Carlyle, Robert 1961–

views updated May 23 2018

CARLYLE, Robert 1961–


Born April 14, 1961, in Glasgow, Scotland; son of Joseph (a painter and decorator) and Elizabeth (a bus company employee) Carlyle; married Anastasia Shirley (a makeup artist), December 28, 1997; children: Ava. Education: Attended Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama; also studied at Glasgow Arts Centre.

Addresses: Office—4Way Pictures, P.O. Box 33503, London E2 7WP, England. Agent—International Creative Management, 76 Oxford St., London W1D 1BS, England.

Career: Actor and director. Rain Dog Theatre Company, cofounder, 1991, and director; 4Way Pictures, London, founder and partner. Appeared in television commercials. Worked as house painter and labor organizer.

Awards, Honors: Scotland Award, best television actor, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1995, for Hamish Macbeth and Cracker; Television Award, best actor, Royal Television Society, 1996, Scotland Award nomination, best television actor, 1997, and Television Award nomination, best actor, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1998, all for Hamish Macbeth; Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a supporting role in a motion picture—drama, International Press Academy, and Scotland Award nomination, best film actor, both 1997, for Train-spotting; Film Award, best actor, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, Screen Actors Guild Award (with others), outstanding cast performance, Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a motion picture—comedy or musical, and MTV Movie Award nomination (with others), best dance sequence, all 1998, for The Full Monty; ALFS Award, British actor of the year, London Critics Circle Film awards, and Evening Standard British Film Award, best actor, both 1998, for Carla's Song, Face, and The Full Monty; Sant Jordi Award, best foreign actor, 1998, for The Full Monty and Go Now; Television Award nomination, best actor, British Academy of Film and Television Arts, 1999, for Looking after Jo Jo; named an officer of the Order of the British Empire, 1999; Irish Film and Television Award nomination, best actor, 2000, and Empire Award nomination, best British actor, 2001, both for Angela's Ashes; named one of the greatest British actors, Orange Film Survey, 2001; Golden Satellite Award nomination, best performance by an actor in a miniseries or motion picture made for television, 2004, for Hitler: The Rise of Evil.


Film Appearances:

Big Woodsy, Silent Scream, 1990.

Stevie, Riff Raff, Fine Line Features, 1991.

Richard Fascetti, Tender Blue Eyes, 1992.

Prehistoric shaman, Being Human, Warner Bros., 1994.

Francis "Franco" Begbie, Trainspotting, Miramax, 1996.

George Lennox, Carla's Song (also known as La cancion de Carla), Film Four International, 1996.

Gary "Gaz" Schofield, The Full Monty, Twentieth Century-Fox, 1997.

Ray, Face, Fine Line Features, 1997.

F. W. Colqhoun and Colonel Ives, Ravenous (also known as Voraz), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1999.

Malachy McCourt, Sr. (Dad), Angela's Ashes, Paramount, 1999.

Victor "Renard" Zokas, The World Is Not Enough (also known as Pressure Point and T.W.I.N.E.), Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/United Artists, 1999.

Will Plunkett, Plunkett & Macleane, PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, 1999.

Daffy, The Beach, Twentieth Century-Fox, 2000.

Eric Wirral, There's Only One Jimmy Grimble (also known as Jimmy Grimble), Pathe, 2000.

Campbell, To End All Wars, GMT Pictures, 2002.

David O'Sullivan, Black and White, New Vision Films, 2002.

Felix DeSouza, The 51st State (also known as Formula 51 and Formule 51), Screen Gems, 2002.

Jimmy, Once upon a Time in the Midlands, Sony Pictures Classics, 2003.

Danny Devine, Dead Fish, Mobius International, 2004.

Frank Keane, Marilyn Hotchkiss' Ballroom Dancing and Charm School, Samuel Goldwyn, 2005.

Farmers on E, Temple Street Entertainment, c. 2005.

Go Go Tales, Aquarius Films/Gam Films/Istituto Luce/Vision Productions, c. 2005.

Eragon, Fox 2000 Pictures, 2006.

Light in the Sky, [Great Britain], 2006.

The Meat Trade, The Works, 2006.

Television Appearances; Series:

Detective constable Trevor Prescott, 99-1, Carlton Television, beginning c. 1994.

Title role, Hamish Macbeth, BBC, 1995–97.

Television Appearances; Miniseries:

John Joe "Jo Jo" McCann, Looking after Jo Jo, BBC Scotland, 1997.

King James I, Gunpowder, Treason & Plot, BBC, 2004.

Sergei Karpovich, Human Trafficking, Lifetime, 2005.

Television Appearances; Movies:

Nosty, Safe (also known as Screenplay: Safe), BBC, 1993.

Graham, Priest, BBC, 1994.

Nick Cameron, Go Now, BBC, 1995.

