James McAvoy Trance

James McAvoy Trance


Cast: James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, Rosario Dawson
Director: Danny Boyle
Genre: Psychological Action Thriller

Synopsis: Simon (James McAvoy), a fine art auctioneer, teams up with a criminal gang to steal a work of art worth millions of dollars, but after suffering a blow to the head during the heist he wakes to discover that he has no memory of where he has hidden the painting. When physical threats and torture fail to produce answers, the gang's leader Franck (Vincent Cassel) hires hypnotherapist Elizabeth Lamb (Rosario Dawson) to delve into the darkest recesses of Simon's psyche. As she digs deeper into his broken subconscious, the stakes become much higher and the boundaries between desire, reality and hypnotic suggestion begin to blur and disappear.

Release Date
: April 4th, 2013

The Backstory

"After Slumdog Millionaire, the producer Christian Colson and I were looking for new work to do together and I told him there were a couple of ideas I'd always been drawn to: the Aron Ralston story - which became 127 Hours - and this mad thriller called Trance" says director Danny Boyle.

"It always felt like perfect material for the writer John Hodge who I'd worked with on Trainspotting and Shallow Grave. Christian Colson was able to sort out the rights and we brought in John Hodge to work on the screenplay while we made 127 Hours".

"It was clear to me," says John Hodge, "that Danny Boyle's ambition for the film was to take the story into the extremes of human behaviour through these three characters - characters who demonstrate extremes of desire, extremes of violent behaviour, a desperate self-preservation and greed. All of us who work with Danny Boyle know that he wants to push ideas as far as they will go and that's exciting for a writer."

Avoiding the detached, taciturn air of many classic noir thrillers, Danny Boyle was keen to introduce what he refers to as "an emotional charge" to the film and to modernise and refresh traditional ideas of the 'femme fatale'. Although the film begins ostensibly as a heist movie, it quickly morphs into something trippier, more fluid and less reliable.

"I wanted to try and update the noir idea, but I didn't want to make something that was very referential or indeed looked like one really. I wanted to occupy that world but actually do it in a modern context," he says. "When I say update it, I also mean emotionally. There's nothing to fall back on, there are no systems, there's no chain of command, and there are no relatives, or support structures for any of the characters," says Danny Boyle. "They're all just on their own. It's why these kinds of films are always linked to crime, because they're always about you operating on your own, outside the law".

"What we wanted to do was to have a kind of constant uncertainty for the characters as to what the truth was," says John Hodge. "The three characters have to rely almost exclusively on what the others are saying or doing in order to figure out what's going on. And of course, pretty much everything that the others say or do is either a lie or a manipulation or unreliable in some way. So, the protagonists are trapped in a puzzle of their own making. The challenge for them - and the fun for the audience - is to try and solve that puzzle'.

Between 2009 and 2011 Danny Boyle, John Hodge and Christian Colson put the screenplay through an intensive development process. By the summer of 2011 financing was in place through Fox Searchlight and Pathé, and the team was ready to approach actors.

The Actors

"It's got three stonking good parts in it, you know, and that's always nice in a film," Danny Boyle says. "I remember that from Shallow Grave, one of the films I did with John Hodge; three stonking good parts where they battle for who's at the centre of the film. That triangle is a lovely dynamic to have in place as you can play with the question of which character the story belongs too. The film certainly starts as Simon's story but by the end it has become more Franck's - and Elizabeth exerts a strong gravitational pull of her own of course'.

James McAvoy (Simon)
James McAvoy's leading roles have placed him at the head of the X-Men, on the right hand side of Idi Amin in The Last King of Scotland, and in the heart of Keira Knightley's 'Cecilia' in Atonement.

James McAvoy found the role was instantly attractive to him. "When I first read the script I was completely blown away by this mind bending, genre bending, psychological, heist movie," he says, laughing. "I remember it being a very difficult, complicated script. When I went and auditioned for Danny Boyle, he was incredible. I've rarely been directed in an audition so interestingly. It was just a real pleasure. And if I had walked away and not got the job, I'd still have really enjoyed and appreciated the time that I'd spent with him because it was a fantastic session of work. That made me desperate to get the part. Luckily for me he phoned up and said, "Would you like to do it?" Every day on set has been like that - just discovering this script, which is brave, bold and challenging for a performer.

