As Trainspotting’s foul-mouth psycho Begbie, Robert Carlyle became a film favourite of boozy blokes everywhere. So it’s no surprise the Scots star is still getting used to his newfound fanbase of sci-fi geeks.
Robert, 49, currently stars in the new hit American TV series Stargate Universe. And he admits playing a spaceship scientist is light-years away from the roles he’s used to. With an embarrassed shrug, he said: “These sci-fi scripts are as difficult to get into your head as Shakespeare.
“The pattern and the rhythm of the words is so difficult. There was one line in particular in a scene when I had to say ‘Orbital insertion trajectory.’ I still don’t know what the f*ck it means!”
And the show’s fanatical followers have clearly shocked him too, with thousands queuing for a signature and to quiz him about the show’s complex mythology. The Glasgow-born actor grinned: “I’ve only been to one convention so far – I was contractually obligated to do! It was really nuts…but fun.”
It’s all about a team of explorers stuck on board an ancient spaceship after diving through the famous round ‘wormhole’.
Dad-of-three Robert, whose wife Anastasia and family still live in Scotland, accepted the part after giving up on the British TV and film industry.
Speaking on set in Vancouver, Canada, midway through filming the show’s second season, he said: “There was loads of stuff on offer in Britain but nothing really done it for me.
“It’s a wee bit frustrating – there’s too many similar shows getting made, cop shows and stuff like that.
“I could do that for my whole life if I wanted to do that, it’s bread and butter.
“About 18 months ago, my good friend Kiefer Sutherland said to come out and make a US show.
Robert stars as the Machiavellian Dr Nicholas Rush in the Sky 1 series, the latest spin-off in the Stargate saga.
“So when this came up I phoned him and he said ‘great, do it, do it!'”
Stargate co-creator Brad Wright said he jumped at the chance to get Robert on board and couldn’t quite believe he had agreed to sign up.
He said: “Robert is a wonderful performer and he was No1 on our list – but you never get No1 on your list!
“He liked the story and like the characther of Rush – he’s a very interesting and complex character.
“If you’re going to play a part for a number of years you want that character to be as three dimentional as possible and he loves that.”
Most Brits know Robert from his movie roles, playing the likes of Gaz in The Full Monty or Don in zombie flick 28 Weeks Later.
But these days Robert says he prefers getting his teeth into character-driven TV roles, such as Dr Rush.
Sat wearing an Argentina footie team tracksuit “to p*ss off the English”, he said: “The difference between film and TV is getting less and less now.
“In the late 70s, maybe just before I started, there was still an attitude that if you did film you didn’t do TV and vice versa, but that’s gone now.
“You can watch movies on your phone, you don’t have to go to a cinema.
“Cable TV has changed things too. It doesn’t matter if it’s Robert De Niro or Robert Carlyle, you can get it on TV any night of the week.”
Despite the heavy workload – when we meet, it’s six weeks since Robert’s last day off during a 9-month filming block – he’s enjoying the challenge.
He went on: “The scheduling is the hardest part but I prefer television day to day as you’re working.
“With film a lot of the time you’re just sitting doing nothing for three hours and it does my f***ing head in, and it’s got to the stage now where I can’t really do it anymore.
“So I decided to turn my back on that for a while and do something else.
“I just wish I could set up a wormhole between Glasgow and Vancouver!”
For his next project, Robert looks set to hook up with 24 pal Kiefer Sutherland for “a runaway groom movie”, set in Canada.
Beyond that, Trainspotting fans will be pleased to hear he’s still keen to reprise the role of Begbie for a long-awaited sequel.
Irvine Welsh’s follow-up novel ‘Porno’ catches up with Sick Boy and Co several years on, and Robert said: “I think I’ve been ready for a while.”
But most surprising of all is the star’s almighty ambition to land his most heavenly role yet.
“I’ve had a hankering for a long time to play Jesus,” he revealed.
“When he goes into the Temple and smashes the whole thing up, there’s something in there that we don’t see at any other time.
“And I think: ‘Well, he’s got a lot of balls.’
“I’ve never really seen a man play Jesus. I’ve seen a sketch but never really seen him played by someone like me.
“If I did get to play him I’d have to spend some time doing the research.
“When I played Hitler it was the same – I didn’t know what the f*ck to do. It took me about six months to research it.
“Maybe for Jesus I’d go and live in Galilee for a little while?”
The stars of Stargate SGU
ROBERT’S co-stars include some familiar faces – including Ugly Betty’s David Blue, who plays joker Eli.
The self-confessed sci-fi fan said: “It was weird when the audition came up because I didn’t have to research the show at all – I knew it all having watching it on the TV!
“I love sci-fi because it leads in the imagination and I always say it has the most intelligent fans in the world.
“After all, they’re the people running the fan websites and writing the messageboards.
“I’d totally be attracted to a geek girl!”
Lou Diamond Philips – who famously played Ritchie Valens in 80s flick La Bamba – stars as Col. Telford.
He signed up as soon as he heard Robert Carlyle was on board.
Lou said: “Robert was a huge draw for me.”
ER beauty Ming-Na is another familiar face Brits might recognise.
She now lives in LA and would fly home every weekend to see her two kids.
And she’s happiest being a mum, rather than a celebrity.
She said: “All that paparazzi sh*t depresses me. People go to the movies to watch a film and all they’re thinking about is the actress’s cellulite they saw in a magazine.”