Monty s ython
Whether stripping off clothes in The Full Monty or ripping off cash in Face, ROBERT CARLYLE has made the jump from character actor to big screen star. But getting naked in the flesh doesn't mean he's dropping his defences. Words: Eddie Gibb Photograph: Rankin
ROBERT CARLYLE EXPRESSES a love of football, a rare personal detail he lets slip because it neatly fits with the image of what Glaswegians would call a brand-new guy. ‘I love it. man. I fucking love it.’ he says. ‘It is difficult now. but I generally go to quieter games with smaller crowds. I’ve got my baseball cap on. and l blend in as much as l can.’
But inquire what colour scarf he wound round his neck as a boy. and Carlyle spots the danger a mile off. Asking a working-class Glaswegian which team he follows is simply a polite way of popping the Catholic or Protestant question. which is territory way too personal. Partick Thistle. he answers after the point is pressed. which is no doubt true given that he was brought up in Maryhill, but that particular team also happen to be the Swiss neutrals in a city which partly defines itself by
‘Nothing can prepare you for standing there with yer cock out in front of 300 women.’
football’s tribal war. Very convenient.
As the ironic star of Hamish Macbeth, which tickled the nation’s love for light entertainment of a Sunday evening, and Trainspottian Pringle-clad casual Begbie. Carlyle the actor is very much in the public eye. He just doesn’t see why that means his private life should be as well. The huge popularity of Hamish Macbeth meant that he would inevitably be a target. with reporters keeping a close eye on possible girlfriend activity. Sourced from comments by anonymous ‘friends’. they concluded that his relationship with EasiEnc/ers actress Caroline Paterson was over and another with a Granada TV make-up artist had begun. Reporters also tracked down his mother, who left home when
her son was four, but Carlyle reportedly declined to meet her. Did he feel under seige when such stories ran?
‘Absolutely.’ he replies. ‘lt’s back to that Sunday night telly thing. and anybody who’s in that position is going to be subject to that. and it’s disgusting. l can’t possibly sit and complain about my life. but at the same time. that kind of pressure from the press and the attack you get in your personal life is something l wouldn’t wish on anybody. Any journalist worth their salt wouldn’t touch that kind of work.’
Point taken. When Carlyle consents to an interview. which he does with surprisingly good grace considering his afore-mentioned suspicion of the press, it is on the unspoken but rigidly enforced condition that the only subject up for discussion is his work — though football offers a possible alternative. At least there is plenty to talk about. The 36- year-old actor is promoting two films which are being premiered at the Edinburgh International Film Festival — Face and The Full Monty, in which Carlyle plays a gangster and an
unemployed Sheffield steelworker turned stripper respectively. ‘I think there is a connection between
them.’ he says. ‘lt’s maybe not an obvious one because both films seem to be so different in terms of mood and atmosphere, but they’re still dealing with two guys of roughly the same age who went through this whole Thatcher years bit and are struggling to survive.’ Unsurprisingly. he refuses to express a preference, though for my money The Full Monty is the better film. It starts out as a comedy about five lads without prospects who decide to form a male stripper act in a desperate attempt to supplement their giros. but successfully combines sharp social
FREE TICKETS FOR THE FULL MONTY
The first two people to bring this copy of The List to the box office of the UCI. Kinnalrtd Park. Edinburgh will receive a pair of tickets for the Gala Screening of The Full Monty on Sun 17 Aug at 7.15pm. Thanks to UCI Cinemas.
comment with high farce. ‘Nothing can prepare you for standing there with yer cock out in front of 300 women,’ says Carlyle of the scene which gives the ﬁlm its name.
Carlyle plays Gaz, who is about to lose custody of his ten-year-old child if he doesn’t come up with some maintenance money, and quick. The film’s portrayal of the father-son relationship is particularly touching and was the subject which drew Carlyle to the script. But ask him if it reminded him of his own unconventional relationship with his father, who brought the young Bobbie up in a hippie commune after his mother left, and he has nothing to say. ‘It didn’t occur to me, to be honest.‘ Down come those shutters again.
In Face. Carlyle plays Ray, an armed robber who is well respected by his underworld associates but is troubled by his rather implausible relationship with a middle-class girl, who represents the film’s social conscience by spending her spare time protesting over the deportation of Kurdish refugees. It’s fair to say she never pictured herself as a gangster’s moll. The film is directed by Antonia Bird, who previously cast Carlyle in Priest and the homeless drama Safe. The storyline is a rather predictable heist-gone-wrong situation that draws heavily from Reservoir Dogs and attempts to translate some of Tarantino’s verbal intensity to a British thriller.
Though Carlyle turns in a very watchable performance —- which frankly is not news these days — Face is likely to generate most publicity as the screen-acting debut of Blur frontman Damon Albarn who makes a good job of a minor role. There has to be a suspicion that Albarn’s presence was engineered to emphasise the fashionable mod associations of the title. But, of course, it is Carlyle who is the real face and. like Ray, he commands respect in his chosen profession. I wonder whether this makes it difficult to play hard-luck guys like Gaz, in the same way Robert De Niro is never entirely convincing as the ordinary Joe because he just can’t help being extraordinary on screen.
‘lt does get more difficult for you the more well known you become, but I think you’ve got to choose the parts carefully,’ says Carlyle. ‘Like with De Niro, what chance has the guy got now — if you do performances like Raging Bull, King Of Comedy, The Godfather, and you’ve got all that under your belt inside five or six years. what the fuck have you got left to surprise people with. He’s an exceptional actor, one of the greatest there’s ever been, but Jesus. it’s a hard job for him nowadays.’
Carlyle is at an interesting point in his career. He is the brilliant character who became a movie-opening star. which burdens him with an extra responsibility of carrying the whole film or TV series while still wanting to immerse himself in his own role. The question now is whether that very star quality takes him away from the tightly coiled characters that made his name. Watch this face.
Face (Film Festival) ABC Lothian Road. Edinburgh, 0131 467 8855, 15 Aug. 8pm: ABC Wester Hailes, 22 Aug, 8pm, £6 (£4): general release from Fri 19 Sep. The Full Monty (Film Festival) UCI. Edinburgh, 0131 467 8855, 17 Aug, 7.15pm; Glasgow Film Theatre, 0141 332 8128. 19 Aug, 8.15pm, £6 (£4); general release from Fri 29 Aug. See reviews page 84 and 86.
15—21 Aug 1997rrr£usr19