Irvine Welsh and Robert Carlyle: ‘Grim, nasty, and fun – Begbie’s Back!’ was recently hosted by Usher Hall as part of their Book Festival. Although Edinburgh’s Book Festival is usually reserved for the crowds during the Fringe, when you’ve got such high profile guests and a film to promote, it seems exceptions can be made. Admittedly, I bought the tickets for precisely this reason: though the book and film versions of Trainspotting deserve great admiration, Begbie’s character lacks the same status. Of course, the opportunity to hear Irvine Welsh talk, with the added bonus of Robert Caryle’s presence, was a real attraction for the audience. The talk’s primary purpose was held to promote Welsh’s new book, The Blade Runner. Set twenty years after Trainspotting, it details Begbie’s return to Scotland after living comfortably in America, and the tribulations that accompany this return.
Judging by the question and answer session that was held after the talk, huge Irvine Welsh and/or Robert Carlyle fans were in the audience that had attended for the privilege of hearing them offer up their pearls of wisdom. There were questions specifically about acting, and dealing with rejection addressed to Carlyle, and initially getting published. However, the questions for Welsh tended to focus more on the process of writing. Whilst the main purpose of the event was promotion, Carlyle and Welsh seemed very happy to answer these questions, graciously responding thoughtfully to all that were asked, playing perfectly to the enthusiastic audience and confirming their view of them as ‘lovely chaps’.
The demographic of the audience was also interesting – there were people of all ages asking questions – including one who admitted he ‘wasn’t even born’ when Trainspotting was written, demonstrating Trainspotting’s huge legacy. This event was particularly unique because of its multi-directional intent: it was as much about looking back to Trainspotting, as looking forward to the continuation of the legacy with the publication of The Blade Runner and, of course, the imminent creation of a sequel film. It felt special to be caught in this state of flux, as the legacy of Trainspotting continues. This attempt at regeneration is not new: Porno has previously been released as a quasi-sequel to Trainspotting. However, its critical reception was one of disappointment, coming as a little surprise because of the immense popularity of the original, the time lapsed since it was originally made and, of course, the duality of the legacy through the mediums of book and film. Welsh somewhat ambiguously noted this anticipation, attempting to quell fears with the enigmatic claim that “the characters are exactly where you would want them to be”.
However, having embarked upon The Blade Runner, it is difficult to grasp the idea that the characters are so legendary, and almost timeless – the idea of an older, wiser Begbie is certainly a struggle to believe. This is something that will probably translate more easily in film, as the cast themselves have grown and matured: it seems telling that the original cast and crew are all on board and, according to Carlyle, very enthusiastic. It won’t be long until we found out how successful the continuation of this legacy will be though, as Carlyle revealed that filming is set to commence mid-May, with much of it being filmed in Edinburgh. One thing that is certain, though, is the immense pressure on Welsh to continue this treasured legacy.