As he makes his directing debut with The Legend Of Barney Thomson, Robert Carlyle shares his thoughts on Twitter, villains and Begbie
Why has it taken until now for you to start directing?
Fear. It’s waiting for the right project. I’d been offered several, but nothing that did it for me… [Barney Thomson] had been offered to me as an actor three or four times over 10 years, but I was always doing something else. Then I was in Canada doing TV, and a Canadian producer said, “I’ve got this script and I think you’d like it.” I said, “F*ck, it’s that again! I can’t get away from it!”
Barney’s a man who has never found anything to do with his life. What was the first thing you wanted to do with yours?
I wanted to be a football player, like everybody else. I was doing all right in that regard, until I got to my teenage years and realised I wasn’t good enough.
Sounds like a dark moment.
I was fast, that was my thing. I remember when I was 17, someone on my team saying to me, “Bobby, have you ever thought about sprinting?” A dagger in my heart. The moment you know you’re not going to make it. Then it was a hop, skip
and a jump to acting.
You’ve worked with a lot of great directors over the years. Which did you shamelessly steal from?
All of them. In any walk of life you’re going to work with some great people, and I’ve had some crackers: Ken Loach, Danny Boyle, Alan Parker… But you can’t copy or dare to say you’re influenced by these guys. It’s less about taking technique and more about the general atmosphere they create.
Danny makes everyone feel like it’s their film… I remember [on Trainspotting] he used a lot of extras, and he remembers all the names. Say he’s got John The Extra behind Ewan McGregor and me. We’ll do the scene and then, “Cut! John, great work! Excellent!” Then John’s in it. It’s his film and he’s f*cking giving it everything. Clever.
How many times have you been asked about Trainspotting 2 during promotion of this film?
If I’ve done 50 interviews, it’ll be 50.
We’re about to make it 51, sorry. When is it going to happen?
Danny always said he wants us all to be 20 years older because the book [Trainspotting sequel, Porno] is set 20 years later. One of the difficulties of just adapting Porno is that so much of it is to do with internet porn, which has moved on a lot since the book was written – or so I understand – so it would require a hefty rewrite. It’s also difficult getting all our ships aligned at the same time. What I would say is that it’s closer than it’s ever been.
Assuming the film doesn’t follow Porno’s plot, where would Begbie be now?
Oh, jail. Jail or dead. That’s what’s interesting. Where are these guys 20 years later? Where are any of us? If this film gets made all the actors are going to be middle-aged – or in my case, at 54, more than middle-aged – as will the audience.
A lot of the indelible characters of your career have been villains, although you seem a very nice man. How do people react when they first meet you?
In the early days I think a lot of people expected me to be a psycho. Certainly after Cracker [in which he played a violent murderer]… a lot of people thought I was f*cking nuts. That has rather softened as I’ve aged.
You’ve joined Twitter, which is surprising. You don’t seem like a Twitter guy…
F*ck. I’m such an anti-Twitter guy.
So why are you on there?
People kept saying to me, “You’re on Twitter.” Am I f*ck. “There’s someone pretending to be you.” It kept on coming, and then I was doing an interview on CNN and they say, “Someone’s on Twitter impersonating you.” When CNN tells you, you have a look. So I made the fateful decision and there’s this c*nt with my photo, my name, trying to be me. He had 5,000 followers! I thought, “F*ck this, I’d better do something about it.” The tweet that angered me was: “Oh people remember.” What’s that about? I had a look and he was replying to someone saying, “I loved you in Hamish Macbeth.” No. F*cking no. “People remember”? So I made my own account.
People impersonating celebrities on Twitter are weird.
I thought it was just me! I thought I was special. No no, anybody you want, there’s someone f*cking impersonating them. What are they getting from that?
You’re only following 20 people, one of whom is Rod Stewart…
Big fan. I’ve loved him since the Seventies. I met him at the Scotland vs Ireland game in Dublin. I knew he was going to be there and I was like, “F*ck’s sake, he’ll be in the same room as me!” I couldn’t possibly not meet him… The people who organised it took me over and he pointed at me like he knew me! I know it sounds obvious, but not to me. I’m in this thing [points to self], I don’t know who this is. He was wonderful.
Couldn’t help but notice you’re following everyone from Trainspotting who’s on Twitter…
Well, Ewan, Jonny Lee Miller, these are people I’ve got a relationship with and they’ll remain. That shows you what a special experience that was, that we still stay in touch now.
Or is it so that you can DM each other about Trainspotting 2 and hide it from the rest of us?
Ha! Oh yes.
The Legend Of Barney Thomson is at cinemas nationwide from 24 July