"I think every film that Danny Boyle's done has always has been daring and bold and I don't think he feels the confines of genre. So if he is within one genre, he's vying to kind of push the limits and sometimes cross over into different genres as well. And with Anthony (Dod Mantle, DP) alongside him, they've both got a ridiculous amount of energy, are enthusiastic and really generous with that energy too, so it becomes quite infectious to be around the pair of them. Sometimes you are sitting there thinking, "Is this going to work? Is it just too much?" Then of course, it's not. What Danny Boyle's ultimately got going for him as well is that he says, "Yeah, it might be too much, but if you don't shoot it, you'll never know."

Danny Boyle says: "I always thought he might be a bit young for it, but actually when we met and talked, it was really interesting because the part makes him seem older. It was really fantastic the way he grew into it, and I said to him while we were shooting, "You do look older than I've ever seen you look before on screen. It's not a compliment actors often recognise. It's always a double-edged sword that one! They like being sophisticated and grown up but not looking older. I also wanted him to do it with his natural Scottish accent because I have a real love of the Scottish voice. He tells me that he doesn't get asked to do it that often. So that was lovely for both James McAvoy and Vincent Cassel to be using their natural voices. You know I have a long history with accents - Ewan McGregor, Cillian Murphy, James McAvoy - I don't know what it is. Maybe I've got a thing against English actors! My family's all from Ireland originally and obviously I had the benefit of working in Scotland with a bunch of amazing Scottish actors on the first couple of films. That's obviously left a mark on me. Anyway, I find myself entirely addicted to James McAvoy, who does a wonderful job. It's a very complicated part because we're never sure where his conscience lies,"

Screenwriter John Hodge says: "I think it's fair to say that Simon is probably the most complex of the three characters, certainly from the audience's point of view. Simon starts out appearing to be a victim, and I think, probably by the end of the story, we would view him as rather more culpable. He is a man with an obsession, which is a sort of physical, sexual obsession. He has also, at one point, been addicted to gambling. So these two aspects of his character sit uneasily with the persona of the respectable middle class auctioneer. It is these two things that drag him down into a world of very dark and destructive behaviour."

Vincent Cassel (Franck)
Vincent Cassel is considered by many to be France's first son and is the star of some of the country's most acclaimed films over the last 20 years such as La Haine, Mesrine and Irreversible.

"What I liked about the film is that it starts as something normal. It's that kind of movie that by the 25th page it becomes something else entirely. It's a genre bender. It really messes with you," says Cassel. "It's not quite clear who's good or who's bad. At first, you might think one thing and then it becomes something else and then, by the end, it's something else entirely. Characters evolve. You get caught when you judge somebody. Suddenly you realise that maybe you were a little fast and it's not exactly what you thought it was."

"That guy's as good an actor as you'd ever find on this planet," says Danny Boyle. "You also have to remember that, although he speaks very good English, the dialogue is obviously not in his own language, so that's a limitation placed upon him in a way. But you see beyond that when you watch him act. It's rare to come across an actor like that."

Danny Boyle recalls a moment during production when the crew had occupied a stairwell in a South Kensington apartment for the afternoon. "The family who lived in one of the apartments, quite by chance actually, were a French family living in London. They had young children who were in pyjamas, sitting on the stairs and watching him act. I remember thinking that it was a wonderful moment, because they were seeing one of the legends of the French acting world. In French terms, you're talking about the equivalent of Marlon Brando or Laurence Olivier."

"If you get a good script and you get a good director, as an actor you have much less to do," say Vincent Cassel. "When the script is well written, your lines are good, you don't have to reinvent them, you have to just learn the lines and when you know that the director's in charge - and that's definitely the case with Danny Boyle - you rarely have to question it. He always tries new stuff. The funny thing is that he does this very modern kind of cinema, but at the same time, he comes from a theatre world, so his relationship to acting and actors in general and even the script is very organic.

"The other thing I've noticed with him is that his directing is always very visual and original and even baroque. But it's never just for style. He always has a meaning. The frame might be different and modern, but it always tells a story."

John Hodge's take on Vincent Cassel's character offers a sense of how he and Danny Boyle worked to add depth and insight into Franck. "On the surface, Franck is a fairly straightforward gangster, but I think he is slowly revealed as rather more human than that - possibly even a character with whom I think we might sympathise," he says. "Through the story, he discovers something about himself, which is that there's more to him than the gangster he'd written himself off as."

