Filmmaker embraces challenge of crossing genres

To Danny Boyle, the idea of winning a career achievement award feels at odds with his youthful energy.

So one can’t blame Boyle if he acts a bit sheepish at being named this year’s John Schlesinger Britannia Award recipient for artistic excellence in directing.

“There is a danger you might become what I used to call a ‘proper director,'” he says, laughing. “I never wanted to be one of those.”

After getting his start in British theater and television, Boyle saw his film career begin memorably with the dark comedy/thriller “Shallow Grave” (1994), and he’s continued to jump genres, tackling sci-fi (“Sunshine”), horror (“28 Days Later”) and children’s dramedy (“Millions”) before last year’s Oscar-winning “Slumdog Millionaire.”

Even for a director renowned for visual flair, the Radcliffe, England-born Boyle believes it is through actors that people primarily access a film.

“‘Trainspotting’ is very stylized in many ways and talked about a lot because of that, but without (Ewan) McGregor holding the center, it would’ve gone nowhere,” Boyle says. “You can have as much style as you want, but if the lead actors don’t understand what you’re doing, people will be bored with style quickly.”

Boyle insists he doesn’t go looking to reinvent himself with each film. “It’s not like I deliberately think, ‘OK, that’s that genre, now let’s do another,’ but I do try to test myself with something I’ve never done before. I always try to look for that fear and adrenaline to try to tell it as best you can without relying on what you’ve done before.”

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