Mathew Robson talks to Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh about Filth, a portrayal of misanthropic sociopathy whose film adaption is about to come out on DVD.
With a string of bestsellers and hit movies to his name, Scottish-born scribe Irvine Welsh will see the film adaptation of his 1998 novel, Filth, released on Blu Ray and DVD later this month.
The film follows drug-addled, booze-ridden, fortysomething divorcee Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy).
“I liked the idea of someone who was completely on his own against the world and he just had this massive drive to go against it,” explains Welsh. “He was also this kinda sociopath who was hiding in plain sight in an organisation, but not a classic authoritarian personality. The guy was misanthropic and hated the world and I just wanted to get into that personality.”
Shocking, uncompromising and ultimately hilarious, Jon S. Baird’s screenplay remains loyal to the source material. “He’d almost memorised the book,” states Welsh, “and not in the way that people say they’re into the book – he was obsessed by that book. He knew every character and every page… he knew the book better than I did.”
Armed with the screenplay Filth quickly generated considerable attention.
“We caught Hollywood’s eye with that script, we attracted some serious heat there. We had big meetings with some really big producers and some top casting directors who were expressing big interest and top agents were pushing some of their actors, without any hard sell from us.”
As Baird set about casting the piece Irvine knew what the film needed. “The guy who plays Bruce Robertson has to be really brilliant,” says Welsh. “It’s a one-man show really, with an ensemble cast around him. So it stands and falls on the performance of the lead actor.” Enter James McAvoy.
“I always liked James as an actor, a really great screen actor. He has that empathy, and an audience can really like him. He’s very accomplished as well,” Welsh explains; “my only reservation initially was that he just looked too young.”
Whatever reservations Welsh held were swiftly dispelled once he witnessed McAvoy getting into character. “He darkens himself up very well and he ages himself very well, without being too obvious about it. The makeup and the costume people did a great job as well to make him look like that sorta shabby, 40-year-old divorcee.”
McAvoy’s performance is truly a force of nature, one of the great unsung screen performances. “He does horror, comedy, pathos, tragedy, all in the one scene basically. The transitions are remarkable and that’s his skill as an actor.”
With the combination of Welsh’s fantastic source material and McAvoy’s mind-blowing virtuoso performance, Baird’s direction deserves just as worthy a mention. Welsh, abundantly happy with the film, says of Baird: “I don’t think he got the critics he deserved for this, but it’s also Jon’s skill as a director. He was very, very conscious of performance and the actors’ performance. And it’s done across every scene and it works throughout the whole film.”
With Filth still opening up across some parts of the world, I asked Irvine about the possibility of bringing Filth’s sequel, Crime, to the big screen: “Yeah, we’ve talked about it. Jon and I have been talking about doing Crime, and I know that Jon has also talked to Jamie [Bell] about reprising the Lennox role.”
For Irvine Welsh fans out there, there was more good news: “I’ve also been talking to Danny Boyle and Andrew MacDonald about Porno and talking about doing Glue, so there’s all these discussions about projects and adaptations that are in various stages of planning.” Although, for those expecting any of these projects to materialise soon, they may be in for a long wait. “With these things, they sometimes take ages or they never happen at all. That’s the whole thing about independent filmmaking – there’s so many variables and so many people involved.”