Robert Carlyle: Family Man

Spurred by his own father son relationship, Robert Caryle shirks the waster image he once had to emerge a kind hearted family man.
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Spurred by his own father son relationship, Robert Caryle shirks the waster image he once had to emerge a kind hearted family man.

“Hollywood is all bullshit and I’ve never been interested in bullshit,” declares actor Robert Carlyle. “And that’s not just the film business - it’s everywhere, even in the parking lots- and certain actors can enjoy and thrive in that but, I know what kind of career it involves and what you’ve got to give up- such as spending time with your family. “

Indeed, talking to Carlyle, arguably most recognisable as, Gaz, the unemployed steel worker who loses his pants to find his self-esteem, in the massively successful, The Full Monty, it is immediately apparent that for him family life matters above all.

He was born in Maryhill, Glasgow, in 1961. His mother Elizabeth left the connubial nest when the actor was four leaving his painter and decorator father, Joe, to bring him up on his own.

“After she left, dad just jumped into this hippy world and dropped out,” he recalls in his soft Glaswegian accent. “ We lived in what some people would say was a commune but to me it was just a squat in Glasgow that we shared with people in a similar situation who cooked for each other.”

After the house was demolished in 1966 the Carlisle’s and their gang went from town to town for the next ten years until the actor was 15. They ended up in Brighton “There were still things called ‘happenings’,” he recollects. “My dad used to take me to ‘peoples picnics’ on the beach where people sang and played guitars as the sun went down.”

Noticeably,   a slight crack appears in Carlyle’s voice  each time  he mentions his father ,who died four years ago aged 76.

“I visited all the paces we used to go in Glasgow after he died and cried,” he  remembers . “ I could see how hard it was for my dad after my mother left; how much my father sacrificed and that everything he did was for me.”

Irrefutably, Carlyle gives good dad. He excelled as Dan, the father of two kids turned flesh eating monster in the chilling, 28 Weeks Later, shone as the pixilated parent in Alan Parker’s, Angela’s Ashes while for, The Full Monty, he delivered a superbly nuanced turn as, a recently divorced unemployed steel worker turned exotic dancer, whose son never leaves his side.

“ I feel very privileged to have been in two British landmarks films,” he remarks proudly. “ The Full Monty which was massive all over the world and Trainspotting, that almost defined 90’s UK film making.”

Undoubtedly, as Begbie the psychopathic glass chewing Scottish hard man in, Trainspotting, Bobby Carlisle as he is known to his friends, steals the show.

“Begbie is kind of a composite of the guys I knew as a teenager,” he clarifies. “ Most of them are locked up or dead now.”

Yet, talking to this enormously gracious actor, who also played the psychotic, Albie Kinsella, in Cracker, Jimmy the nut job in, Once Upon A Time in The Midlands and Adolf Hitler in Hitler`; the Rise of Evil, one gets the felling that there might well be a tiger lurking in his tank

“As a teenager I learnt to fight first and ask questions later,” he clarifies. “Because I was back and forward in loads and loads of different schools, I was into fights on a daily basis.”

No wonder then that, Carlyle, left school aged 16 and went to work with his father as a painter and decorator. He downed tools aged 21, after exchanging a birthday gift book token for a copy of Arthur Miller’s, The Crucible, saw the light and subsequently studied drama first at Glasgow Arts Centre followed by the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

“It was tough,” he  exhales. “I’d say that there was an 8  to 10 year period to age 28 that was hard man. All I got was people calling me a f***ing waster, even my girlfriends were like what are you doing? Go get a PROPER job!

He’s saved for years for 10 years and hadn’t spent any of it because it was there for me just in case it all went wrong.

“But my dad was always incredibly supportive. Years after, I’d done a Bond movie and had bought my dad a house [he was uber bad guy Renard in the World is Not Enough] he says to me: ‘you’re doing quite well sonny.’ He then pulled out his wee bank book out of his pocket- it had £3000 pounds on it -and added, ‘just in case it didn’t work out for you I put a wee bit away for you so you could buy yourself a van and a nice set of brushes.’  He’s saved for years for 10 years and hadn’t spent any of it because it was there for me just in case it all went wrong.”

Of course nothing has gone wrong for Carlyle. He has starred in some thirty or so films - some of which have triumphed at the box office while others have achieved  under ground status . He was awarded an   OBE for services to drama in 1999 and has his own theatre company. Raindog, dedicated to pioneering work .He is now is starring in, and directing, the cult US TV series, SGU Stargate Universe

“Basically I like being at home with the family and doing my low budget films,” he concludes. “But I might turn to directing because as far as I’m concerned if you can find some work that pays your rent that you enjoy and that you are proud of and allows  you to spend time with your family then  you’ve cracked it. Thankfully that’s what I’ve got.”