The characters of the book and movie Trainspotting, and associated tropes.
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Mark "Rents / Rent Boy" Renton
"Choose life. Choose a job. Choose a career. Choose a family. Choose a fucking big television, washing machines, cars, compact disc players and electrical tin openers. Choose good health, low cholesterol, and dental insurance. Choose your friends. Choose DIY and wondering who the fuck you are on Sunday morning. Choose sitting on that couch watching mind-numbing, spirit-crushing game shows, stuffing fucking junk food into your mouth. Choose rotting away at the end of it all, pissing your last in a miserable home, nothing more than an embarrassment to the selfish, fucked up brats you've spawned to replace yourself. Choose your future. Choose life..."
The Villain Protagonist of the story. Mark is the voice of (relative) sanity among his friends, many of whom he actually hates. At the beginning, he's in the middle of his addiction to heroin. He is capable of fitting in well enough to common society, is relatively good-looking and of above-average intelligence, but is often socially awkward, and uses heroin as a means to withdraw into his own world. A self-loathing Deadpan Snarker extraordinaire who narrates everything from supporting his drug addiction to interacting with "the normal world" in a cynical way.
Ambiguously Bi: He contemplates this for a time, even giving another man a blowjob at one point (and receiving one in return, which he didn't really find a turnon) and wanking off his disabled younger brother (though more to ease his frustration than out of any sexual gratification on his own part), though decides against it.
Hipster: Mark was one even before the term was coined. This is reflected in his cynical view of modern society, his refusal to seek or keep any kind of employment and his refusal to play along with the social norms in his "Choose Life" speech.
Sick Boy: For a vegetarian, Mark, you're a fucking EVIL shot.
Jerk with a Heart of Gold: As immoral and cynical as he may be, Mark does have moments that show a sense of humanity. He feels genuinely bad about getting Tommy addicted to Heroin and guilty that it killed him and tries his best to be a good friend to Spud, to whom he leaves his share of the drug deal money.
Kissing Cousins: He attempts to hit on his teenage cousin Nina at one point in the book.
Middle Child Syndrome: Caught between an elder brother in the army, and a younger, extensively disabled brother in a wheelchair. The former gets respect and earnings while the later has constant doting attention from the family and close friends. Mark receives abuse from both: directly from Billy and his mates; indirectly due to people heartlessly insulting wee Davie in proxy to him.
Only Sane Man: Of his friends, though when your friends include a complete psychopath and an immoral pimp with delusions of grandeur, it doesn't mean much.
Hazel:"You just want tae fuck up on drugs so that everyone'll think how deep and fucking complex you are. It's pathetic, and fucking boring."
Villain Protagonist: He has no ethics at all, and the only thing that matters to him is getting his fix. Sadly, this is how many real-life drug addicts think. He is also, after all, an amoral heroin addict who steals, sells drugs, and gets his friend addicted to heroin.
Your Cheating Heart: He cheated on Fiona with Joanne in Skagboys. It's something he feels very guilty about though.
Simon "Sick Boy" David Williamson
"Personality, that's what matters. What keeps a relationship going. I mean, heroin has a great fucking personality."
Amoral, stylish, and Mark Renton's oldest friend. Sick Boy is a borderline-sociopath and born exploiter who only feels disdain for his friends and for society. He has an obsession with Sean Connery, and enjoys showing off with his ability to casually use heroin and stopping without developing an addiction. Sick Boy considers himself superior to everyone else he interacts with. In the story, he represents cold and calculating pragmatism without any moral restraints.
Affectionate Pickpocket: He'll remove purses from any random schemie girl he pulls, and as for guys, his friends and employers have to watch out or he'll snake a sly hand round for their wallets even as he's pretending to comfort/greet them, too.
Character Focus: Whilst he does narrate two chapters in Trainspotting, he doesn't get much characterization. Whereas in Porno he is essentially the protagonist, and shares the role with Renton in Skagboys.
Chick Magnet: He's the biggest player in the group, and often seduces female tourists. Renton thinks, at one point, that he wants to keep Sick Boy as far away from Dianne as possible, not even mentioning him in conversation.