Detective inspector Tom Monroe, Class of '76, Independent Television, 2005.

O, The Mighty Celt, TV3 Ireland, 2005.

Title role, Benny Lynch, BBC, c. 2005.

Television Appearances; Specials:

(In archive footage from the film Face) Ray, Venice Report, TG4 (Ireland), 1997.

Narrator, Born in the USSR: 14 Up, British television, 1998, PBS, 1999.

(Uncredited) Victor "Renard" Zokas, The James Bond Story (documentary; also known as 007: The James Bond Story), 1999.

Adolf Hitler, Hitler: The Rise of Evil (also known as Hitler: La naissance du mal), CBS, 2003.

Television Appearances; Awards Presentations:

The Orange British Academy Film Awards, 2000.

James Bond: A BAFTA Tribute, BBC, 2002.

Judi Dench: A BAFTA Tribute, BBC, 2002.

Television Appearances; Episodic:

Political candidate, Taggart, Scottish Television, 1990.

Tom Ward, "The Better Part of Valour," The Bill, Thames Television, 1991.

Albie Kinsella, "To Be a Somebody," Cracker, Granada Television, 1994, broadcast as Cracker: To Be a Somebody, Arts and Entertainment, 1995.

Himself, "Citizen Ken Loach" (documentary), Cinema de notre temps, [France], c. 1997.

Guest, Chewin' the Fat, BBC Scotland, 2001.

Stage Appearances:

Appeared as Oberon in a production of A Midsummer Night's Dream, Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Stage Work:

Director of plays with Rain Dog Theatre Company, including Macbeth and One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest.



Himself, Film-Fest DVD: Issue 1—Sundance, BroadcastDVD, 1999.

Video Games:

(In archive material) Voice of Victor "Renard" Zokas, The World Is Not Enough, Electronic Arts, 2000.

Music Videos:

Oasis, "Little by Little," 2002.



International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers, Volume 3: Actors and Actresses, fourth edition, St. James Press, 2000.


Entertainment Weekly, September 5, 1997, p. 52.

Film Review, February, 2000, pp. 68-70.

Independent Review, March 10, 2004, pp. 14-15.

Los Angeles Times, August 24, 1997, pp. 26, 29-31.

Melody Maker, January 3, 1998, p. 14.

Movie, April, 1999.

New York Times, August 10, 1997, pp. 11, 17.

Radio Times, March 30, 1996, pp. 22-23; January 17, 1998, pp. 20-21.

Scotland on Sunday, February 6, 2005; February 27, 2005.

Sight and Sound, October, 1997, p. 13.

Times (magazine), January 17, 1998, pp. 18-22.

Total Film, October, 1997, pp. 74-77.

US, September, 1997, p. 117.

Carlyle, Robert

views updated May 23 2018


Nationality: Scottish. Born: Glasgow, Scotland, 14 April 1961. Education: Acting classes at Glasgow Arts Centre. Career: Founded, with four others, Raindog Theatre Company, 1991; played Hamish Macbeth, Hamish Macbeth TV series, and Albie, Cracker TV series, both 1995. Awards: British Academy Award, for Best Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role, London Critics Circle Award, for British Actor of the Year, Screen Actors Guild Award, for Outstanding Performance by a Cast, all for The Full Monty, all 1998. Address: International Creative Management, 8942 Wilshire Boulevard, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, U.S.A.

Films as Actor:


Riff-Raff (Loach) (as Steve); Silent Scream (Hayman) (as Big Woodsy)


Being Human (Forsyth) (as Prehistoric Shamen); Safe (Bird) (as Nosty)


Priest (Bird) (as Graham)


Go Now (Winterbottom) (as Nick Cameron)


Carla's Song (Loach) (as George); Trainspotting (Boyle) (as Francis "Franco" Begbie)


Face (Bird) (as Ray); The Full Monty (Cattaneo) (as Gary 'Gaz' Schofield)


"Looking After Jo Jo" (Mackenzie) (mini, for TV) (as John Joe "Jo Jo" McCann)


The World Is Not Enough (Apted) (as Renard); Angela's Ashes (Parker) (as Dad); Ravenous (Bird) (as Colquhoun/Ives); Plunkett & Macleane (Scott) (as Plunkett)


To End All Wars (Cunningham) (as Campbell); The Beach (Boyle) (as Daffy); There's Only One Jimmy Grimble (Hay) (as Eric Wirral); To End All Wars (Cunningham) (as Campbell)


By CARLYLE: articles—

McCabe, Bob, Sally Chatsworth, and Philip Kemp, "East End Heat. Robert Carlyle. Face," in Sight and Sound (London), vol. 7, no. 10, October 1997.

On CARLYLE: articles—

Zetterström, Anna, "Kortväxta psykopater är de bästa," in Chaplin (Stockholm), vol. 38, no. 5, 1996.