The incorporation of Franck's gang was also a process of moving the characters away from popular perception. Danny Boyle and John Hodge wanted to avoid the standard, modern-day London gangster profile.

"There's a lot of territory out there that's been covered. We needed a gang, but we didn't want to replicate Guy Ritchie or Brighton Rock," says Danny Boyle. "We wanted to move away from that, so one of the first premises of the casting was to try and break that pattern. And one of the ways that we did it is to cast a guy who was very refreshing. If he was in a French film, I think Vincent Cassel would be too familiar as a gangster. I think Vincent Cassel would admit that himself, because of his work in Mesrine and others. But of course in our context, it was perfect."

"I'm pretty proud of my gang, I think they're really cool," laughs Vincent Cassel.

Rosario Dawson (Elizabeth)
Star of Sin City, Seven Pounds and He Got Game, Rosario Dawson has worked with many of the world's leading directors, from Spike Lee to Quentin Tarantino, the late Tony Scott to Chris Columbus. "I'd always had Rosario Dawson in mind for the role," says Danny Boyle. "I'd always wanted to work with her. We met about six or seven years ago for a film in the US. The film fell apart, but I always thought she was amazing. She won't thank me for saying this, but everything I've seen her in, I don't think people have used her fully; I don't think her talent as an actor has been fully exploited."

"I've never played anyone even remotely like her" says Rosario Dawson of her character Elizabeth Lamb. "I've actually played characters that you're not supposed to really like and have made that effort to put a human side to them so that people can walk out and can remember. With He Got Game, people watching me were saying, "You know, I hated you in that movie. I understood you at the end, though."

"But Elizabeth Lamb is totally different because she's hiding everything. You only get hints of her emotion through me doing things with my hair to show her restraint or when she lets her hair down, she really lets her hair down. You get to see a different side of her. It's subtle; it's completely unspoken. So, she felt like a wonderful presence to have between these two guys."

Danny Boyle says: "You make all these films and you have great women in them, but they're basically about guys - Ewan McGregor or Cillian Murphy or Dev Patel, James Franco or Leonardo DiCaprio. So what I loved about this was that there was a woman most definitely right in the thick of it, holding her own."

Danny Boyle was initially thinking about setting the film in New York and casting an English actress to play Elizabeth before flipping the idea of the foreigner in London and making the character American:
"I always wanted Elizabeth to be from outside a community, that she was an outsider, and that's very important for the story, that she has no one to turn to, that feeling of isolation," Danny Boyle says. "There's a weird thing about noir, it is like a bubble that's sealed; everything's locked inside it. There's no real world out there that you can suddenly connect with, so she can't suddenly have a mum or a sister in whom she can confide. So we wanted someone who had real commanding presence: an ability with words and an independence - a stand-alone quality".

Rosario Dawson researched her character's profession by attending hypnosis classes and pored through books on hypnotherapy and psychology. To be able to observe the dynamic between therapist and patient gave Rosario Dawson the chance to form what was to be a large part of her role; the commanding, calm air of an expert hypnotherapist, able to perform highly in-depth sessions with James McAvoy's Simon. "I met with a couple of hypnotherapists. I got hypnotised," she says. "We also had a hypnotist that came to us when we were in rehearsals so that everybody else could also have that experience. Every single person that I met exuded this confidence that you don't see in just any profession," she notes. "Even though the approaches were completely different, they all had this complete confidence."

John Hodge comments: "I think Elizabeth is certainly someone who has been through a tough time and is determined not to go through that again, so she uses all her skill and talents to manipulate the men in order to gain some sort of victory."

Of director Danny Boyle, Rosario Dawson says: "Danny Boyle's like a volcano with his energy levels," adds Rosario Dawson. "It's so beautiful how passionate he is about this. He never sits down, he's always just moving, moving, moving. And it didn't matter how cold we were or if we're on a six-day week or if we're doing overtime, no matter what. The energy always felt up and you'd see the sparkle in everyone's eye, saying, "I wanna see this movie!"

