Robert Carlyle star in the first feature-length episode of new BBC drama The Last Enemy – but he doesn’t say a single word.
Fans will see quite a bit of Robert Carlyle in the first feature-length episode of new BBC drama The Last Enemy – but they won’t hear a single word from him.
The Glasgow star is in almost half the scenes of the 85-minute thriller as rogue spy David Russell, a “walking deadly weapon” who is feared even by his colleagues in the secret service.
Despite Carlyle’s silence, he manages to steal each and every scene with his menacing take on the character.
No wonder, then, that the actor – who has brought “terrifying” to life in numerous tough-guy roles – isn’t bothered about his tiny script.
He said: “A lot of actors count their lines and see how much they have to say – and there’s not one word from this guy for the first hour and more.
“I don’t care about any of that – it’s what he says more than what he does.
“For the first few episodes he is dressed in black and shot in shadow.
“You don’t know quite who he is supposed to be, or where he comes from.”
Director Iain MacDonald was confident Carlyle was the man to pull off the challenging role.
He said: “Bobby has that strange combination of being able to play someone who is dynamic – but also dangerous.
“True, he doesn’t say anything in the first of the series, but it’s all in his eyes and face.”
The Last Enemy follows the hunt for super spy Russell after he goes underground.
No one knows where he is or what he’s been doing.
But – highly trained in counter intelligence – he is a rocket that could go off at any minute.
The thriller was shot entirely in Bucharest, where Russell has a secret lair.
Carlyle explains:”The production team looked at an old industrial complex out side the city and found an absolutely huge old factory with a small house sitting next to it.
“To add to the effect, they designed a small electric fence to go around it.
It looked more than slightly surreal and frightening. This is a man with a lot of secrets.”
So perhaps the role is perfect for Carlyle, one star who is no stranger to secrets, resolutely keeping his private life private.
He said: “I don’t do too many TV scripts but Peter Berry’s piece is a total page-turner and there are very few of those around.
“What I like about Russell is that he’s a super-intelligent, ex-Army kind of guy who hides in the background.
“He would take you out without a moment’s hesitation if that’s what he thought he should do.No question.
“He appears to be very ordinary but on the other hand he could be the guy taking your fingerprints as a routine exercise while, in fact, stealing your entire identity.”
Carlyle is most disturbed that “everything in the script is accurate”.
He said:”The subject, surveillance, upsets me.
“I really think we are in extreme danger of slipping in to a Big Brother society – and it is just a question of when.
“We are surveyed and watched all the time. As far as terrorism goes, maybe that’s a good thing.But when it is used against you…?”
The actor admits that he didn’t know much about the ID card issue before he read this script.
Now he says he is “greatly apprehensive that it might well come in stealthily”.
He said: “Most of us don’t do anything to break the law, but any mistake could end up on your card – forever.
“What if we’re told by some official voice that we are driving at 31 and not 30?
“I hope this series will provoke viewers to take notice and wonder whether we are living in a free country any more. “You are not going to believe this, but your day-to-day existence is definitely not what you think it is.”
Carlyle’s day-to-day existence is with his wife of 10 years, Anastasia, and their three children – six-year-old Ava, Harvey, four, and Pearce, who is nearly two.
And this big-screen baddie shows he’s a big softie at heart at mention of them.
He said:”My wife and my family are my everything and I love being with them.
They are my life.
“I’d go demented if, like Russell, I was cut off from them.
“I hate being away from them even for the shortest periods of time.
“They are all the world to me.
Being away from them for even a few days is sheer agony.
I am not interested in celebrity and all that crap, or in going to parties or premieres.
I enjoy being at home.”
In a bizarre way, his work life helps him keep his family life to himself – his list of X-rated characters are totally unsuitable for his children to see.
He laughed: “They’ve seen bits of that old TV series for the BBC, Hamish Macbeth, where I played a gentle and mild-mannered rural Scottish copper, but that’s about it.
“The rest of their daddy’s career is – to date – strictly off-limits.
“I wonder what it is that makes producers and directors look at this little innocent Glaswegian face of mine and think, ‘Carlyle can look like a total s*** so convincingly.
Let’s give him the role of the villainous killer with the nasty twist in his character?'”
So what has been his most stand-out baddie role?
He said: “I think that I’ll always be remembered for playing Begbie in Trainspotting, to the end of my career.
“But Ravenous the film about cannibalism he made in 1999 was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do, the most difficult thing to pull off.”
Last year brought him the hit film 28Weeks Later, which is now just issued on DVD.
There were a huge amount of physical challenges in that post-apocalyptic scenario but Carlyle insists the worst were the contact lenses his character had to wear.
He said: “I don’t wear lenses in real life and when you put them in they are agony.
“For a start they are very sticky and then, for me, it was like someone has just punched me hard in the eye with their knuckles.
“Then, if you walk into a warm environment from the cold it’s ouch, ouch and ouch again.
I do not recommend it. “A lot of the action of 28 Weeks Later took place in a London of the future that is almost completely deserted.
“To get those shots we often had to be up at 3.00am or 4.00am and that was strangely beautiful.
“You are used to seeing somewhere like theatreland, Shaftesbury Avenue, thronged with people but when there’s no one there in the wee small hours you see it from a different perspective.
“It’s because it’s something that you are not used to – but I am the first to admit that all the romance of an empty city is stripped away quite ruthlessly when you have to get up at two in the morning to get to work.”
And the thrilling roles just keep coming. Carlyle has just returned from South Africa where he worked with Sir Tom Courtenay on a movie called The Flood.
It is about another catastrophe, one that could occur if the Thames Barrier went down and what effects that would have on London.
But, despite his apparent love for doom and gloom roles, Carlyle is refreshingly upbeat in person.
He admitted: “Yes, I have a motto and a thing that I live my life by – I hope.
“That is, ‘Do your best, never take no for an answer – especially from yourself.
And, in the end, try not to take it all too seriously’.
“Which really shouldn’t be so hard.
The Last Enemy is due to be shown on BBC One next month.