Danny Boyle

For other people with the same name, see Daniel Boyle (disambiguation).
Danny Boyle

Boyle in November 2008
Born Daniel Francis Boyle
(1956-10-20) 20 October 1956
Radcliffe, Lancashire, England
Alma mater Bangor University
Occupation Director, producer, screenwriter
Years active 1980–present

Daniel Francis "Danny" Boyle[1] (born 20 October 1956)[2] is an English film director, producer, screenwriter and theatre director, known for his work on films including Shallow Grave, Trainspotting, The Beach, 28 Days Later, Sunshine, Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and Steve Jobs. His debut film Shallow Grave won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film. Boyle's 2008 film Slumdog Millionaire was nominated for ten Academy Awards and won eight, including the Academy Award for Best Director. He also won the Golden Globe and BAFTA Award for Best Director. Boyle was presented with the Extraordinary Contribution to Filmmaking Award at the 2008 Austin Film Festival, where he also introduced that year's AFF Audience Award Winner Slumdog Millionaire.

In 2012, Boyle was the Artistic Director for Isles of Wonder, the opening ceremony of the 2012 London Summer Olympic Games.[3] He was subsequently offered a knighthood as part of the New Year Honours, but declined.[4] In 2014, it was announced that Boyle would become a patron of HOME in Manchester.[5]

Early life and background

Danny Boyle was born on 20 October 1956[2] in Radcliffe, Lancashire (now Greater Manchester), England to Irish Catholic parents from County Galway.[6][7] Although he now describes himself as a "spiritual atheist",[8] he was brought up in a working class Catholic family. Boyle was an altar boy for eight years and his mother had the priesthood in mind for him, but aged 14 he was persuaded by a priest not to transfer from school to a seminary.[9]

Whether he was saving me from the priesthood or the priesthood from me, I don't know. But quite soon after, I started doing drama. And there's a real connection, I think. All these directors — Martin Scorsese, John Woo, M. Night Shyamalan — they were all meant to be priests. There's something very theatrical about it. It’s basically the same job — poncing around, telling people what to think.[10][11]

He later studied at Thornleigh Salesian College in Bolton,[12] and studied English and Drama at Bangor University.[6][13] While at university, Boyle dated the actress Frances Barber.[14]

Boyle is the patron of North West-based young people's substance misuse charity, Early Break, which was founded and based in his home town of Radcliffe. Boyle is also a trustee of the UK-based African arts charity Dramatic Need.[15]



Boyle with the cast of The Children's Monologues in 2010

Upon leaving school he began his career at the Joint Stock Theatre Company, before moving onto the Royal Court Theatre in 1982 where he directed The Genius by Howard Brenton and Saved by Edward Bond. He also directed five productions for the Royal Shakespeare Company.[16] On 14 November 2010, he directed a one night play at the Old Vic Theatre titled The Children's Monologues with Sir Ben Kingsley, Benedict Cumberbatch, Tom Hiddleston, Gemma Arterton and Eddie Redmayne as the cast. In 2011 he directed Frankenstein for the National Theatre.[17] This production was broadcast to cinemas as a part of National Theatre Live on 17 March 2011.[18]

Boyle was Artistic Director for the 2012 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony in London. Over the years, Olympic Opening Ceremonies have become multimillion-pound theatrical shows, which have become known for their extravagance and pageantry to celebrate the start of the largest multi-sport event in the world. The ceremony, entitled Isles of Wonder, charted aspects of British culture, including the Industrial Revolution and British contributions to literature, music, film and technology. Reception to the ceremony was generally positive, both nationally in the United Kingdom and internationally.[19][20][21][22] In December 2012 it was widely reported that Boyle turned down a knighthood in the New Year Honours list. He told BBC Radio 4 "I'm very proud to be an equal citizen and I think that’s what the Opening Ceremony was actually about." In 2014, it was announced that Boyle would become a patron of HOME in Manchester.[23]


In 1987 Boyle started working in television as a producer for BBC Northern Ireland where he produced, amongst other TV films, Alan Clarke's controversial Elephant before becoming a director on shows such as Arise And Go Now, Not Even God Is Wise Enough, For The Greater Good, Scout and two[24] episodes of Inspector Morse. These were Masonic Mysteries and Cherubim and Seraphim. He was also responsible for the BBC2 series Mr. Wroe's Virgins.[16] Danny Boyle is not to be confused with a different Daniel Boyle, who is not related, who scripted five original teleplays for Inspector Morse at about this time, and who has continued to write and adapt crime stories for television including the first episode of Lewis, and much of the popular series Hamish Macbeth.[25]

In between the films The Beach and 28 Days Later Boyle directed two TV films for the BBC in 2001 – Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise and Strumpet.[26] He has also appeared on Top Gear and drove the fastest wet lap at that time.


