Makers of Trainspotting admit famous Princes Street sequence could not be filmed today

It is lauded as one of the most iconic opening sequences in British cinematic history.

But now the makers of Trainspotting have revealed they would never be allowed to film it today.

A new book compiled to mark the 25th anniversary of the groundbreaking film’s release reveals that the production did not secure permission to film the characters Renton and Spud being pusued by two store detectives.

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And the filmmakers admit someone could have been killed due to the lack of crowd control on the famous thoroughfare mid-way through the filming of the adaptation of Irvine Welsh’s novel.

Producer Andrew Macdonald recalls in Jay Glennie’s book how the crew were forced to push passers-by out of the way due to the "complete naivety" of the team making the film.

Actor Ewen Bremner, who played Spud, was even mown own by the quad bike which director Danny Boyle was using for the chase sequence.

Available to pre-order from Coattail Publications, the book reveals the health and safety concerns over the filming of Ewan McGregor's famous tumble over a car bonnet on Calton Road, where the climax of the opening sequence was shot.

It also recalls how the production ended up in trouble with the British Transport Police for tying McGregor to railway tracks in the Highlands to film footage used in the film's first trailer.

Glennie’s book features recollections of Trainspotting’s key cast and crew on making of the film in Edinburgh and Glasgow in 1995.

It tells how shoppers were left bemused as Boyle and cinematographer Brian Tufano repeatedly filmed Bremner (Spud) and McGregor (Renton) racing along Princes Street.

He writes: “Breathing hard, McGregor and Bremner waited for the cry of ‘action!’ as Boyle and Tufano jumped on a quad bike, with the motorcyclist instructed to go faster and get close to the pavement. Their tight schedule decrees they have to leave Edinburgh that evening and they’re determined to get their shot.

“Off camera, Saul Metzstein (location assistant) is running alongside Boyle and Tufano and ‘politely’ pushing startled shoppers out of the way. The pace has quickened and a smiling Boyle can feel he is getting the shot he needs. A cry and a thud broke his concentration. Looking down, he saw a tangle of legs and arms, and a look of bemusement on the face of Ewen Bremner.”

Director Danny Boyle with actor Jonny Lee Miller on Princes Street. Picture: Film Edinburgh

Boyle recalls: “The face of Spud was looking up at us. I could see Ewen thinking, ‘What the f*** is going on, you ran over me!’”

Bremner says: “I bloody was thinking that. I could feel the bike getting closer, literally blowing the hairs on my neck! It was like take nine, I’m exhausted and I ended up taking a somersault down the street!”

Producer Andrew Macdonald says: “It was complete naivety. People were just jumping or being pushed out of the way. There was no crowd control. Just crazy, we could have killed someone.”

Boyle adds: “You’d never get permission to film this way now.”

A quad bike was used to film the dramatic opening sequence of Trainspotting on Princes Street. Picture: Film Edinburgh

Recalling filming the Calton Road scene with McGregor, production manager Lesley Stewart says: “Nowadays you would have made sure that an actor would be okay before attempting the shot, but back then you would read that Ewan was to be thrown over a bonnet of an oncoming car and stand there with your fingers crossed!”

Ewan McGregor as Renton in a memorable scene filmed on Calton Road in Edinburgh.
Trainspotting's iconic opening scene was filmed on Princes Street.
The climax of Trainspotting's dramatic chase sequence was filmed on Calton Road. Picture: Shutterstock/Liam Longman/Figment/Noel Gay/Ko
Ewen Bremner during the filming of Trainspotting on Princes Street. Picture: Film Edinburgh
Trainspotting producer Andrew Macdonald and director Danny Boyle filming on Princes Street. Picture: Film Edinburgh

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