Hipster: Even more than Mark as seen in his high view of himself and his cultural snobbery.
Humiliation Conga: In Porno, and how. Having spent the entire novel, no, his life scamming, fucking over, using and otherwise pissing off a great many people, it all comes crashing down on him. Trying to phone Renton from the Cannes porn festival, he realises with shock that Rents has cleared out the joint production bank account (in which were the embezzled earnings of dozens of Rangers supporters, to the tune of over £60,000) and stolen the prints of the film. He tries and fails to catch Renton via Begbie, and in doing so causes the latter grievous injuries in a car crash. Embarrassing himself in front of his friends and Nikki, he just barely misses Renton at the airport. To pour salt on his wounds, he learns that the authorities have found out he illegally produced the porno in the UK and is named and shamed in the paper. He's now forced to do a runner with Nikki, only to find... that she's left him to run away with Renton and Dianne. He headbutts himself in the mirror in self loathing yet decides to get one tiny victory over the comatose Begbie by taunting him at the hospital. But to cap it all off, Franco wakes up and grabs his arm with ferocious intent...
Well and truly justified, because apart from everything else, he had always been intending to sic Begbie on Renton like he did on Spud.
It gets to the point where he has literally nine different suspects (and counting) as to who got the cops on him, because he didn't realise how badly he antagonised certain people.
It's All About Me: By the end, he is pimping young girls. Renton notes that he's become "untainted by compassion or conscience."
Skagboys reveals that he was doing this when he first started using smack, with a sixteen year old girl and keeping her wrapped round his little finger with dope, no less.
Lack of Empathy: Did seem to have a degree of empathy in Skagboys, though his opportunistic side usually got the better of him. Examples are him genuinely being shocked at Coke's death, comforting Renton before his brother's funeral, actually intending to kill Maria's father's murderer, and internally begging Nicksy not to jump to his death, as Nicksy "has been sound" by putting him and Mark up in his flat.
Laser-Guided Karma: Apart from his personal disaster in the third novel, in Skagboys he's milking a rich London girl Lucinda for all she's worth. Hoping to marry and bairn his way into the family fortune, he almost gets away with it, until Nicksy causes a scene with his attempted suicide. As a result, the Jamaican-Cockney bint he's been shafting gleefully tells Cinders about his infidelity, and the scam goes kaput big time.
Like Father, Like Son: His dad messed his mother about with various girls, just as he's been wont to do ever since puberty. But unlike the old man, he's had a measure of success with scams in other fields and has travelled Europe, showing his wider aspirations.
I'm in shock. It's like everything good's gone, and the rest's been turned upside down.
Danny "Spud" Murphy
"Ah suppose man, ah'm too much ay a perfectionist, ken? It's likesay, if things go a bit dodgy, ah jist cannae be bothered, y'know?"
One of the stalwart members of the crew, he's by far the most gentle and pleasant to be around, albeit a major tea leaf. After being made redundant from his furniture removals job, he applies his skills in a more ropey fashion. Unfortunately, he also falls into heroin with the rest of the gang for the greater part of his life. Yet when he and Allison fall in love, things start to look up .. somewhat.
Beware the Nice Ones: He'll only recourse to violence as a last resort, if you attack one of his mates, or else if you really infuriate him.
You also have to push his buttons pretty damn hard to get him to curse.
Throw the Dog a Bone: At the end, when he rips off the others after the drug deal Spud is the only one Renton does right by, giving him his full share of the proceeds.
The Unintelligible: It's hard to understand him if you're not an Edinburgh native. Even in the book, his chapters are narrated in a thick Scottish mush.
Verbal Tic: Tends to describe people as cats and runs the full gamut of feline metaphors, from "wee sexy kittens" for attractive girls to "jungle cat" for Begbie and his nutter mates. Miaaaawwwow.
Also, "likesay" or in other words, "know what I mean?". Other character occasionally use it but no way near as much as him.
Francis "Franco" James Begbie
"Are ye sorry for being a fat fuckin cunt?"
