Robert Carlyle: Begbie has followed me my whole life

Image source, AlamyImage caption, Robert Carlyle played Begbie in the 1996 film Trainspotting

Robert Carlyle is one of Scotland's most successful and versatile actors yet one role has defined his career more than any other.

Begbie in the 1996 film Trainspotting catapulted him to the public's attention and he reprised the role in the 2017 sequel, T2.

He's also announced he will give the psychopathic character a third outing in a spin-off TV series based on another Irvine Welsh novel, The Blade Artist.

"Begbie has followed me around my whole life" Carlyle told BBC Scotland's Stark Talk. "It is just incredible that character has survived that long in people's consciousness."

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Robert Carlyle starred in seven seasons of American television show Once Upon A Time

Carlyle, who is now 60, says he can't really explain how he captures the rage which he embodies in Begbie.

"You descend into somewhere which is quite dark in a real sense of rage, which is something we have probably all got in us to a certain extent.

"You need to tap into that moment in the most vile part of yourself. Be open and be honest that that is within you and play with it. It's a strange thing."

Carlyle, who grew up in Glasgow's Maryhill, says he was not an angry child, despite his mother leaving when he was just three.

"From what I gather from my dad and family I was 'a lovely wee boy'," he says.

"Maybe these things have surfaced later in life for me. Maybe they show themselves in these intense parts."

Carlyle, who is also famous for playing amateur stripper Gaz in the Full Monty, says he was painfully shy when he was younger but he was still drawn to acting because of his love of films.

"Being inside a cinema was an escape from the reality in which I was living," he says.

"It was an escape from the extreme poverty that I grew up in."

Secret acting classes

Aged 18, while working with his dad as an apprentice painter and decorator, he went along to an acting workshop that was advertised in the newspaper.

"I was curious," he says.

"I sat there, for months probably, in the corner, trying to vanish. It was a world away from what I knew. I was beyond shy but I kept going back for some reason."

When he was finally told he had to take part in the class, he performed an improvisation and the teachers were stunned by his explosive talent.

"I don't remember what it was I did but I remember the feeling and it was like some kind of mad drug – adrenaline, I guess, that was coursing through me – and I thought 'what was that'?"

He also loved the reaction it got.

"There was 40 or 50 kids in the room and they all applauded," he says. "I remember that."

He kept his acting classes secret for a long time until eventually he got a place at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (now the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland), which wasn't a wholly happy experience.

At one point he left and was "getting my paint brushes back out" before he was persuaded to stay.

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Robert Carlyle (right) with T2 Trainspotting co-stars Ewen Bremner (left), Ewan McGregor and Jonny Lee Miller

One of Carlyle's first high-profile roles was in TV series Cracker in 1994 where he played murderer Albie Kinsella, showcasing his renowned "intensity" in a highly-acclaimed performance.

It was while filming Cracker in Manchester that he met Anastacia, a make-up artist from Greenock, who later became his wife.

"She saw past the nutter, thank god," Carlyle says.

The pair have been married since 1997 and have three teenage children.

"It is everything for me to be a dad and have that family unit," he says. "Something I was deprived of as a kid."

After Cracker, Carlyle landed the lead role in the BBC comedy-drama Hamish Macbeth, about a Highland policeman, which ran for three series. Then came Begbie.

Carlyle says he loves playing him.

"It's amazing. You can't do any wrong," he says.

Carlyle says there is a lot of repression in Begbie and hints that his true sexuality could be "open to interpretation", something that writer Irvine Welsh has denied.

Image source, Getty ImagesImage caption, Pierce Brosnan and Robert Carlyle on the set of James Bond film The World is not Enough

Despite a number of big budget film roles, including the villain Renard in the 1999 James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, Carlyle has never become a movie star like his Trainspotting co-star Ewan McGregor.

"It's the way things land," he says.

"I could have went a different road but I continued to make low budget independent films and that's my love and that's what I always wanted to do."

However, when his three children were young he decided a different approach was needed and from 2011 to 2018 he starred in seven seasons of the American fantasy-drama television series Once Upon A Time.

"I was at a stage in my life where I thought I needed some money to put some bread on the table," he says.

"It was great. I was able to come home and be dad."

Stark Talk is on BBC Radio Scotland at 18:30 on 25 December and on BBC Sounds.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *