Ewen Bremner's Big Year: Scottish Actor Talks 'T2: Trainspotting' and 'Wonder Woman'

Kevin Polowy
Senior Correspondent, Yahoo Entertainment
Ewen Bremner in ‘T2: Trainspotting’ (Sony)

It’s not like Ewen Bremner has been wasting the days away. The 45-year-old Scotsman, best known to U.S. audiences for the playing the scraggy heroine junkie Spud in Trainspotting, has been working consistently since Danny Boyle’s 1996 cult classic, with credits that include Snatch, Black Hawk Down, Pearl Harbor, Match Point, and Snowpiercer.

But 2017 is turning out to be a banner year for Bremner. In March, he reprised the role of the down-and-out Spud in the long-awaited sequel T2: Trainspotting. And this month he appears in the record-breaking superhero sensation Wonder Woman as Charlie, the kilt-rocking marksman who joins Diana Prince’s merry band of WWI operatives.

“It’s been a busy time, quite fantastic, actually,” Bremner told Yahoo Movies during an interview to commemorate the Digital HD and Blu-ray release of T2. “I feel very happy to have these opportunities. I feel like the luckiest guy in the world.”

Still, Bremner takes measured reflection of the moment he’s having. T2 is a sequel Boyle, Bremner, and castmates Ewan McGregor, Robert Carlyle, and Jonny Lee Miller discussed for two decades before it finally became a reality. As for Wonder Woman, Bremner wasn’t sure he’d landed the role until “the last minute.” And getting those green lights isn’t even half the battle.

“You never know as an actor what’s going to work and what’s not going to work,” he said. “You don’t know if it’s going to be any good. You can never really tell when you’re working on a film. There are so many factors that impact on the quality of the finished piece. You’re in control of only a fraction of the stuff that goes into making a film.”

T2 earned mostly positive reviews from critics, but Bremner is especially impressed with how much the sequel has resonated with fans. “People have been super-passionate about it,” he said. “We had some really nice critical acclaim, but audiences and the public have been super-passionate about it, more than the reviewers. Certainly in the circles I run where I live in Edinburgh, people stop me all the time and want to talk about it.”

The film finds a clean yet unhappy Renton (McGregor) returning to Edinburgh two decades after he took off with the loot stolen by him and fellow addicts Begbie (Carlyle) and Simon, a.k.a. Sick Boy (Miller). With Renton only leaving a portion of the haul to gentle-souled Spud, both Simon and Begbie have their own plans for vengeance. And Simon’s girlfriend Veronica (Anjela Nedyalkova) complicates matters when she comes between them.

As Boyle told us upon T2‘s release, the movie takes a hard look at how men age — and it ain’t so graceful. “I think the film really does have something to say that’s quite profound about the human experience and the nature of aging and the battle with time and the idea of trying to outrun your own shadow and to leave behind your past,” Bremner said. “And to be the person that you want to be, and not be dragged down by your history.”

Spud, in particular, is being dragged down as the film opens. He’s still badly struggling with addiction, his family has left him, and he attempts suicide moments before Renton appears at his doorstep. “It felt important for me to honor that character,” Bremner said of returning to the role. “I didn’t want him just to be a gentle joke, which is kind of a danger with a character like that. People expect some sort of humor and gentility. But over the course of 20 years of adulthood I know as well as anyone that you pick up all kinds of scars along the way. You take on all kinds of baggage. So it was important to me that Spud, as a result of his addiction and his struggles with fatherhood, that he had some real fight.”

Bremner had done a fair amount of work in films before he landed the role of Spud, with projects like Mike Leigh’s art-house hit Naked (1993) and the Sylvester Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd (1995). But Trainspotting, Bremner said, has “been the gift that kept on giving.” He explained: “It was a film that every filmmaker saw, whether they were in Timbuktu or whether they were in Hollywood… That made it very much easier for me to be considered to work with other great filmmakers.”

Gal Gadot and Ewen Bremner in ‘Wonder Woman’ (WB)

Those filmmakers have included Ridley Scott, Joon-Ho Bong, Werner Herzog, Guy Ritchie, Woody Allen, and now Patty Jenkins, who became the first female director to gross more than $100 million domestically on the opening weekend of Wonder Woman.

Bremner recently completed work on Will, a TNT series about the lost years of Shakespeare. “I’ve got a really fantastic and different part. I’m playing the evilest man in England,” he said.

Which means his epic year could get even better. “I feel like I’ve really been on a great ride lately,” he said before adding with a laugh: “Long may it last, as far as I’m concerned.”

T2: Trainspotting hits Digital HD on Tuesday and DVD and Blu-ray June 27.

Watch the T2 cast talk about reuniting:


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