The Making Of Trance

By the summer of 2011 the script was ready, the cast was lined up and the financing was in place. It became clear however that there would be some unusual scheduling challenges. Danny Boyle was already committed to directing the Opening Ceremony of the London Olympic Games in July 2012 - a massive undertaking that he had been working on for some time already and which would require his exclusive attention through the first half of 2012. While Danny Boyle would have time to shoot Trance in the autumn of 2011 there would not be time to complete the picture editing, music scoring, sound mixing and grading before the Olympic Games.

Danny Boyle recollects thinking, "If all we do for 2 years is the Olympics we will go mad and turn into committee people. You have to stay at the coal-face and we were lucky enough to be given a couple of sabbaticals by the IOC - I was already committed to doing Frankenstein at The National Theatre in 2010 and we grabbed the chance to do Trance in 2011 - both projects give an indication of how your darker side can blossom when your day-job is to celebrate the nation!"

Producer Christian Colson notes: "We could have just waited and shot the movie after the Olympics" says Christian Colson. "But when you're ready, you're ready: We had our script, we had our cast and we had our money and when everything is lined up like that you'd be mad to turn a green light into an amber one. The hiatus was a nightmare for the financiers because the money is tied up for longer, and a nightmare for the insurers because there's more risk of key people getting run over by a bus - and it's a risk creatively because normally you want the creative momentum that you generate through the shoot to carry straight into the editing. But it worked really well for us and splitting the shoot and the edit gave us a perspective on the story that we'd never normally get and probably never get again!"

Principal photography commenced in September 2011 based at Three Mills Studios and at various locations in London, re-uniting Danny Boyle with many of his key creative collaborators from previous films.

Costume Design

Suttirat Larlarb has worked with Danny Boyle

Of Trance she says: "It's a very male world, so with Elizabeth as the only woman essentially in the story, that whole male/female dynamic is very interesting. Trance offers a different way of looking at a woman in control. Character-wise, that was a challenge. We didn't want her to vamp her way through the film. We didn't want to paint her with a brush that made her kind of a cliché.

"Because of her profession and because of her role in the film as a hypnotherapist, I actually did quite a bit of research into what would put a potential client at ease so that they would be able to open themselves up to this therapy. Part of that is the costume that the therapist wears. That costume has to feel completely unobtrusive, not be distracting, and must be neutral so that there's no story behind it to distract from the therapy.

"And yet you have Rosario Dawson, who's like a bombshell, essentially. So it was a challenge to de-glamorise her to the degree that you could believe that the characters could accept her expertise and not fall under her spell."

The two principal male leads being so distinctive meant Suttirat Larlarb's approach to each would be markedly different. "Vincent Cassel's character, Franck, for example, is French and very at ease and sophisticated and the kind of man who would find a shirt he liked and have half a dozen made in the same exact fabric and that would become his uniform," she explains. "He doesn't want think about it. So it was fun finding those elemental pieces for him that we just essentially mixed and matched for the whole film. I think he has about 15 to 18 changes and they're all different but they're all part of a capsule wardrobe."

Suttirat Larlarb wanted to depict James McAvoy's character as someone wanting to climb the social ladder in the workplace. "He had to have a sense of wanting to be recognised as more important and an aspirational feel to his wardrobe," she says.

"What makes a Danny Boyle film for me is the highly visual nature of it. But I think if you broke down the visuals of all his films, it's not because everything has a sort of hyper-stylised design look; it's actually the music and the pace of the editing and everything. So all of us are contributing based on conversations we've had with him and retaining what is hopefully the honesty of his vision, so that the energy and the visual part of it comes from everything together, rather than just a fashion show of cool clothes that can suffocate the characters."


Alongside Danny Boyle's vision for the look and feel of the film was the eye and award-winning skill of his long-time collaborator and Oscar®-winning Director of Photography (DOP) Anthony Dod Mantle.

"This is number six, for me with Danny Boyle, something like that," says the cinematographer. "So we have a method. There are usually a few key words, emotions or points that we discuss before shooting begins. 127 Hours for example was all about the dust and dryness and putting you in the prison that James Franco was in. Slumdog on the other hand was all about running!

"We went to look at a lot of possible locations. We trod London thin, and this was where most of the key preparation was really done. Each film we do has a different palette or alphabet. This is no different in that sense. We had to get into this 'trance' idea, but we didn't want to over explain or be over explicit about what trance is or means because we wanted the film to develop the definition.