The only one of the main characters who doesn't do heroin (though in the original book and its sequel he does speed and cocaine). He does people, and regards junkies as the lowest forms of life. An ex-convict from prison, Begbie is extremely sadistic and frequently terrorizes his "friends" who are wary around him. In the past, he was much more like them, but after being in jail he has come to believe in his own (and their) propaganda about him being the baddest guy in town. Begbie views himself as a straight-up guy, a leader, and a heroic Bad Ass who everyone should respect.
Armoured Closet Gay: Oh dear God, yes. He wasn't originally written that way, but Danny Boyle saw traces of it in the book and decided to play that aspect up in his film. Irvine Welsh later agreed that it was a fair portrayal. However the novel version of the character can easily be interpreted as straight.
Catch Phrase: "End ay fucking story!" and delivering a firm statement followed by "mates or nae mates", "fitba or nae fitba" etc.
Cluster F-Bomb: You rarely go more than eight or so words without a "fuckin", "shite", "cunt" or other hard curse stabbing in through Begbie's thoughts/speech.
Combat Pragmatist: Relies on random tools and beer glasses to batter his enemies into submission. Failing that, he'll throw in a sneaky headbutt, quick one-two punches and multiple bootings while the guy is helpless on the deck.
He beats another with a pool cue for opening a packet of crisps and distracting him from taking his shot on the pool table. From the other end of the bar. While facing the opposite direction.
Domestic Abuser: An especially cruel one, who beats and kicks his pregnant girlfriend June in the groin. After she gives birth, he abandons both her and the child, never even mentioning them again. He also directly (albeit probably unintentionally) caused her to miscarriage from a violent shag. And that's not all; when she miscarriaged another time (likely due to alcohol and smoking) he utterly failed to comfort her, instead rubbing the bloodied underwear in her face and calling her a murderer.
For what it's worth though, on the last one he might have shown some remorse in the form of a tear. Or Alison might have been mistaken.
Even Evil Has Standards: Has a variety of aversions to sins he considers beyond the pale, despite having his own hypocritical flaws relative to each.
Despises peadophiles with every fibre of his being, and incurred more jail time for his beatings on them. But his hatred of sex offenders hardly makes him any better of a father when you consider his neglect, poor parental advice and occasional violence against his sons.
Has a measure of respect for the elderly. But he still kicks in his auld Uncle Dickey for forcing him to choose between loyalty to him and the advancement of his criminal reputation.
He can't stand to see women beaten by abusive boyfriends... perhaps something of a projection of his own Domestic Abuser tendencies. It doesn't take much to get him to justify severly assualting his ex-wife, and he would have done the same to his new lassie Kate if not for a last minute change of heart.
Knife Nut: In the movie, he always carries a "chib" with him and pulls it on just about everyone who sets him off. Averted in the books, where he prefers knitting needles and screwdrivers, since he finds it easier to stick them in between someone's ribs.
Memetic Badass: In universe, the other characters built up a mythos around how much of a psychopath and all round Bad Ass Begbie is. Unfortunately, he starts to believe his own hype.
Parental Abandonment: Begbie abandons his son shortly after he's born, and the same likely happened to him.
Redemption Equals Affliction: Gets run over in Porno and after a distraught Renton rushes to his aid, he implicitly forgives him for nicking his share of the cash. This makes him shift his focus to his real enemy, Sick Boy.
Sociopathic Hero: How his friends treat him. The book makes it clear that Begbie's friends are just as guilty as he is - they have painted him as the ultimate psychopath so they will look cooler by hanging out with him.
Straight Edge Evil: Begbie has absolute disdain for drugs and all drug users and is easily the most despicable of the main characters.
Francoís voice is something tae hear, itís like wi it bein Hogmanay, heís absorbed just the right amount ay alcohol n good vibes and they intersect at this wonderous vector as he briefly becomes something else, this force ay grace and soul.
Not for long, however. He doesn't appreciate playing the soulful rocker, at least not with the attendant fan attention.
