Fresh from the hi-tech fantasy world of James Bond, ROBERT CARLYLE now finds himself on the rain-soaked streets of Limerick. Angela’s Ashes, adapted from the best-selling book, provides him with one of his toughest

acting challenges yet. (Joe‘s: Alan Morrison

ASK ANYONE T0 NAME THE THREE MOST POPULAR BOOKS of the 90s and what would they suggest'.’ The safe tnoncy is on Trainspotting. The Bette/I and Ange/(1's Ashes. So what strange coincidence has made Robert Carlyle the only actor to appear in film adaptations of all three'.’ All we need now is for him to dress tip in drag and do Bridge! .limes's Diary. and his dominance of the lit-film world would be complete.

The link between Begbie in Trainspotting and Daffy in the forthcoming screen version of The Berle/I is. of course. the Danny Boyle/Andrew Macdonald/John Hodge creative team. Angela‘s Ashes is a different matter entirely. Based on l-‘rank McCourt‘s phenomenally best-selling memoirs of his poverty- stricken Limerick childhood. Alan Parker‘s film takes Carler back to Ireland in the l‘)3()s and 40s. He plays Malachy McCourt. father of the story’s narrator and a man whose neglect of his family stems from excessive drinking.

‘What I tried to do was to find the lightness in the guy. and to try and paint a picture of a man who can‘t face up to his responsibilities.‘ says Carlyle. ‘I'Ie leaves his family in the lurch consistently. He can‘t hold down a job. he can‘t bring back the money when he does hold down a job. He drinks it all in the pub. but it‘s not through malice —- he was never actually abusive to them. lie was just useless. The way I see it. he's as much a victim as anyone else -- his crime was to get addicted to the drink. To paint Malachy McCourt as the villain of the piece would be to let off very lightly the society that allowed these conditions to exist.‘

It shouldn‘t come as a surprise that the star of Riff/{tiff

and Cur/(1's Sng was attracted to the social dimensions of the story. However. it‘s emotion. not politics. that emanates from Carlyle's performance. .Vlalachy fought against the Iinglish for the freedom of Ireland. and had to be smuggled to America with a price on his head. only to return and be rejected by the IRA and the 'new' Ireland. And because he‘s from the North. he is treated with suspicion and downright hostility by employers and his wife‘s family. No wonder he drowns his pain and disappointment in a pint of (iuinncss.

Carlyle stirs our sympathies for this essentially tragic

figure. who is truly loved by his sons. The real Frank McCourt was certainly impressed with what he saw. ‘I think Robert is brilliant.‘ he said. 'He has what I say about my father in the book the odd manner. He has that edge my father had. that sense of danger.‘ In every scene. the actor's face does the talking. allowing the audience tofee/ the situation rather than accept it with the detachment that sometimes comes with a period piece. At the very beginning of the film. as he cradles his new-born daughter. we see the complete and loving father that Malachy could have been. For Carlyle. however. such scenes took their toll.

‘They brought the baby in. three weeks old. and I jtist melted with this goi'geotis kid. fell in love with her.‘ he remembers. ‘In the afternoon we shot a scene where the baby has just died. It was a doll made tip to look dead. but it frightened me. I couldn’t help but see the wee kid’s face. hold that reality in my hands. Making the film was a fantastic experience for me. It was also traumatic in its own

way I spent a week burying children on screen.’

Carler kept up a connection with children in the last movie he shot. a low-budget affair called There 's Only One Jimmy (irimble. in which he plays a PI“. teacher at a Manchester school. However. first to the cinemas after Angela's Ashes will be The Berle/1. when again he’s in psycho mode as the enigmatic Scotsman who gives Leonardo DiCaprio’s Richard the map to the fabled island. Flawed fathers. on-the-edge nutters. a stripping ex- steelworker: Carlyle doesn‘t tie himself down.

‘I think it‘s essential for any actor to try and differentiate between their parts.’ he insists. ‘If you play two or three roles that are similar. you are limiting yourself. and you would then only have yourself to blame if you are typecast. I try to dodge and weave as much as possible. I‘m more confident now. but my approach is instinctive and the next role could always be the one where I fall on my arse.~

Angela’s Ashes opens on Fri 14 Jan; see review, page 25. The Beach opens on Fri 11 Feb.

The whole world knows Frank McCourt. His childhood years are nakedly displayed for all to see in six million copies of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Angela ’s Ashes, published in 25 languages and in 30 countries. His subsequent life in America to which the Brooklyn-born,

Memory man

The publication of Angela’s Ashes has transformed FRANK McCOURT from New York teacher into international literary star.

Words: Alan Morrison

14 THE lIST 7723 Jar 2000

Limerick-raised McCourt returned when he was nineteen is recounted in a fast-selling sequel, ’Tis. But what the world doesn’t know is why his best-selling debut, now a film directed by Alan Parker, has the title it does

'My mother died in 1981,’ McCourt explains.

‘We took her ashes to Limerick to scatter on the family graveyard. Originally I was going to bring the story up to that point, but my editor suggested the nice circular trip: born in New York, go to Ireland, return to the States. I had the title and didn't want to let it go.’