"It's funny because we came together on this film a few weeks before. He called it a small film, which was hilarious because Danny Boyle calls all his films, 'little films' - I suppose it is in comparison to the Olympic Games Opening Ceremony, which I imagine was insane."

Danny Boyle's search for the alteration of perception was found not only through the dialogue and actions of his cast but also through both the images and environments in which the characters were placed. Both Dod Mantle and Production Designer Mark Tildesley brought the director a broad selection of options and ideas in order to play with audience perception.

"We shot a lot through glass or bended Perspex, so that just the first couple of images are slightly strange," Mark Tildesley explains. "It's a tricky thing to do because actually what you really want to do is to do it subtly rather than say, "Someone's in a trance." We wanted the audience to see the real world slightly warped or twisted or strange, but in a way that's not broadcasting that there's something going on."

Danny Boyle wanted to suggest that the city in which the story is set could be any major European city and not necessarily depicted as quintessentially London.

"I love filming in London and I always try to make it look fresh if I can and choose locations that are a bit surprising," Danny Boyle says of the location process. "It's a city that's changing such a lot, especially in the east. But it's not a huge player in this film like it was in 28 Days Later where it was a huge element at the beginning of the film. Anthony and I always try and do something different. We took a more classical approach than the kind of more freewheeling style in 127 Hours or Slumdog."

Production Design

Producer Christian Colson says: "Mark Tildesley, our production designer just did a fabulous job of bringing our locations and also our sets to life, to give a very moody, noirish feel to this city in which bad things happen. Obviously Anthony's lighting is crucial to creating that too, so it's everybody coming together to create not just a look, but also an atmosphere."

Working with Danny Boyle and Dod Mantle on Trance was a challenging but equally rewarding experience for Mark Tildesley.

"Danny Boyle wanted to have a lot of fun with it, make it snappy and fun and play with the idea of confusing the audience into not being totally sure whether they are viewing inside someone's mind in a trance-like state or not," Mark Tildesley explains of the location choices. "He also wanted to avoid it being just a very London-based film. He wanted to make it a world that's very interesting to look at. We headed east away from Central London - from Canary Wharf towards Tilbury Docks. There's a lot of unused territory down there that has not really been seen on film. Anything that was mainstream or boring, we just walked away from."

Simon's apartment was found at Elektron Towers, East London, a newly built block of executive properties overlooking the Thames and Canary Wharf.

"It was an unusual choice," Mark Tildesley admits. "It's not particularly beautiful, but it's definitely different and it's something you don't see very often. In the script it says that he's living in a town house in London, but Danny Boyle said, "No, let's put him in something interesting, which has an amazing view over Canary Wharf and bend in the river, and the O2. So we sought out these extraordinary places."

"He throws things upside down," Mark Tildesley says of Danny Boyle. "You'll think you're going in one direction with something and he'll just twist the idea completely and you think, "That's unusual." Then you think, "Oh, actually that's fantastic." Elizabeth's world for example is Harley Street, it's very classically Harley Street. So you know she's doing very well, and it's not just some two-bit operation that she does from home. She's high end but there's not a lot of life going on inside her world. So when you get to her place, it's very unusual because there are no photos of anyone nor relationships or friendships. There's something slightly weird about her, a bit David Lynch-esque. Danny Boyle wanted us to really push out to find something, to find a stylish way of representing Elizabeth. So we've got this Perspex corridor of yellow, which is extraordinary. Interestingly, although it is regarded as a symbol of nobility and virtue in Asia, yellow, in the West is also perceived as a colour representing betrayal and duplicity."


Integral to Danny Boyle's vision for Trance was the importance of sound and the voice. What the team had discovered in its research was that the timbre of a therapist's voice was a core ingredient in bringing the patient into the arena of hypnosis. It was a facet of the filmmaking process that challenged the entire production team, as it required skill and patience.

Danny Boyle explains his reasoning for such a unique focus on the sound recording - "It's quite rare in a film to have the words become the visual vocabulary of the story but I explained to Simon Hayes, our Sound Recordist, that he had to be obsessive and create a perfect, hermetically sealed space in which these characters could manoeuvre around each other with no other resource to draw on other than themselves.

"We wanted to create a sound landscape that was inside that bubble. Simon's recorded it in such a way that I was able to put anything on it, you've got this beautiful voice running through it and you could put anything you want on it like that, you know, you can add any kind of element to it. So I've never had that amount of detail paid to the voice before, but it is something that's very important in the film."