Spud falls silent, as does the rest ay the room. We all instantly understand how Begbie sees that this wee fragment ay beauty in his soul has been exposed, and how even through his ain ego and the flattery received, he looks on it as a potential weakness, something that might one day compromise him.
Begbie:"Itís jist fuckin singin, right."
Was picked on by his brother and his father was an absentee drunk. No wonder he turned out into such a bad egg.
"Better than sex. The ultimate hit. I'm a fucking adult, I can find out for myself. Well, I'm finding out all right."
A childhood friend of Renton's who doesn't do heroin, preferring instead to take speed. After a series of events initiated by Renton, Tommy's girlfriend, Lizzie, dumps him, leading Tommy to go on a downward spiral. He begins taking heroin, eventually becoming HIV Positive. Tommy dies in the film, and is mentioned to have died sometime between Trainspotting and Porno in the books.
A washed up former star striker. His drug of choice is booze, and in quantities to put even any of his friends to shame. In the original novel, he is one of the five who journey down to London for the big heroin deal. By the time of Porno, he's teetotal, found God and wants as little to do with the lads as possible.
"Cunt, it's like a fuckin school project tae you! Well, it'll be like tryin tae find a needle in a haystack. Cunt, ye dinnae even ken whaire the fuckin skag is! They've goat guards, probably dugs..."
A long time mate of the main group. Went down to London with Renton in the late 70s, riding the punk movement for cynical shits and giggles. Unfortunately, it only went downhill from there. Has been using heroin the longest out of any of them apart from the dealers. He serves to epitomise the thieving, self destroying junkie with poor health and hygiene which the others are in ever greater danger of becoming.
Composite Character: His tragic death is combined with the literary Tommy's breakup and subsequent decline into heroin addiction for the film's version of Tommy.
Country Matters / Sir Swears-a-Lot: In Skagboys, he starts almost every sentence off with the word 'cunt'. It seems he's stopped this by Trainspotting, which suggests he's even more dead inside by that point.
Empty Shell: Has been doing hard drugs for so long (even before the beginning of Skagboys that he's probably the most jaded, emotionless junkie of the group, living purely from fix to fix. The only less sympathetic individuals are the dealers. He does evoke pity, however.
The Rival: Views Keezbo as this. This culminates in him kicking out a plank that was Keezbo's only means of escape from a factory when they're being chased by security.
Sympathy for the Devil: It's hard not to feel sorry for him when Renton and Sick Boy gang up on him at the end of Skagboys, especially with the knowledge that he is now HIV positive.
A friend of the group who works in the dole office. His position there is taken advantage of by them more often than not. He is one of the few people Renton stays in contact with after he moves to Amsterdam.
A character mentioned briefly in Trainspotting as being in jail. In Skagboys, Keezbo is an overweight, extroverted member of the group who starts doing heroin alongside the others. He is revealed to be HIV positive in one of the final chapters. He is one of the five, along with Renton, Spud, Sick Boy and Matty, who go to try and steal heroin from a factory at the end of the book. When they are chased by police, he is left behind after Matty knocks down a plank of wood that was his only means of escape.
Acro Fatic: To a degree. He knows how to bust a move on the dance-floor anyway.
Ascended Extra: He's mentioned once in Trainspotting, but appears as one of the major characters in Skagboys.
Verbal Tic: Not really a tic, but he addresses everyone as "Mr." or "Mrs.", e.g. "Mr. Mark", "Mr. Frank", "Mr. Rab", etc.
You Are Fat: Pretty much every insult thrown his way, usually by Matty, consists of this. That or the fact that he's ginger and wears glasses.
Brian "Nicksy" Nixon
"I ain't got much time for blokes who think they're better than anyone else, like they're the only ones full of big ideas and dodgy scams."
A Cockney friend of Renton's, whom he met in 1979 with Matty during the punk scene. Renton and Sick Boy stay with him in his flat in London during Skagboys, as they agree to smuggle drugs across from Amsterdam on the ferries.
Ascended Extra: Gets narration duties in Skagboys, having only been mentioned a few times in Trainspotting.
