The Trainspotting Cast: Then And Now

In 1996 Danny Boyle gave British Cinema a hero… and Hollywood a battle scar.

‘Trainspotting’ – story of a group of heroin addicts in late 80s Edinburgh, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh – is today recognised as defining moment in our little island’s cinematic history. The film is belatedly getting a sequel in 2017 with Boyle once again directing.

Now it’s a whopping 20 YEARS since the film was released in the UK (where has the time gone?), but how have the cast been doing since their ‘Trainspotting’ days? Better than you think.

Ewan McGregor - Renton

‘Trainspotting’ was Ewan’s breakthrough – leading him to the ‘Star Wars’ prequels, ‘Moulin Rouge!’ and of course, ‘The Island’. You see where this is going? Ewan’s never quite been able to match the pace of Renton – appearing in supporting slots, or as underdeveloped leading men ever since his junkie days. He’s definitely a star, just not as big as you’d like him to be. He was even considered for Bond, but it went to some chap called Craig in the end. Still, Ewan keeps showing in big Hollywood productions, from the impressive ‘The Impossible’ to nonsense like Johnny Depp vanity project ‘Mortdecai’. Returning to Renton would give McGregor the chance to revisit the role that made him.

Ewen Bremner - Spud

Spud was the most endearing thing about ‘Trainspotting’ – a genuinely loveable idiot who made you see the human in, umm, heroin. Actor Bremner continued his naïve-natured act in big budgets ‘Pearl Harbour’ and ‘Black Hawk Down’, but has since been resigned to small time TV work, semi-impressive supporting roles, and the occasional comic cameo - like Mullet in ‘Snatch’. His biggest upcoming project is a supporting role in ‘Wonder Woman’. Before ‘Trainspotting’, Bremner actually played the lead, Renton, in a stage version of the story, but let McGregor take the role for the film.

Jonny Lee Miller - Sick Boy

In the 19 years since playing professional bad friend Sick Boy, critics might sneer that Jonny’s most notable achievement seems to have been briefly marrying Angelina Jolie. The pair met whilst filming ‘Hackers’ in 1995, and Jolie was apparently a regular on the ‘Trainspotting’ set. Recently Jonny played another addict in the (actually very decent) US Sherlock Holmes adapt ‘Elementary’, co starring Lucy Liu and also won rave reviews alongside Benedict Cumberbatch in the stage version of ‘Frankenstein’. He’s also the second of the ‘Trainspotting’ alumnus to have courted the character of Bond for ‘Casino Royale’. Shame, as “he knows a lot about Sean Connery”.

Robert Carlyle - Begbie

Carlyle’s colossal ba*tard Begbie is genuinely uncomfortable to watch. And that’s why it’s so good. Begbie shot Robert Carlyle down a career path of character acting wins – including ‘Angela’s Ashes’, ‘The Beach’, ‘The 51st State’, and countless impressive TV turns. Sheffield strip flick ‘The Full Monty’ is perhaps Carlyle’s most loved role though, even if it spawned the awful Prince Charles tribute. Unlike Ewan and Jonny, in 1999 Robert actually made it into a Bond film - as Russian terrorist Renard in ‘The World Is Not Enough’. His most recent gig was playing Rumplestiltskin in massive US fantasy show ‘Once Upon A Time’.

Kevin McKidd - Tommy

‘Trainspotting’ was Kevin McKidd’s second ever feature - barely recognisable as the man that went on to play Lucius Vorenus in epic TV series ‘Rome’, and impulsive surgeon Dr Owen Hunt in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’. Although McKidd has now forged an impressive career on the small screen, his most popular role (although largely unrecognised) is voicing Captain “Soap” MacTavish in the ‘Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare’ series of video games – one of the most successful entertainment franchises in history. That’s a pretty big gig by any standards. Oh, some trivia for you. Kevin is the only member of the main cast not to be present on the iconic character poster – he missed the shoot because he was away on holiday. If only he’d known.

Kelly Macdonald - Diane

Kelly was a 19 year old barmaid when she auditioned for the part of underage seductress Diane in ‘Trainspotting’. Since then she’s clocked up some worthy roles such as Mary in ‘Gosford Park’, and even earned a BAFTA nomination for the Coen’s Oscar winning ‘No Country For Old Men’. She’s another of the ‘Trainspotting’ cast who hit it big in US TV, starring as Steve Buscemi’s wife, Margaret, in phenomenal HBO series ‘Boardwalk Empire’ (which ended last year). In 2012 she gained one of the most sought after CV points in movies, voicing the lead in a Pixar film – as Merida in Oscar winning ‘Brave’.

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Image credit: Rex Features