Robert Carlyle interview: The actor on monstrous matriarchs, and going to the dogs

Carlyle, 54, is a Bafta-winning Scottish actor whose films include 'Trainspotting', 'The Full Monty' and '28 Weeks Later'

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The Independent Online

I grew up with a lot of people like Begbie [the sociopathic character played by Carlyle in 1996's Trainspotting]. He's a mixture of three or four people I've known – all in jail. One guy used to dress deliberately provocatively so that people would stare at him and then he'd have a go at them; he lived for it. It was important for me to keep the other boys [on the Trainspotting set] on edge a bit, so I had a rougher edge to my personality throughout filming: I'd call them all the names under the sun to wind them up before a scene – then the actor doesn't have to act!

You don't see too many American actresses taking on monstrous roles You offer that sort of part to a Hollywood actress and they wouldn't want to be seen in that light. But any actor worth their salt should look to confound audience expectations. It's why I asked Emma Thompson to play a crazy, psychotic part [of a raddled matriarch] in The Legend of Barney Thomson [which Carlyle stars in and directs]. I knew she was a brave actress – she was a beautiful woman until we got that make-up on her. I think that adventurousness is what differentiates Brits from Americans.

I've never said I'm a method actor; I just think that actors should do research I went homeless for a while, for [1993 film] Safe; it gives you something extra, a little bit of knowledge you didn't have. I used to do a lot of preparation for roles, but once you reach a certain level of celebrity, you become the observed rather than the observer.

I'm always looking to be as real as I can as an actor For me the best example of that was in a film I did seven years ago, Summer. It was a small, no-budget film with no publicity. My character, Shaun [a downtrodden carer for his wheelchair-bound best friend], was not that far removed from me. A lot of people think that's the easiest thing to do, but I think it's the hardest thing, to be slightly left of centre of yourself. That's the guy I could have been.

 

Most of the time you can't tell if actors are telling the truth I've got actor friends, but I prefer musicians: they may put on an act for the fans, but usually what you see is what you get, as they are a bit more honest – and they are better for a party.

I'd give a lot to experience what it's like to be a rock star It's not about adulation; it's about that force you can feel on stage, the energy coming from the crowd to the artist. I'm in a very privileged position, as most of the time I get to see concerts from the side of the stage. I've been with the Oasis lads to some fantastic gigs, and with Kasabian, too. They did a gig at T in the Park a few years ago, and to watch this sea of bodies moving up and down was beautiful.

I get p***ed off by the little things I hate rudeness, queue jumpers and people who are loud in restaurants. I was in a restaurant a few days ago and our table was close to the bar, where this guy was throwing empty bottles into a crate; you can imagine the noise they made, smashing into one another.

I love going to the dogs It's a great night. My dad used to take me to Shawfield [Stadium, near Glasgow] twice a week through my early years. I was most interested in the dogs themselves – although when you went down to the side of the track and saw the bookies, each one had their own, beautifully designed tickets, which came in grand colours, and I collected them, like football cards.

Robert Carlyle, 54, is a Bafta-winning Scottish actor whose films include 'Trainspotting', 'The Full Monty' and '28 Weeks Later'. He is currently appearing in the fantasy TV series 'Once Upon a Time'. 'The Legend of Barney Thomson' (15) is out on Friday

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