A generic friend of the group who appears sporadically, with little to no importance. He apparently takes jokes way too far, often still finding something funny long after everyone else has grown tired of it.
Demoted to Extra: His already limited role in Trainspotting is reduced in Skagboys, where he's only mentioned a few times.
The Generic Guy: He pretty much exists to fill space, along with Mony, Moysie, Saybo, Shaun and Sully, who are pretty much 24 Hour Party People with names. Whilst he does manage to get more lines than them, he has no discernible personality to speak of.
Mark's underage one night stand, who returns in Porno as his Love Interest.
"You're not getting any younger, Mark. The world is changing, music is changing, even drugs are changing. You can't stay in here all day dreaming about Ziggy Pop and heroin."
Age Lift: Is sixteen in the film, compared to fourteen in the book.
All Girls Want Bad Boys: Played with. She dated Billy Renton in her teens and has a casual relationship with Sick Boy. But she ends up with Spud who, despite burning his brain out on all manner of drugs and stealing from anyone, is very much a sweet guy.
Ascended Extra: In Porno (to an extent) and Skagboys, where she gets narration duties.
Not What It Looks Like: She and Rents want to shag on Hogmanay 1985, but he's too bombed out to get it up, so they just literally sleep in the nude together. Spud and some others find them like this, and Renton's denial tells them that they he did slip her a length. As opposed to if he had boasted about it, whereby nobody would believe that they did it.
A Call Forward to the original novel, where Mark was briefly accused of impregnating her and leaving the baby to die of cot death.
June Begbie (nee Chisolm/Taylor)
Begbie's abused ex girlfriend. Raised two of his sons almost exclusively while he was doing time in Saughton.
The elder brother of Mark, serving in the British Army. The two are constantly at odds with one another, dating back to their childhood years. Billy and his mates are Hearts supporters or "Jambos", in contrast to Renton and co's Hibernian team. Billy is killed by an IRA attack, and Renton is forced to endure the Protestant members of the family at the funeral along with army representatives. Renton gets acquainted with Billy's girlfriend Shannon in retaliation.
Franco's elder brother. While they hated each other growing up, they now seem to be on better terms. Joe is also violent but has a better control on his temper than Franco. He occasionally acts as a mediator for the Generalissimo's random acts of brutality, or to set up an appointment should you want to visit him in prison. Conversely, Beggars sometimes cites sticking up for him as a flimsy excuse to attack whoever he likes across Edinburgh's schemes.
Football Hooligans: Introduces some of the group to the Glue boys before their epic battle against Rangers circa 1980.
Retired Badass: While he might still go out looking for fights and to get trashed on alcohol, he seems to have simmered down somewhat in middle age. He's got a wife and two kids and is better in both capacities than Franco could ever dream of. He quite possibly even holds down a regular job, unlike his brother who relies on criminal activity and dole handouts to get by.
Yet another of Renton and Sick Boy's teenage friends, playing amateur football for a small local team. He got deep into the seedy underside of Edinburgh in the eighties, becoming a long term dealer and user. He's one of the friendlier hustlers at least superficially.
A hardman from Muirhouse, who hangs around very sketchy characters while punting class As in his scheme. Instantly dislikes Renton due to him pulling a random bint he had a crush on, and the feeling is mutual.
Friendly Enemy: With him and Rents, its purely business. They resented each other greatly from their first meeting.
Probably the most violent, scary dealer in town; on par with Begbie for sheer menace. Procures a highly potent strain of heroin from a Gorgie pharmaceutical factory, but when his inside man gets caught he angrily turns him into an (unwilling) national courier. Gets thrown into rehab along with the lads, but unlike most of the patients there he genuinely wants to get off heroin so that he can focus full time on dealing. He sticks to this plan, but by the time of Porno he's not changed for the better in any perceivable fashion.
Ascended Extra: He's mentioned a few times throughout Trainspotting, but never makes an appearance. He makes an appearance in Porno, and is quite prominent in Skagboys towards the end.
Badass Biker: Got himself into a nasty accident. What with all the metalwork from the surgery, he now relies on heroin to soothe his pains over the winter.