Barber, Nicholas, "Talent Spotting," in The Independent, 17 March 1996.

Bailey, George, "Actor: Robert Carlyle," in Premiere (London), February 1997.

Ellen, Barbara, "Carlyle to Hollywood," in The Observer, 24 August 1997.

Johnston, Trevor, "Stealing Booty," in Time Out (London), 31 March 1999.

"Irish Times," in Film Review, February 2000.

* * *

In barely ten years, Robert Carlyle has established himself as one of the best-known Scottish actors in the world, probably second only to Sean Connery. This is all the more remarkable since, with only one or two exceptions, his films have all been low-budget, British-made movies. So far, he seems resistant to the megabuck glamour of the U.S. film industry, and his career apparently doesn't need it in order to thrive.

Not that transatlantic offers have been wanting, especially in the wake of Trainspotting and The Full Monty. But Carlyle, a serious and committed actor with a strong political conscience, has always fought shy of Hollywood, which rarely offers the kind of role he favours. "The most important thing for me," he observes, "is to find a script that has some kind of social comment, that says something to somebody. . . . I can't think of anything worse than being in a film or playing a part with nothing to say." Accepting the role of villain in a Bond movie (The World Is Not Enough) might seem to stretch that principle, but Carlyle justifies it in historical terms. "That link between Connery and Bond and the Scottish people is fundamental. Being in a Bond film is like being part of history."

In any case the casting was probably inevitable, sooner or later, since Carlyle has created some of the most memorably terrifying villains in recent cinema. Created them, too, with evident relish: "Those are the parts, aren't they? There's just much more in those characters to get my teeth into." He first came to wide public notice in the British TV crime series Cracker playing Albie, a shaven-headed Scouse serial killer with a grimly single-minded agenda. A year later his talent for acting scary riveted movie audiences in Trainspotting. As psychotic Scots hardman Begbie, with his mad-eyed stare and ferocious moustache, Carlyle plays the only member of his lowlife set with no use for hard drugs: gratuitous violence gives him all the highs he wants. It's a lethally funny performance, hilarious, and unsettling at once.

Physically, Carlyle seems singularly ill-equipped to play heavies, being small and slender with wide-set, soulful brown eyes. But there's an intensity to his acting that can, when he chooses, readily take on a dangerous edge, lending his slight frame an impression of coiled power. The eyes narrow and darken, the thin, arrow-straight nose turns sharp as a blade, the lips tighten and the whole wiry physique clenches, poised to attack. Not even in Ravenous, where he plays a vampiric cannibal gaining strength from those he devours, did he need any extraneous gimmicks or special effects to create a sense of malign, unstoppable force. As the director Danny Boyle told him when casting him—rather to Carlyle's own surprise—as Begbie, "Small psychos are the best."

At the opposite end of his range, Carlyle can play amiable, innocuous types with no less conviction. Simultaneously with his killer-role in Cracker, he was appearing on another TV channel as Hamish Macbeth, a shy, unambitious, pot-smoking Highland cop—causing viewers no apparent confusion. But both Hamish and Albie can be seen as contrasted facets of the outsider figures that Carlyle is most drawn to: society's misfits, whether benevolent or savage, in whom he invests a sympathy that strikes an answering chord in audiences. In The Full Monty the wry warmth of his performance as leader of the would-be male strippers did much to ensure the film's runaway success, and his South-London gangster in Antonia Bird's Face comes across more as victim than predator. Priest, another Bird film, casts him as the eponymous cleric's gay lover; Carlyle gives an appealingly vulnerable performance, cocky and streetwise but sensitive, with a touching tenderness in the love scenes.

Carlyle rejects the term "method actor." But he always seeks out a level of emotional identification with a role ("It's not about acting, it's about being"), aiming to find a core of humanity in even the least promising material, such as his Bond villain, Renard: "I tried to make him a character who's staring into the abyss. He knows he's going to die, so there's a gentleness about him because of that, a relaxed quality." Likewise, his take on the feckless, drunken father of Angela's Ashes avoids demonising the man. "No doubt he did terrible things, but the kids adored him, which says a lot for what he was like."

As yet, Carlyle seems set on sticking to his roots. He remains committed to the Rain Dog theatre company that he founded in Glasgow, and followed up his Bond stint with a $3 million film in Manchester (It's Only Jimmy Grimble). "I always try to go as far away from what I have just done as possible. If you can do that, you get a longer shelf-life. And it's more interesting." Even so, once or twice lately there's a sense—as with his deranged druggie in The Beach—that he may be in danger of repeating himself, falling back on a few well-tried mannerisms. But if he can avoid that trap, and resist the glitter of Tinseltown, Carlyle looks set to inherit Connery's crown—and more than likely surpass him as an actor.

—Philip Kemp