The Write Club – An Interview with Irvine Welsh (Penthouse)

(Originally appeared in the July/August 2013 issue of Penthouse Magazine)

irvine-welsh

Trainspotting, a gritty novel composed of a series of short stories about a group of heroin addicts and teh people populating their lives, introduced a generation of readers and film junkies to Mark Renton and his mates: Sick Boy, Spud, Begbie, and Tommy. Since then, it’s been adapted for the big screen by Danny Boyle (Slumdog Millionaire), and Welsh has written both a sequel, 2002’s Porno, and a prequel about Renton and Sick boy, 2012’s Skagboys. Welsh also has directed and produced films, deejayed at nightclubs, and written plays and screenplays. Oh, and published firve additional novels and four short-story collections.

Welsh’s latest film adaptation, Filth – based on his 1998 novel of the same name – will open in theaters in October; James McAvoy stars as a corrupt, bipolar, junkie cop. It’s a new direction for McAvoy, who’s best known for playing Professor Xavier in X-Men: Fist Class, Idi Amin’s doctor in The Last Kind of Scotland, and a faun in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Welsh grew up in Edinburgh, Scotland, although he and his wife currently live in Chicago. If you’d like to get to know him, follow his Twitter feed, @Welshirvine. He updates constantly, sometimes spouting off about footie (soccer), and usually drafting 140 characters of silly fun at least 20 times a day.

You’re a producer on Filth?

I think everyone was a producer on Filth. The production credits are as long as your arm. But I think it has to be like that for that kind of production. You’ve got so many people involved. It was shot in Scotland, Belgium, and Germany, and post-production was done in Sweden. There were so many different production companies involved in it; I think that’s what happens in independent moviemaking. Nobody is just going to write you one big check. The good thing about that is, we have more control with what we want to do. But it’s a big challenge to keep everyone enthusiastic, because it’s kind of a long process to come together with one vision of it.

How is the film version of Porno, the Trainspotting sequel, coming along?

We’re hoping to get the original cast [of Trainspotting], and there have been some meetings and discussions, and everyone seems to be on the same page. There’s been a realization that if we don’t do this in the next few years, then we won’t be able to do it at all. The age of the material and the age of the actors, it’s getting close to the last chance to do it. Everyone is keen – it’s just the question of are we really committed to put in the time. We’re getting to that point now.

So you’re in do-or-die mode?

I’m more enthusiastic at the idea of doing it that the idea of not doing it. I mean, you don’t do something just for the sake of doing it, you have to get the script together and it has to be exciting. I just see so much potential in it. There is so much mileage in these characters, and I would be excited to see them come back. I think a lot of people will be as well. These characters are iconic, and the actors are very iconic in these roles.

When you were writing Trainspotting, did you think these characters would be so strong and compelling?

It’s kind of strange, because it was a pretty subversive book, and we’re in theĀ second decade now where they have become these iconic characters in literature and cinema. I never expected that Renton would become this sort of Holden Caulfield-type character, kind of rite-of-passage thing for young people getting into books and movies. It makes me more determined to look after them. I want something that’s going to do justice to them. But it kind of means a lot more to other people, to be honest, that it does to me. Because as a writer, once you write the book, it’s gone. The only things that bring it back are movies and stage plays. Otherwise, it means a lot to people who at a certain time in their life read it. If you’re a certain age and it excites you, it becomes your history and it becomes who you are.

What are you working on now?

I’ve been trying to do the screenplay for Glue, which is one of my books, and I’ve been doing the TV stuff and working with my TV partners on two different shows to try to get them off the ground. I’m also working on a couple of musicals, sort of a theater thing, a production of The Acid House [Welsh’s 1994 novel]. With these collaborative projects, they sometimes grow cold and then ignite again. It takes a long time to get to fruition in collaborative projects. It’s good to have a couple of books going, so when things cool off I can always go back to the books.

The last time I interviewed you, you were boxing in the mornings. Are you still boxing?

I don’t spar, because when you get into your fifties [Welsh is 55] your hand speed is just sort of slow and the other guys that are sparring are in their twenties; you’re going to get your face punched. And that’s not a good thing for a writer if you work with your head and need concentration and all that stuff. I do months of nothing but boxing circuit training, then I’ll do CrossFit stuff, then I’ll do running or weights. I have to get to the gym at least three times a week, usually five. When you sit at a desk all day you have to do something. And I like to party and socialize and go out for a drink. It keeps that at bay as well; if you have to go to the gym the next day, you kind of take it a bit easier on that side of things. It’s a good thing to have as a writer because so much of that is about sitting in a chair, and once you get bored with that you sit on the bar stool.

And you look sexy naked if you go to the gym all the time.

My wife is 22 years younger than me, so I’ve got to look reasonable with my clothes off.