Falling into TRANCE
Fresh off his Oscar-nominated film 127 HOURS, Olivier Award-winning stage production of
"Frankenstein" and the triumphant 2012 Summer Olympics Opening ceremonies, TRANCE returns
Academy Award winning director Danny Boyle (127 HOURS, SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE,
SUNSHINE) to the territory that kick-started his visionary filmmaking career. In his directorial debut,
SHALLOW GRAVE, Boyle mixed ink-black humor, psychological thrills and hard-edged style in a
story of friends pushed to intense levels of paranoia and deceit. Now with TRANCE, Boyle dives back
into the heart of extreme human behavior, this time taking audiences on the journey into the fluid,
enticing, unreliable world of the subconscious.
TRANCE begins with an adeptly-planned heist at an auction house which goes violently
awry when the auctioneer inside man takes a blow to the head leaving him with no memory of
where the stashed the stolen Goya painting. The story quickly turns into a high stakes triangle --
the painting's amnesiac thief (James McAvoy), his fearsome partner in crime, gang-leader
(Vincent Cassel), and the alluring hypnotist (Rosario Dawson) hired to help recover his lost
memories -- as they all become trapped together in a brain-bending puzzle of their own making.
The more they search for the missing Goya, the more it becomes clear that what is hidden is not
just a priceless work of art, but fractured fragments of secrets, temptations, and treacheries that all
add up to the truth.
"After SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE, producer Christian Colson and I were looking for new
work to do together and I told him there were a couple of ideas I'd always been drawn to: the Aron
Ralston story - which became 127 HOURS - and this mad thriller called TRANCE," recalls Boyle. "It
felt like it would be perfect material for John Hodge. Christian was able to sort out the rights and we
brought in John to work on the screenplay while we made 127 HOURS."
Boyle worked closely with screenwriter John Hodge -- with whom he collaborated on
SHALLOW GRAVE and then on the acclaimed and shocking black comedy about Scottish junkies,
TRAINSPOTTING -- on a screenplay that melds dangerous seduction and electrifying action in a
suspense filled spiral.
In tackling the material, Boyle saw a chance to update classic film noir themes -- betrayal, moral
uncertainty, sexual tension and the lurid instincts that seem to lurk beneath every human's skin into a
modern context. He was also excited to bring a fresh take to the iconic femme fatale, with the character
of Elizabeth Lamb, the beautiful hypnotherapist who proves to be every bit the equal of the men playing
power games around her.
"I wanted to try and update the whole noir idea. I wanted to occupy that world but in a modern
context." Boyle explains. "At the same time, because the mind is such an interesting thing for film to
explore, we wanted to do a little walk-about around all these big questions about consciousness and
unconsciousness and which is in control. You might think you're in control of everything, but there are
areas where you're not. Some part of you knows, but your conscious mind doesn't know what you're
even going to say next! That fascinates me."
Most of all, Boyle and Hodge loved the idea of having three strong characters who at various
times might appear to be either very good or very bad.
Says Hodge: "It was clear that Danny's ambition for the film was to take the story into the
extremes of human behavior through these three characters -- characters who demonstrate the very
limits of desire, violent behavior, desperate self-preservation and greed. All of us who work with
Danny know that he wants to push ideas as far as they will go, and that's exciting."
As Boyle and Hodge began writing, they knew this story could not be constructed with a
conventional, linear plot-line but demanded a kaleidoscopic structure revolving around McAvoy's
character, Simon. They plunged deep into the disoriented, broken mind of a character who not only
cannot remember where he left the stolen Goya . . . but also has no idea what so urgently impelled him
to hide it in the first place. They designed a web-like narrative in which Simon's hypnosis sessions start
to blow apart his very concept of who he is, and how he came to be in this situation.
Hodge continues: "Danny and I wanted to have a kind of constant uncertainty for the
characters as to what the truth is. These three characters have to rely almost exclusively on what the
others are saying or doing in order to figure out what's going on. And of course, pretty much
everything that the others say or do is either a lie or a manipulation or unreliable in some way. So, the
protagonists are trapped in a puzzle of their own making. The challenge for them -- and the fun for the
audience -- is to try and solve that puzzle."
Carving out the compelling pieces of that puzzle would drive every element of the production --
from the photography and design to the complex performances that leave you wondering if the
character's perceptions of what is happening on screen are accurate . . . not to mention your own.
Between 2009 and 2011 Boyle, Hodge and Colson put the screenplay through an intensive
development process. By the summer of 2011 financing was in place through Fox Searchlight and
Pathe, and the team was ready to approach actors.
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