contact with his fellow actors from Raindog. the Glasgow theatre company he co-founded in the 80s. Early last year he returned to act in The Lucky Suit. a short film written and directed by his former girlfriend and Eris-tenders star Caroline Paterson. Just before that. he had spent a longer period in the city shooting Ken Loach's latest feature. C ur/a is Song.
In the film. Carlyle plays (icorge. a driver of
Glasgost No 72 bus. whose chance encounter with a troubled refugee takes him out of the pattern of his day-to-day life and into the heart of the Sandinistas/Contras war in Nicaragua at the end of the 80s. (‘ur/aiv Song provides Carlyle with the rare opportunity to play a romantic lead with multi-laycred charisma. There‘s a cheeky toughness to the character that crumbles when faced with the horrors of war at close range. and yet the actor manages to fill the part with a sense of everyday heroism.
Preparing for his second role under Loach’s direction. Carlyle talked to various drivers at a Glasgow bus depot. read James Kelman‘s novel The Bus Conductor Hines and enrolled at the drivers‘ training school in Knightswood. ‘I mean. I was convinced I was just going to be driving in the yard. you know. setting tip cones and that.‘ he says. shaking his head at the memory. ‘Next thing. I‘ve to go out into the street. In a double decker bus. I was shiteing myself. That went on for a couple of hours of torture and eventually I calmed down and realised that people tend to get out the way if you‘re driving a bus.’
When Oyanka Cabezas — the actress who plays the refugee Carla — came to Scotland. Carlyle took her under his wing. ‘Oyanka was totally lost in Olasgow.’ he remembers. ‘l reacted to her the way that anybody would to any stranger in a foreign country of which they're unsure. I tried to make her feel totally at ease and tried to explain the aspects of the city that I knew about.
'ller linglish was limited. btit we compen-
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sated for that. My memories of the shoot — particularly in Glasgow — are just of being beside her a lot of the time and being there for her. When we were acting together in those scenes. it was kind of myjob to let the audience
‘I hope people will see posters for
Carla’s Song and say, “Oh, that’s
the cunt that was Begbie — I want to go and see it.” ’
understand what's going on with this lassie. To a certain extent. interpret for her.’
When cast and crew moved to Nicaragua. it was (‘arlyle‘s turn to be the fiin out of water. as (‘abe/as guided him through her country. 'I had a very limited amount of knowledge about Nicaragua remembered from benefits and
All tares in love and war: Robert Carlyle gets bhind te wheel in Carla's Song
ROBERT CARLYLE FEATURE
concerts in the S()s.' he explains. 'But even ifl had been the most well read person on the subject. there is nothing that could have prepared me for the impact of the country itself.
‘Your first impression is just devastation. In the 70s. an earthqttake hit the city of Managua. and it‘s never been rebuilt. It‘s the most fucking extraordinary landscape: block upon block of wasteland. then a wee shanty. a shed. and then suddenly you've got a building. and then for the next two blocks it‘s back to devastation again. It’s jtist unbelievable. the poverty. It‘s very difficult to go to a country like Nicaragua and say you're having a good time because you're constantly reminded of the people suffering.‘
The trip has obvioust left a lasting impression on (‘arlyle. but that‘s not surprising
ALTHOUGH BORN IN Nicaragua. newcomer Oyanka (‘abe/as ~ who plays refugee Carla — never suffered the same traumas as her character. The 24-year-old native of h‘lanagua trained as a classical dancer from an early age and joined Danza Contemporanea de (‘amera in her late teens. Since then. she has toured with the company across (‘entral America and Scandinavia and has twice played small roles in Spanish When it came to the casting call for Cur/a Iv Song. however. she was more tentative about going in front of the cameras. ‘I really wasn‘t
interested because I don‘t speak English and I am not really an actress.'
Not that that would deter Ken Loach. who's well known for casting
non-professionals in order to secure the correct emotional resonance for the role. ‘What happened to Oyanka is quite similar to what happens to (‘arla in that. when she came. she didn‘t have any English at all.‘ the director explains. ‘lt‘s quite difficult for her to express herself. there's a frustration about that. But. when she got to Nicaragua. then she became much more mature. much more sophisticated. much more precise in what she was able to do.‘
In July I995 Cabezas catne to the UK for an intensive language course. then found herself on the set for the first day of shooting a mere four months later. She sees her efforts as more than just making a movie. ‘It is very important to me that I do this film very well.’ she _ . says. ‘For some reason. I feel very. very close to Carla. even though I ‘ “i I never had these kinds ofexperiences. I think it is because I. Oyanka. am representing my country.‘
Oyanka Cabezas: from dancetloor to cinema screen in Carla’s Song
The List 24 Jan-6 Feb I997 7