Danny Boyle made his first trip to SXSW to tease footage from his psychological thriller Trance, which opens via Fox Searchlight April 5. But in the packed Vimeo theater on Saturday, Boyle raised eyebrows by screening a pivotal last-act sequence that seemed to give away the film’s finale. The shocked audience reaction to the potential spoiler was so palpable it was the first thing moderator David Carr mentioned when the lights came up, and I hear the studio was taking pains to manage the unexpected situation following the event. “That’s not the exact ending”, Boyle insisted to Deadline following his spoilery faux pas. “It’s near the end but it’s not the exact ending, no. We showed it because there’s no point in coming to SXSW without showing something dynamic. So you show them a bit of your proper filmmaking”. Boyle says he would have preferred to screen the entire film at SXSW but distribution politics made things tricky. “Pathe distribute in the UK and France because they were the ones who gave us money to do Slumdog, so we stayed loyal to them in those two territories”, he said. (Trance world premieres in London on March 19.)

An appearance at the youth-skewing, forward-thinking SXSW had additional appeal for the Oscar-winner, who also DJed a Trance party with Underworld musician and longtime collaborator Rick Smith. Boyle admitted that Trance and SXSW will help him “reposition” his brand after directing Slumdog Millionaire, 127 Hours, and the London Olympics’ Opening Ceremony. Those high-profile projects are “uplifting, inspiring, redemptive experiences that fulfill”, he said. “[Trance] is not that kind of film”. The pic is his first since 2007’s Sunshine not to open as potential Oscar bait. Boyle pointed to Oscar-winner Kathryn Bigelow as an example of why he made that strategic career move: “If she makes another movie people are going to assume it’s an Academy Award contender straight away. If she wants to make a trashy thriller what she’ll do is release it at a different time of year”.

James McAvoy, Vincent Cassel, and Rosario Dawson star in Boyle’s sexually charged thriller, which he filmed on the heels of his Olympics gig. It’s packed with violence, sex, and nudity, which Boyle says gave him a “perverse” joy to explore following his run of feelgood fare. “The film is disturbing — people shouldn’t wander into it expecting the Queen to appear, from the Opening Ceremony, or that there’s going to be a dance number in it”.

Related: Joss Whedon Q&A On Eve Of SXSW