Boyle's love for film began with his first viewing of Apocalypse Now:

It had eviscerated my brain, completely. I was an impressionable twenty-one-year-old guy from the sticks. My brain had not been fed and watered with great culture, you know, as art is meant to do. It had been sandblasted by the power of cinema. And that's why cinema, despite everything we try to do, it remains a young man's medium, really, in terms of audience.[27]

The first film Boyle directed was Shallow Grave.[16] The film was the most commercially successful British film of 1995,[28] won the BAFTA Award for Best British Film, and led to the production of Trainspotting, based on the novel by Irvine Welsh.[29] Working with writer John Hodge and producer Andrew Macdonald, Shallow Grave earned Boyle the Best Newcomer Award from the 1996 London Film Critics Circle.[28] Shallow Grave and Trainspotting caused critics to claim that Boyle had revitalised British cinema in the early '90s.[16]

Boyle declined an offer to direct the fourth film of the Alien franchise, instead making A Life Less Ordinary using British finance.[30][31] Boyle's next project was an adaptation of the cult novel The Beach. Filmed in Thailand with Leonardo DiCaprio in a starring role, casting of the film led to a feud with Ewan McGregor, star of his first three films.[16] He then collaborated with author Alex Garland on the post-apocalyptic horror film 28 Days Later.[32]

He also directed a short film Alien Love Triangle (starring Kenneth Branagh), which was intended to be one of three shorts within a feature film. However the project was cancelled after the two other shorts were made into feature films: Mimic starring Mira Sorvino and Impostor starring Gary Sinise.[33]

In 2004 Boyle directed Millions,[10] scripted by Frank Cottrell Boyce.[34] His next collaboration with Alex Garland[10] was the science-fiction film Sunshine, featuring 28 Days Later star Cillian Murphy, and was released in 2007.[35]

In 2008 he directed Slumdog Millionaire, the story of an impoverished child (Dev Patel) on the streets of Mumbai, India who competes on India's version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?, for which Boyle won Academy and BAFTA Awards for Best Director. The most successful British film of the decade, the film won eight Academy Awards and seven BAFTA Awards in total.[36][37] On film-making Boyle commented, "To be a film-maker...you have to lead. You have to be psychotic in your desire to do something. People always like the easy route. You have to push very hard to get something unusual, something different."[16] Andrew Macdonald, producer of Trainspotting, said "Boyle takes a subject that you've often seen portrayed realistically, in a politically correct way, whether it's junkies or slum orphans, and he has managed to make it realistic but also incredibly uplifting and joyful."[16]

In 2010, Boyle directed the film 127 Hours, starring James Franco and featuring Amber Tamblyn and Kate Mara. It was based on Aron Ralston's autobiography Between a Rock and a Hard Place, which detailed his struggle of being trapped under a boulder while canyoneering alone in Blue John Canyon, southeastern Utah, and resorting to desperate measures in order to survive. The film was released on 5 November 2010 to critical acclaim. The film got six nominations at the 83rd Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Adapted Screenplay for Boyle and Best Actor for Franco.

Boyle's next film was Trance, while another installment of the 28 Days Later franchise is in the development stages.[38][39] Boyle has stated previously that in theory the third installment of the series would be titled 28 Months Later, but alluded to a film taking place somewhere else in the world he created in 28 Days Later and 28 Weeks Later. He is also stated to be producing the upcoming film Paani.[40] He will direct the upcoming sequel to Trainspotting.[41]

Boyle told an interviewer about the eclectic range of his films, "There's a theme running through all of themand I just realised this. They're all about someone facing impossible odds and overcoming them."[42] Due to his interest in music, Boyle has mentioned in interviews that he has considered a musical film with original compositions. Boyle has also expressed interest in an animated film, and, in 2013, a sequel to 28 Weeks Later.[43]

Boyle's eponymous biopic of Apple Inc. founder Steve Jobs closed the 59th BFI London Film Festival. This was the third time Boyle has had that honour, after Slumdog Millionaire in 2008 and 127 Hours two years later. The BFI's London Film Festival Director, Clare Stewart, said Boyle had created an exhilarating and audacious film about a complex, charismatic pioneer.[44]

In a BBC interview, Boyle stated that he didn't write his own films but they did reflect his personality. "I am not a big auteur fan and like to work with writers, but ultimately a film is a director's vision, because he gets all its elements together towards that vision."[45] On 7 September 2015, at the Telluride Film Festival, Boyle stated his next film would be a sequel to Trainspotting, tentatively titled Trainspotting 2.[46]


