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Friday, Nov. 11, 2005

From sour to sweet


Danny Boyle, the auteur who brought us "Shallow Grave," who amazed us with "Trainspotting," and who started a new trend in the zombie/horror genre with "28 Days Later," has come out with his latest: a movie called "Millions," starring two little brothers, aged 8 and 10. You read that right: children in a Danny Boyle movie. And their very respectable widower dad, and a priest, and a nun. Not one of them dies or does drugs, either.

The backdrop is Manchester and the time is a fictitious present, where Britain is about to convert its currency from the pound to the Euro. Some £230,000 in hard cash is heading for the incinerator on a British Rail train when a mishap causes the money to come flying out of the cars and into the hands of the two little boys. In 12 days the pound bills will be worth nothing, which leaves the kids to cook up all sorts of schemes to spend that money in a variety of inventive ways.

Big brother Anthony wants everything from the latest Game Boy to real-estate investment plans. Younger Damian wants to save the poor and achieve world peace. All this sounds very charming -- it's just that these things don't usually happen in a Boyle movie.

In a phone interview, he explained how the change came about.

Were you afraid that audiences would be disappointed by Danny Boyle making a genuinely "nice" film?

No, not really. I expected some criticism of course. Every director does. But my eldest daughter turned 21 the other day and I suddenly woke up to the fact that I hadn't shown her any of my films. She used to be my baby, and now she was an adult. It was scary. I thought I'd better make a movie I can show her, and my other kids, without any misgivings.

Was this your original story?

No, screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce [of "Code 46" and "Welcome to Sarajevo" fame] wrote the whole thing and I read what was then a first draft. I immediately loved it and saw the potential. Above all, I loved the fact that Frank is the father of seven children. He was always telling me that it was easy to think up movie stories in his head, since he was surrounded by small people thinking up and then acting in stories of their own making, 24 hours a day.

The story has very strong Catholic undertones. Why was that?

I needed to stress that Damian [the younger brother] was a weird kind of kid. And he is -- always reading about the saints, wondering about God, not quite in touch with reality. That's what life is like when you're growing up in a Catholic family in Manchester, and you happen to be 8 years old. I'm not saying that all the kids are like that; in fact, Damian is exceptionally innocent but he's strange. And you know how I am about putting strange characters in my movies.

What are your own thoughts about money?

I'm completely stupid about it. I don't know the first thing about it. As a kid, I was a lot like Damian -- I had absolutely no concept of what money could do, or what it was for, and so I would lose whatever I had, or like Damian, just gleefully give it away. Let me tell you, this is OK when you're a child but when you have a grown-up daughter, it's embarrassing. I had hoped that working on this film would change me a little, but no, it didn't work that way. I suppose what I wanted to express the most was the effect money has on people, how it enhances their personalities, or doesn't. We keep forgetting the fact that money is also a drug, maybe the most powerful one there is.

"Millions" is now showing.


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