A Chat With Robert Carlyle...
Despite carving out a streak of memorable dark characters, Robert Carlyle is no one-trick pony when it comes to his acting talent. Performances ranging from a friendly Highland copper in TV's Hamish MacBeth, the unemployed steel worker turned stripper Gaz in the Full Monty (1997) and the unforgettable vicious thug Begbie in Trainspotting (1996) makes Carlyle one of Britain's most versatile actor's. In Pearse Elliott’s THE MIGHTY CELT he takes on the role of former IRA member O. Carlyle gives his views on the part...
What did you respond to most about O when you read the script – his politics or his relationships with Kate and Donal?
It’s kind of impossible to separate the two with the character, I think. I suppose the answer to the question is more about the honesty that was contained within the script, and the humanity that these characters possess. I’ve been offered a lot of stuff to do with Northern Ireland, about the troubles and stuff. And this was different – it was to do with hope in a way I hadn’t seen before. Tyrone’s character, the way I see it – he could be Northern Ireland as a microcosm. Which way is he going to go? And I thought that was beautifully written and very nicely placed.
Do you think The Mighty Celt gains even more resonance in light of recent terrorist attacks in London?
You know, someone just mentioned that to me today, and I genuinely hadn’t equated that at all. Of course, O was a terrorist – and you can’t get away from that at. It’s so difficult to talk about that in the light of today, because it’s such an emotive subject. Everybody has got the propensity for change, and somebody at 21 is going to be different from someone at 42. That’s the way I looked at it. This guy, you feel like he has a passion from this fucking crazy thing from what he was involved with. The guy leaves this and then re-examines his life. And the way I’ve seen it – a lot of these guys ended up in South America. So through that, he would’ve seen life he’s not used to – great poverty and a real struggle for survival – which probably changed his perception of his previous troubles. He’s come to the point now where he’s seen this as a war. Whether you can call terrorist acts part of a war, it’s a hell of a fucking issue to go into, but there’s something interesting about these people after the event. To ask them, ‘Why did you do it? Why did you feel this way? Why did you do that?’ You can tell – and hopefully with the portrayal I’m trying to give – there’s a guy who has thought deeply about his life. When Tyrone’s character says, ‘I can’t imagine you doing bad things’, he says, ‘Neither can I.’
How does O’s involvement with the IRA affect him, then?
I think it’s obviously going to inform the rest of your life in some fashion. But people have got involved in it the conflict in Ireland for various reasons, but the bulk of them were reasons of the heart. They believe it utterly. I don’t think that this man’s political attitude is going to change dramatically. I think what he’s decided is that the violent conflict is over but the peaceful conflict – the dialogue – continues.
Any further news on Porno, and whether this sequel to Trainspotting will ever be made?
All I can say is, no one has contacted me about it. There has been no contact at all. Irvine [Welsh] would like it to go ahead. I would be up for it. I think Begbie is an interesting character. I think – dare I say it – he’s a rather important character, socially – in terms of Scottish psyche. It’s about this whole machismo thing. What I tried to do was stand it on its head, in the way I played the part, and I would like to revisit that to see if he’s reached in his inevitable end. So we can put that in a box and go, ‘There’s your Scottish fucking hardman – and he’s an asshole!’