Christian Colson agrees that there was immense pressure on the team to capture the sound on-set with as much precision as possible. "The story puts a great emphasis on the power of the human voice," he explains. "It was an element that we needed to capture, isolate and emphasise with great precision because one of the ways in which hypnosis achieves its effects is through language. It's a form of what's known as neuro-linguistic programming, the way in which you phrase certain questions, the way in which the language that you use begins to affect the listener in order to be useful to the practitioner."

Simon Hayes, the film's Sound Recordist was aware from his first encounter with the director before production began, that the job would be intensive. "When Danny Boyle, Christian Colson and Bernie approached me about doing the project, they made it clear right from the start that it was a very big job for sound - most importantly production dialogue. We spoke about the timbre of the voices and what Danny Boyle actually wanted to achieve was a rich, broad hypnotic sound, especially in the trance sequences. In those scenes it was really important to get the microphone very close. It was often literally on the edge of frame. The camera department and most importantly the director of photography were very kind to us. They allowed us to position the microphone within literally a centimetre of the edge of frame. We were dancing with the devil, as they say, on every single shot."


Director Danny Boyle is what Editor Jon Harris describes as "insanely busy" during the shoot, so the editor takes the footage as it comes in from day one and quickly and efficiently begins to interpret it in his own way, viewing it as would any audience member to make sense of the structure, pace and direction. It's not the first time the two have worked together. Jon Harris edited 127 Hours, which earned him an Oscar® nomination in 2010.

Of the editing process Jon Harris says of Danny Boyle - "He likes to be surprised by my interpretation. He doesn't like to be what he calls "interventionist." He'll come once a week to keep progress of the shape of the edit but it's not until the end of the shoot when we actually sit down and watch the whole thing together to start talking about the edit. From then on we watch the film twice a week and have long discussions about it.

"In a way he shoots like a documentary," says Jon Harris. "He makes sure that he gets as many shots in the bag as possible and then is able to pare them down to the best ones for the scene. Even if some of the shots might not ultimately work, he aims to approach the scene in as varied a way as possible. It's then down to how I respond to the material. Danny Boyle looks for energy so he's not frightened to take risks when shooting in order to find those moments generated from pure innovation. It means we have a lot of material to play with and ultimately why we end up shooting for two months but editing for six."

With three powerful characters battling to pull the audience in any direction at any moment Jon Harris has to make judgement as to how to find a balance. It's a process he finds as he works through the material. "I don't think it's a secret to suggest that most, if not all actors aim to find sympathy in their character, even if they are playing someone who is malevolent. So you start to see the human behind the actions, the possible reason why someone is doing a destructive act. Certainly with Trance, we've seen some of the characters come to the fore during the edit.

"But it's in testing it on audiences that you get the most interesting feedback. We show it to people and gauge reaction. Audience reaction is key. Every viewing changes but threads of consistency mean that we can focus on highlighting certain aspects."

"It's like the ingredients for a cake," he says. "You need as many of the right ingredients as possible to make the cake work. One key ingredient left out and the whole thing will go flat. So, in our approach to the fluctuation between what is deemed reality and what is supposedly a moment where the audience is within the Trance for example, was to have a number of different versions - some clearly differentiated and some more ambiguous. It's a back and forth process of finding the ingredients that keeps the audience guessing."


The director Danny Boyle approached his long-time collaborator Rick Smith of Underworld fame at the beginning of September having spent the past few months working together on the Olympics Opening Ceremony. The pair previously worked together on The Beach, Boyle's Olivier nominated theatre production of Frankenstein and, famously, on Trainspotting, where "Born Slippy" became an unapologetic anthem for the mid to late 90's club scene following its success as part of the film's soundtrack.

"He sent me a funny text after the Olympics were over," Rick Smith recalls. "It said something like, 'You'll probably never want to work with me again after the experience you've just had, but would you be interested in working on Trance?'

We've worked together for 20 years on and off so I know Danny Boyle as well as anyone. It wasn't hard to say 'Yes.'"

