Irvine Welsh on his Filmhouse House Guest season

Ahead of his House Guest season at Filmhouse, we pick the brains of Irvine Welsh to discover why he chose the six films he's screening at the Edinburgh cinema and how film has influenced his writing

Feature by Jamie Dunn | 04 Sep 2018

The Skinny: What were your first thoughts when Filmhouse approached you to be a 'House Guest'?
Irvine Welsh: I love talking about movies and I love the Filmhouse so it was a straightforward joy. I once did a programme for Channel 4 years and years ago called Cult Saturday, where I had to pick and present obscure films of my choice for people who [had] just come back from the pub or from clubbing. These things are always fun.

How did you go about narrowing down your choices for your Filmhouse season?
Choices are always easy if you don’t overthink them. Just let the movies come into your head. If I was asked today I’d probably have an entirely different list but you should allow it to be a snapshot of your thinking at that moment in time rather than something definitive.

It’s interesting you’ve chosen Sunshine, which is one of Danny Boyle’s less-loved films. What is it that draws you to that movie over his others?
The best space movies have to be religious movies. It’s all about looking for the big answers. This, I think, is Danny's best movie (and I’m shooting myself in the foot here) and a lot of credit for that is in Alex Garland’s script.

You’ve also included a couple of film noirs in your picks – Double Indemnity and and the lesser-known Each Dawn I Die. What appeals about this era of filmmaking?
I love the glib, smartarsed, confrontational machine gun dialogue, the tough guys and the sassy women. Pure, beautifully stylised entertainment.

I can see shades of the codependent relationship from Midnight Cowboy in some of the toxic relationships in Trainspotting – has that film influenced your writing?
Definitely. Midnight Cowboy’s Joe and Ratso have that archetypal relationship. In the world of fiction there are many glaring examples; George and Lennie from Of Mice and Men, God and Joseph (then Jesus) from the Bible. 

In general, does film influence your writing in any way, and have any of the films you’ve chosen for Filmhouse’s House Guests seasons (Midnight Cowboy, Double Indemnity, Sunshine, Quadrophenia, Each Day I Die, Fitzcarraldo) influenced you in particular?
Everything you watch, read or hear influences you. You just never know how much and therefore you come to rely on people who know your reading, viewing and lifestyle habits much better than you do to helpfully inform you.

As a writer whose books have been adapted, what qualities of cinema appeals to you that you don’t get from literature?
Immediacy. You can sit in a cinema and get that instant feedback. Sometimes you can see somebody reading one of your books on the tube but it’s hard to work out what’s going on in their heads. But in a picture house you know where an audience laugh, gasp, cheer or squirm.

Which one of your stories that hasn’t been made into a film yet would you love to see make it to the big screen?
The Sex Lives of Siamese Twins – if only because we have a killer script for it and I think it’s two great lead parts for women. I’d also love to see Marabou Stork Nightmares as an animated movie.

Is there a filmmaker who you'd love see adapt one of your books?
It has to be someone who gets the material, is enthusiastic about it, and has interesting plans for it. To me that’s much more important than track record. All the guys I’ve worked with weren’t names when they started working with me, but they all had those qualities in common.

Irvine Welsh's House Guest season at Filmhouse is as follows:

Double Indemnity, Sat 8 Sep, 6.05pm
Fitzcarraldo, Sun 9 Sep, 7.30pm
Sunshine, Mon 17 Sep, 6.05pm (introduced by Irvine Welsh)
Midnight Cowboy, Thu 20 Sep, 5.55pm
Quadrophenia, Sun 23 Sep, 8.30pm
Each Dawn I Die, Thu 27 Sep, 8.40pm