Edinburgh author Jenni Fagan lifts lid on turning Irvine Welsh’s Begbie novel into a TV drama

The writer of a new TV series that will revive Robert Carlyle’s terrifying Trainspotting character Begbie has promised it will “push boundaries” and “shake things up”.

Edinburgh author Jenni Fagan will be adapting Irvine Welsh’s novel, which sees the seemingly-reformed character returning to the city from Los Angeles, where he has forged a successful career as an artist and a new identity, as Jim Francis.

Fagan, who is working with actor Dougray Scott’s new Scottish production company on the six-part drama, said it would be "underpinned by the dual energies of creation and destruction”.

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The author, who grew up within the care system in Scotland, said Begbie would have served “an extraordinary amount of time in prison” in the series, which sees him come back to Edinburgh for the funeral of his murdered son.

Robert Carlyle will return to play Begbie in the new TV series The Blade Artist.

Fagan, a former punk and grunge singer who has emerged as one of Scotland’s leading literary talents over the past decade, will also be working with Scott’s company Buccaneer to adapt her acclaimed novels The Panopticon and Luckenbooth for the screen.

The Blade Artist was published in 2016, the year before Carlyle revived his role in Danny Boyle’s long-awaited Trainspotting film sequel.

Welsh is working on a second series of Crime, the drama he made last year with Buccaneer, the production company that announced a new Scottish branch led by founders Tony Wood and Richard Tulk-Hart, and Scott, who will return for another outing as troubled Edinburgh detective Ray Lennox.

Fagan said: “Writing the adaptation of ‘The Blade Artist’ by Irvine Welsh is an honour and a joy. The TV series will continue to push boundaries and create the kind of work that shakes everything up.

Edinburgh author Jenni Fagan will be adapting Irvine Welsh's novel The Blade Artist for a new TV series. Picture: Mihaela Bodlovic

"Begbie is a man who has served an extraordinary amount of time in prison by the time we meet him again, and he is quite unexpectedly working as a successful commercial artist in LA.

"The adaptation of ‘The Blade Artist’ is a vital homage to the confines and restriction of circumstance, legacy and institutionalisation.

"It is underpinned by the dual energies of creation and destruction, showing how both can manifest equally powerfully. I can’t wait to work with the exceptionally talented team behind this, not least Robert Carlyle."

Scott said: “I haven’t been more enthralled or blown away by a writer since I read Trainspotting.

"Jenni Fagan has a unique and blistering voice which resonates infinitely.

"Her characters give voice to the dispossessed and unheard. Luckenbooth is an adult fairy tale of sorts that captivated me right from the start. Scotland has another extraordinary literary talent.”

An official announcement about The Blade Artist TV series last year by Buccaneer said: “Now known as Jim Francis, Begbie is a reformed character who believes he has found the perfect life.

"But a return to Scotland for the funeral of a murdered son he hardly knows confronts him with a past he can barely recall and he soon discovers you can take the boy out of Edinburgh, but you can’t take Edinburgh out of the boy.”

Welsh said at the time: “Begbie is Begbie and Robert is the long-term friend and collaborator who inspirationally brought the character to life with his incendiary portrayal.

“To say I’m excited at us reuniting creatively on this project is obviously something of an understatement.”

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