He looked pretty damn hot in Hamish Macbeth’s police uniform – but, out of it, a naked Robert Carlyle positively sizzles. Scotland’s sexiest export since Sean Connery has been revealing a lot of himself lately. In fact, he’s been peeling off to full houses and rave reviews all over America – in his latest role as a male stripper.
Even if the sight of raunchy Robert in the raw is no laughing matter, his new feel-good movie The Full Monty certainly is. It’s already being hailed as the comedy hit of the year and looks set to be as successful as its low-budget British predecessor Four Weddings And A Funeral.
Set in recession-hit Sheffield, the film centres on out-of-work steelworker Gaz (played by Robert) who has to meet hefty child-support payments and, after seeing The Chippendales, decides to form a strip act.
Gaz ropes in his overweight best friend, an ageing ballroom-dancer, a suicidal ginger-haired wimp, an old geezer who can still dance The Funky Chicken and a supremely well-endowed handyman.
The motley crew have the edge over The Chippendales because they are prepared to go “the full Monty” – that is, shed even their skimpy red leather G-strings.
Which, of course, immediately begs the question: Was it really Robert in the buff on stage – or did he cop out and opt for a body double?
The notoriously shy actor holds his head up high, draws hard on his cigarette and nods proudly.
“Absolutely,” he says, his Glaswegian tones wavering only slightly.
“We all went the Full Monty – 100 per cent. And in front of an audience of 300 screaming women.
“It was, without doubt, the most terrifying moment of my life,” adds Robert, who is no stranger to challenging roles, having played Begbie, the alcoholic headcase in Trainspotting, and Albie, the sociopathic skinhead in Cracker.
“Nine times out of ten, when you play any kind of sex scene, it’s very well handled. There’s a closed set with a crew of only five or six people and a lot of respect for the participating actors.
“But, for the final stripping scene in this film, the director, in his infinite wisdom, decided against hiring professional extras. Instead, he invited along 300 rowdy women – the sort who like to go and watch male strippers.
“As an added bait, he even told them they might spy some familiar actors in the line-up.
“So there they all were, baying for flesh and screaming `Get ’em off’ for real.”
The embarrassing scene was filmed over three days but, mercifully, the full-frontal full- Monty shot was completed in one take.
“Not that we were spared any blushes,” he adds with a smile.
“We were all waiting for someone to yell `cut’ but we couldn’t hear anything over the women screaming. So we just had to stand there until wardrobe came on with dressing gowns.”
T O make matters even worse, Robert and his troupe were expected to strip without any tips or tuition from the slick Chippendales.
He says: “It was nerve-wracking because none of us were used to performing in this sort of way. But the whole point was that it was meant to be naive.”
Robert only managed to get through the ordeal with the help of plentiful supplies of champagne and scotch – and moral support from his fellow strippers.
“A couple of days before filming, we began scrutinising each other and checking that we looked OK,” he admits.
“But the camaraderie and atmosphere was great. Nothing bonds people closer together than making complete idiots of themselves.”
Actor Tom Wilkinson, who plays the ageing, ballroom-dancing foreman, was so concerned about his nude appearance that he lost 3st for his moment of glory.
But Robert had no such worries. “I have a high metabolic rate, so I’m lucky I don’t put weight on,” he shrugs.
“If I lost any more weight, I’d be able to turn sideways and you wouldn’t see me at all. So I didn’t really have to prepare physically. Just mentally.”
It paid off. US critics confidently predict that The Full Monty will make Robert, 36, even bigger news than his Trainspotting co-star Ewan McGregor.
But while Ewan is currently enjoying his new-found status as the toast of Tinseltown, Robert is having none of that.
“I’m not completely writing Hollywood off – it’s just not something that appeals to me very much at the moment,” he says coolly.
ROBERT also wants to stay close to his British girlfriend, Anastasia Shirley, Robbie Coltrane’s favourite make-up artist.
They have have been together for a year and started dating shortly after the break-up of his long-term relationship with Eastenders actress, Caroline Paterson, who plays Ruth Fowler. And what news for fans of Robert’s hit BBC1 series Hamish Macbeth?
“Hamish Macbeth is over. Definitely,” he says. “Three series was all I was ever going to do. It came to its natural conclusion and now it’s time to move on.”
He’s certainly doing that. In his next film, Face, he plays a cockney gangster alongside Blur’s Damon Albarn.
He is currently filming a new BBC2 drama called Looking For Jo Jo, playing an Edinburgh tearaway, and he then takes the part of a highwayman in an American-backed film Plunkett & Macleane.
He admits: “I am fortunate that my face fits lots of different roles. I don’t look like a serial killer but I can if I want to.”
And we think you look just perfect playing a male stripper, Robert.
Sommat for Uncle Sam
IT’S the hottest new movie in the States, but many Americans are bewildered by British slang in The Full Monty.
So the film’s distributors have compiled a glossary. Here’s how they explain the lingo to our US cousins:
BENNY: A sudden outbreak of temper.
BLIMEY: Exclamation of surprise or annoyance.
BLOKE: Informal word for a man.
BOG: Lavatory (or john in the USA).
BONNET: Hood of a car.
BUGGER: Contemptible or difficult person or thing. Humorous or affectionate term for a man or child.
CHUFFIN: A strong exclamation.
CREAM CRACKER: Thin, crisp biscuit. Can also mean tired as in “cream- crackered”.
DOLE: Money from the state while out of work.
EPPY: Have a fit or lose your temper.
GIT: A contemptible person, fool or idiot.
KIT: Clothing and other personal effects.
NOWT: A Northern British dialect word for nothing.
NUTTER: Mad or eccentric person.
SODDING: Strong exclamation of annoyance.
SOMMAT: Something – again, Northern dialect.
SQUADDIES: Group of army soldiers.
TA: Thank you.
THE HUMP: A fit of sulking.