), which were both moderately successful. He also produced 28 Weeks Later (2007), a sequel to 28 Days Later. In 2008 Boyle directed Slumdog Millionaire, which became the most successful British film of the decade, winning 7 BAFTA awards, 8 Oscars, and 4 Golden Globes, including Best Director at each event. The film has grossed $377 million globally. The film did, however, earn some criticism of its style and approach to the subject matter from film critics in Britain and the US. It also received wide criticism from Indian politicians, academics, and filmmakers as taking a reductive and western view of Indian slums.

Boyle next directed 127 Hours (2010), which received wide critical acclaim, 8 BAFTA nominations, and 6 Academy Award nominations. He went on to direct Trance in 2013, which was moderately successful. In 2015, he directed the biopic Steve Jobs, with a screenplay written by Aaron Sorkin. Steve Jobs had a mixed critical reception, with most praise falling on the actors’ performances. Boyle most recently directed a Trainspotting sequel, T2 Trainspotting (2017).

Boyle has been named one of Britain’s most influential Roman Catholics and appeared on Sir Peter Blake’s 2012 update of his Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover, which was meant to feature the most important cultural icons of the artist’s lifetime. Boyle has noted the films of Martin Scorsese, John Woo, Francis Ford Coppola, and Stanley Kubrick as inspiration.


Study Guides on Works by Danny Boyle

Slumdog Millionaire brought Danny Boyle his long overdue Best Director Oscar as part of a haul that included seven other trophies including the big one for Best Picture. An Oscar-winning screenplay by Simon Beaufoy was based on the book Q&A by...

Trainspotting is a British black comedy by Danny Boyle, released in 1996. It starred Ewan McGregor, Johnny Lee Miller, Robert Carlyle, Ewen Bremner, Kevin McKidd, and Kelly Macdonald, in an ensemble cast led by McGregor’s protagonist, Mark Renton....