Small is beautiful for Oscar-winner Danny Boyle

Danny Boyle has spent most of his career proving that small is often beautiful, whether he's filming drug addicts in Edinburgh or virus-crazed zombies rampaging through London.
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Updated on Feb 23, 2009 10:02 AM IST
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AFP | By, Hollywood

Danny Boyle has spent most of his career proving that small is often beautiful, whether he's filming drug addicts in Edinburgh or virus-crazed zombies rampaging through London.

The 52-year-old Briton, who won the best director award at the Oscars here on Sunday for Slumdog Millionaire, forged his reputation with a string of acclaimed low-budget movies, from Shallow Grave to Trainspotting.

Boyle's films have been notable for their fusion of stark realism and drama -- usually shot at a frenetic pace -- traits which were in evidence for Slumdog Millionaire, his rags-to-riches story set in India.

Boyle deliberately chose to shoot the film in Mumbai, eschewing studio backlots in favor of real locations such as the Dharavi shantytown and the city's Dadar railway terminus.

"I've always resisted working in conventional proper studios because I find them a bit soulless. I try to find the soul of the film in the city," Boyle said in a recent interview.

"That surprised the crew I was working with in Mumbai. They were shocked that I wanted to work in real places because normally they would build replicas and shoot it in a studio," he added.

"I just try to push realism as far as it will stretch. And I've tried to do that with a lot of my films."

Born in Lancashire in 1956 to Irish Catholic parents, Boyle seriously contemplated joining the clergy during his teens before eventually studying drama and English at the University of Wales in Bangor.

From there he built a successful career in theater, serving as the artistic and deputy director of the Royal Court Theater between 1982 and 1987.

He later worked in British television before making his feature film debut with 1994's Shallow Grave, a low-budget crime thriller notable for a breakthrough performance from Ewan McGregor.

But it was Boyle's next film -- a 1996 adaptation of Irvine Welsh's novel Trainspotting -- that earned the director international recognition.

The movie, which reunited Boyle with McGregor and followed the lives of a group of Edinburgh heroin addicts and is regarded a landmark in British cinema.

However Boyle turned down the offer of directing his first Hollywood production -- the fourth film in the "Alien" franchise -- instead opting for another low budget British movie, 1997's A Life Less Ordinary.

A three-year interval followed before Boyle's next film, a big-budget adaptation of Alex Garland's cult novel "The Beach" about a group of young travelers striving to build their own island paradise in Thailand.

The film is notable for signalling a rift between Boyle and Trainspotting star McGregor that continues to this day.

McGregor was initially chosen for the role but dumped after the film's studio backers decided that the higher-profile Leonardo DiCaprio would give the film box-office clout.

Boyle has described production on the film as one of the least satisfying experiences of his career. "I'm an urban person. I love cities and I made that film about a load of hippies in the countryside, nothing in common with them at all," Boyle said in a later interview.

After returning to his roots with two 2001 television movies Boyle scored a critical hit in 2002 with the low-budget "28 Days Later," about a London infested by virus-crazed zombies.

Boyle followed that in 2004 with "Millions," a well-received family film about two children who stumble across a bag full of cash, and "Sunshine," a 2007 science-fiction movie which got good reviews but failed to light up the box-office.

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