Trainspotting, a blacker-than-black comedy about heroin addicts in Edinburgh, was a massive hit when it was released in 1996. And as with all massive hits, a sequel was always on the cards – but Danny Boyle, the director, deliberately waited 20 years to make one because he wanted the actors to have aged enough to portray older versions of their heroin-addicted characters. Now the sequel is finally on its way, and audiences will get to catch up with Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and the rest and see if their lives have improved at all.
10. Ewan McGregor (Mark “Rent Boy” Renton)
Ewan McGregor’s standout performance in Trainspotting made him famous. And the star went to great lengths to play Renton, even considering actually trying heroin in order to play a convincing addict. Thankfully McGregor didn’t, but he still may have drawn on his own experiences for the role – he had been an alcoholic during filming.
Now, Ewan McGregor remains an A-list actor with a lot of high-profile roles and millions of dollars to his name. He’s arguably most famous for playing young Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars prequel trilogy, but his filmography is extensive. Plus, he’s only gotten more attractive as he’s gotten older.
9. Ewen Bremner (Daniel “Spud” Murphy)
The dippy but strangely lovable addict Spud, played by Edinburgh-born actor Ewen Bremner, proved to be one of the most popular characters in Trainspotting. And some of his scenes, like his drug-addled job interview and that one infamous bit featuring the soiled laundry, are cringe-worthy to watch but nevertheless are comedy gold.
And while Bremner didn’t quite reach the dizzying heights of fame that some of his co-stars, but he’s had regular work ever since Trainspotting. Indeed, he’s appeared in a few films with McGregor, including Black Hawk Down and, though he reportedly considers himself ugly, his looks have actually served him very well.
8. Jonny Lee Miller (Simon “Sick Boy” Williamson)
Jonny Lee Miller was the only non-Scottish person in the main Trainspotting cast, but he impressed Danny Boyle when he auditioned doing a Sean Connery accent. He duly won the role of Sick Boy – and married Angelina Jolie one month after the film’s release. The marriage lasted 18 months.
Jonny Lee Miller stayed famous, but he didn’t really return to his mid ’90s Mr. Angelina Jolie levels of fame. However he is undoubtedly a star of the smaller screen today. Indeed, he’s since picked up two Satellite Award nominations for playing the title character in Eli Stone and as Sherlock Holmes in Elementary.
7. Robert Carlyle (Francis “Franco” Begbie)
Robert Carlyle played the vicious thug Begbie in Trainspotting, and then followed that up a year later with another British smash hit, The Full Monty. In 2009, moreover, Carlyle revealed that he had played Begbie as a gay man in the closet, committing violence due to a “fear of being outed.”
“Begbie has been f**king terrific for me and my career,” Carlyle told NME in 2015, once it was confirmed that he was returning for the Trainspotting sequel. Indeed, his career skyrocketed following the film’s release. Not only is he a familiar face on TV, but he’s appeared in a slew of blockbusters since. Carlyle even played a Bond villain in 1999’s The World Is Not Enough.
6. Kevin McKidd (Thomas “Tommy” MacKenzie)
Kevin McKidd was just 21 when he played tragic drug addict Tommy, and he wasn’t remotely prepared for fame or such an intense filming experience. “I didn’t actually enjoy the shoot of Trainspotting. I felt like a fish out of water,” he told The Guardian in 2004. So, sensibly, he subsequently removed himself from the spotlight.
McKidd won’t be back for the Trainspotting sequel, except possibly in archive footage, because his character died in the first film. However, Tommy isn’t McKidd’s most well-known character anymore – that instead would be Dr. Owen Hunt from Grey’s Anatomy, a role that won him a lot of popularity and acclaim.
5. Kelly MacDonald (Diane Coulston)
For the role of Renton’s underage girlfriend Diane, it was vital that the production team found an unknown actress whose real age couldn’t be guessed. Kelly MacDonald, then a 19-year-old barmaid, ran across a flyer advertising the open auditions for Trainspotting, and the rest is history.
Kelly MacDonald never thought Trainspotting would lead her to bigger things, but she went on to become hugely successful. The Harry Potter series, Brave, Gosford Park and No Country for Old Men are just some of MacDonald’s most high-profile films since.
4. Peter Mullan (Swanney)
Peter Mullan was perhaps the closest of any of the actors to the real-life grittiness of Trainspotting , as during his teenage years he was in a street gang and briefly homeless. And while some of Swanney’s most important scenes were removed from the movie, they reappeared in a 2003 director’s cut.
Mullan doesn’t look quite the same anymore, but he’s an incredibly well-respected actor and director. He’s won countless awards for his work, including a Cannes Best Actor Award and a Golden Lion, and has appeared in the likes of Children of Men and War Horse, to name just a few examples from his extensive movie resume.
3. Shirley Henderson (Gail)
Shirley Henderson had already done a lot of theater and TV work in the ’90s, but it was Trainspotting that helped propel her into the movie world. Her role as Gail, Spud’s girlfriend, included one very messy and very memorable scene involving dirty sheets.
These days, Shirley Henderson is an accomplished character actress who’s featured in not one but two big franchises: Bridget Jones and Harry Potter. She’ll be back for the Trainspotting sequel, possibly still looking far younger than her 50 years – she actually played a 14-year-old in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets when she was 36!
2. Susan Vidler (Alison)
Susan Vidler had only a small role in Trainspotting, but it was an important one. She played Alison, the addict whose baby dies from neglect. “I don’t think I could go through it again, not now that I’ve had children of my own,” she confessed to British newspaper The Courier in 2011.
And Vidler – who was a good friend of Ewen Bremner even before Trainspotting – has since admitted that the film didn’t really open many doors for her. “I don’t think it gave my career a huge boost,” she told The Courier. However, she’s appeared in popular British TV shows like Doctor Who and Rebus since then.
1. Keith Allen (The Dealer)
Keith Allen, father of Game of Thrones star Alfie Allen, actually appeared in Trainspotting as a sort of Easter egg. The actor had played the “Dealer” role in Danny Boyle’s earlier film Shallow Grave and was written into Trainspotting to connect the two movies.
And Allen remains a popular British actor and television personality, showing up on TV a lot as himself. Still, he continues to appear in movies now and again: most recently, he was in sports film Eddie the Eagle.