In 2010, The Tablet named Boyle one of Britain’s most influential Roman Catholics (sic).[47] In 2012, Boyle was among the British cultural icons selected by artist Sir Peter Blake to appear in a new version of his most famous artwork – the Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band album cover – to celebrate the British cultural figures of his lifetime that he most admires.[48][49]


Boyle at Ryerson University, Toronto, Canada, 10 September 2008



Year Film Director Producer Screenwriter Notes
1994 Shallow Grave Yes
1996 Trainspotting Yes
1997 Twin Town Yes Credited as executive producer
A Life Less Ordinary Yes
2000 The Beach Yes
2002 28 Days Later Yes
2004 Millions Yes
2007 Sunshine Yes
28 Weeks Later Yes Credited as executive producer
2008 Slumdog Millionaire Yes
Alien Love Triangle Yes Short
2010 127 Hours Yes Yes Yes [50]
2013 Trance Yes Yes
2015 Steve Jobs Yes Yes
2017 T2: Trainspotting Yes
Battle of the Sexes Yes


Year Show Director Producer Writer Notes
1987 The Rockingham Shoot Yes TV film
1987 Scout Yes TV film
1987 The Venus de Milo Instead Yes TV film
1989 Elephant Yes TV short
1989 Monkeys Yes Yes TV film
1989 The Nightwatch Yes Yes TV film
19891993 Screenplay Yes 3 episodes
1990–1992 Inspector Morse Yes 2 episodes
1991 For the Greater Good Yes TV film
1993 Mr. Wroe's Virgins Yes
2001 Strumpet Yes TV film
2001 Vacuuming Completely Nude in Paradise Yes TV film
2012 Summer Olympics opening ceremony Yes Yes
2014present Babylon Yes Yes

Recurring collaborators


  1. "Results for England & Wales Births 1837-2006". Find My Past.co.uk
  2. 1 2 BOYLE, Danny. Who's Who. 2015 (online Oxford University Press ed.). A & C Black, an imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing plc. (subscription required)
  3. Hedgecoe, Guy (17 June 2010). "Danny Boyle To Oversee 2012 Olympic Ceremony". Huffington Post. Associated Press.
  4. "Oscar Winning Director Danny Boyle Says He Turned Down A Knighthood". Huffington Post. Associated Press. 19 March 2013.
  5. Stage New Manchester venue Home appoints Danny Boyle as patron
  6. 1 2 "Danny Boyle". New York Times. Retrieved 29 October 2008.
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  8. Kolan, Patrick. "Interview: Danny Boyle". IGN.
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  13. "Slumdog Millionaire fast becoming one of year's major films.". Bangor University. Retrieved 14 December 2012.
  14. Lewis, Tim (21 February 2009), "Bangor professor remembers ex-student Danny Boyle", walesonline.co.uk, retrieved 23 February 2009
  15. Boyle, Danny (11 November 2008), "Why the Congo needs art as well as food", timesonline.co.uk, London, archived from the original on 18 September 2011, retrieved 22 January 2010
  16. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Grice, Elizabeth (24 February 2009). "From fleapit to the red carpet". Telegraph.co.uk. London. Retrieved 11 March 2009.
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  18. Frankenstein - Productions - National Theatre
  19. "Media reaction to London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony". BBC News. 28 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  20. "London Olympics opening ceremony kicks off". Xinhua News Agency. 28 July 2012. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  21. Lyall, Sarah (27 July 2012). "A Five-Ring Opening Circus, Weirdly and Unabashedly British". New York Times.
  22. "Media reaction to London 2012 Olympic opening ceremony". BBC News. Retrieved 28 July 2012.
  23. Stage New Manchester venue Home appoints Danny Boyle as patron
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  25. Agent's webpage for Daniel Boyle (writer)
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  27. Boyle, Danny. Interview by Robert K. Elder. The Film That Changed My Life by Robert K. Elder. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2011. N. p28. Print.
  28. 1 2 Mayer & McDonnell 2007, pp. 377–380.
  29. "BFI Top 100 British films". BFI. 6 September 2006. Retrieved 23 February 2009.
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  41. "Danny Boyle talks Trainspotting Sequel, Porno". /Film.
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  47. "The Tablet's Top 100".
  48. "New faces on Sgt Pepper album cover for artist Peter Blake's 80th birthday". The Guardian. 5 October 2016.
  49. "Sir Peter Blake's new Beatles' Sgt Pepper's album cover". BBC. 8 November 2016.
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