'Trainspotting 2' Was Brought To Life With The Help of A Former Heroin User

By David Konow 01/26/17

Filmmaking has helped Garry Fraser turn his life around and maintain his sobriety.

Still from Trainspotting 2
Photo via YouTube

When Trainspotting, the tragic comedy about a group of Scottish heroin addicts, came out in 1996, it made Ewan McGregor a star and established Danny Boyle as a hot new director who would go on to direct many acclaimed films including 2008’s Slumdog Millionaire, which won Best Picture at the Oscars.

Now Trainspotting 2, with Boyle back in the director’s chair, is due in theaters on March 17. The Guardian reports that a former drug user from Scotland, Garry Fraser—who found filmmaking a powerful tool in staying sober—helped Boyle direct the long-awaited sequel.

When the first Trainspotting came out, Fraser was 19, and his life was in such a chaotic state that the movie seemed tame in comparison to his reality. “After 20 years, I appreciate it more,” he told The Guardian.

Fraser grew up in Muirhouse, where some of the new film was shot, with an alcoholic father. As he told Vice, “Growing up there, everything was normal—drug dealing was normal, police brutality was normal … I grew up expecting that my life was jail.”

Fraser was selling hash, speed and acid when he was 11, and started selling heroin when he was a young adult. Fraser finally sobered up over 10 years ago when his son was born. He began taking film courses at an adult continuation school, which turned his life around.

Fraser directed a hard-hitting documentary about his life, Everybody’s Child, which was released to critical acclaim in 2014. It was Everybody’s Child that caught the attention of Irvine Welsh, the author of Trainspotting, who saw Muirhouse go down the toilet thanks to heroin.

Welsh felt that heroin was part of a “bigger disease”—namely “mass unemployment”—and that drugs “filled the gap when the jobs and opportunities had been ripped out of the community.”

Welsh was so impressed with Fraser’s work helping fellow drug users, as well as his work as a filmmaker, that he recommended that Danny Boyle meet with him. Two weeks later, Boyle called with the offer to direct second unit on Trainspotting 2. “I’ve waited 12 years for that phone call,” Fraser says.

It was clearly a sobering experience for Fraser to return to the place where he grew up to work on the film. The first day of the shoot, he told himself, “You’ve lived this, you’ve got an advantage on just about everybody ... in terms of your story.”

Growing up in Muirhouse pushed Fraser to excel at filmmaking, and he launched his own company, Wideo Media, where local kids in recovery can do acting workshops, make movies together, and use the arts in a positive way.

Fraser loves giving back and helping young people who were in the same position he was in years ago. “Sometimes you have to go through real hardships in life to get to real blessings,” he says.

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In addition to contributing for The Fix, David Konow has also written for Esquire, Deadline, LA Weekly, Village Voice, The Wrap, and many other publications and websites. He is also the author of the three decade history of heavy metal, Bang Your Head (Three Rivers Press), and the horror film history Reel Terror (St Martins Press). Find David on LinkedIn and Facebook.