Rick Smith immediately watched a cut of the film at the beginning of September 2012 and began piecing together the musical fabric of the film. He's not the only collaborator to work with the director to admit that Danny Boyle loves to be offered something unexpected from the people he works with. "He really wants to be surprised. That's a gift to a creative partner. I wasn't privy to the script or the film during its production phase so I came to the project with a completely fresh approach.

"Danny Boyle's very hands-on. He's also a great lover of music and we're both big fans of rhythm. He's interested in every aspect of what it takes to make a story work. But because we've worked together a number of times, there is the opportunity to have this shorthand with him. I come with ideas, seeds of soundtrack and notes on areas where I think the music will relate and support the story. We spend regular time together where I'll play pieces to him and we'll discuss them. Other areas are more obscure."

Rick Smith had previously collaborated with emerging singer/songwriter Emeli Sandé during the Olympics where she sang two tracks - Heaven and Abide with Me. Smith saw a link between Sandé's lyrics and vocal tone that matched Rosario Dawson's character in Trance, so was keen to bring her in to work on a couple of particular aspects of the soundtrack.

"I was really struck by Emeli Sande when we worked together for the Ceremony. She's a very talented young woman with a cool head. There was certainly something I saw that resonated with aspects of Rosario Dawson's character. There was a particular piece that was originally instrumental and I thought it would be interesting to collaborate on writing something. Emeli Sande has an expression that is really beautiful and haunting. I thought it would be fantastic fit."

The Goya

"Goya is thought of as the father of modern art really, because he stepped inside the mind," says Danny Boyle. "We've had more than a century of painters who, rather than paint pictorially what we see, paint the way in which you see the world. In Witches in the Air we see a man hiding beneath a blanketand I felt very strongly that that was James McAvoy's character Simon."

"There's a great deal of overt violence in Goya's work," notes John Hodge. "I think that was very fitting to this story. The Witches In The Air certainly carries that sense of supernatural control hovering over the story. I think that there is a sense in which all three characters, at different points in the story, find themselves acting outside of their own will. They're all, at different points trapped in situations where you could sort of feel that there are spirits hovering over them, if you like."

Christian Colson adds: "In terms of our story, Goya was also very interesting in certain innovations regarding the depiction of female nudes and our bodies, which in high art prior to him had been idealised and rendered free ofimperfections. Goya was the first to paint the nude as he saw it..."

Determined to maintain the beauty and grain of the original artwork, Danny Boyle needed his design team to provide a copy of the original that felt authentic. Production Designer Mark Tildesley explains "Danny Boyle wanted the richness of classical painting. He didn't want a Hockney or a Bacon or anything like that. He wanted to do something that had a richness of a Caravaggio, but was extraordinary as well. Goya is in that world. He's way before his time in a way, painting these extraordinary pictures.

"We went for Witches in the Air because it's an exotic, weird painting of a person being lifted up by these three witches in tall hats into the air, ascending into the air in like some sort of dream, and then below them are these three characters. There's the donkey, which represents madness or foolishness, I suppose. There's the person who can't see, who's running with a cloak over their head, and then there's another person lying in agony with his hands over his ears. It just felt like the perfect picture to choose.

The team had researched widely to obtain a sense of the types of paintings that had been stolen. They visited the Art Loss Register in Hatton Garden, London that works extensively with the FBI, CIA and Interpol in order to help people track down stolen works of art, jewellery and objets d'art.

"This painting has both these elements of reality and non-reality, which is very much what the film is about," admits Cobb. "It's an important step in trying to recreate the feel of the painting and get under the skin of it in the way that those pigments work and the way that they brush across the canvas.

"I think that people, myself included, are always slightly dumbfounded at how much money passes hands in the art market," says Cobb. "It often has very little to do with the art but rather becomes about status. Paintings are often worth more money just because they previously sold for more money and they make headlines. There was a Giacometti that sold for $100 million recently, but it's not the most significant or the most important piece of work. It becomes this circus of people outbidding each other for status.

"There's always the image of this Dr No type character in his lair with these stolen works of art. Of course that's usually not the case. Sometimes they're buried in the ground or they're put in a safe somewhere hidden away. But it's certainly an intriguing world."

'In the end' says Danny Boyle 'the value of the painting in the film is all in the eye of the beholder. For Simon, who as an art historian recognises its intrinsic value, it is literally priceless. For Franck, it is basically a very large denomination banknote. For Elizabeth it represents something altogether more personal'