The Sunday Mail (UK)
Date with destiny; Exclusive Robert Carlyle hasn't filmed in Glasgow for 11 years
July 8, 2007   |   Written by John Millar

It’s been 11 years since Robert Carlyle filmed on the streets of his home city.

Trainspotting in 1996 made him a household name but now he has swapped his Begbie Pringle jumpers for a tux and is working six doors away from his house in Glasgow’s west end.

Last week he invited the Sunday Mail to the set of the pounds 12million Hollywood film Stone Of Destiny.

Set in 1950, it tells the remarkable story of how four Glasgow University students liberated the Stone and brought it back to Scotland.

Carlyle, 45, plays John MacCormick, the lawyer who helped mastermind the Boys’ Own style escapade.

Speaking exclusively to the Sunday Mail, Carlyle said: “I am proud of what happened back in 1950.

“The film will let everyone see what was achieved by a peaceful protest. Given what has been happening recently, that is important.

“I was aware of the story long before I was asked to be in this film.

“My dad told me about it but I knew very little about John MacCormick. He was responsible for the beginning of what became the SNP.

“The taking of the Stone was about being pro – Scottish, not anti-English.”

It is not first time Carlyle has become caught up in the saga of the relic.

When he starred in TV series Hamish Macbeth, he and co-star Shirley Henderson embarked on a death-defying trek across a mountain to rescue the stone which had been stolen again.

This time Carlyle has teamed up with Charlie Cox, American stunner Kate Mara of 24 fame and Scots Lord Of The Rings star Billy Boyd.

The Stone’s disappearance led to a UK-wide police hunt and the students led authorities on a merry dance. Filming takes place at the very spots where the adventure happened, including Arbroath Abbey where students Ian Hamilton, Kay Matheson, Alan Stuart and Gavin Vernon eventually left the stone.

Cast and crew were also in Glasgow University’s students’ union, where the gang hatched the daring plan to break into Westminster Abbey.

The Sunday Mail was on set as director Charles Martin Smith – who starred with Sean Connery in The Untouchables – filmed the plotters meeting at the annual Daft Friday end-of-term dance.

Hundreds of teenagers were drafted in and dressed in 1950s tuxedos but not every aspect of the scene was as authentic as the film-makers wanted.

Back in 1950 just about everybody smoked but today’s ban meant the actors couldn’t light up indoors.

Fake fags and incense were used to create a smoke-filled atmosphere.

“It’s been a nightmare because there is no dispensation from the ban,” said producer Andrew Boswell.

The film is based on the book No Stone Unturned by Ian Hamilton, who went on to become a highly-regarded QC.

The legend of the Stone of Destiny goes back to Biblical times when it was said to have been used by Jacob as a pillow.

Later the Stone was taken to Egypt, where a pharaoh had a daughter named Scota, who brought the Stone to Britain.

It was taken to Scone and kings of Scotland sat on it when they were crowned.

In 1296, Edward I of England took it south to Westminster Abbey.

At Christmas 1950, Scots students broke into the abbey and took the Stone back. They left it in Arbroath Abbey and were never prosecuted.

In 1996, the Government returned the Stone to Scotland and it is now kept in Edinburgh Castle.

Carlyle said he can’t wait to meet Hamilton.

“He is 81 years old and he rides a motorbike. He was a rebel back then and he still is,” said Carlyle.

Hamilton is played by English actor Cox, 24, and New Yorker Mara, 24, is cast as Matheson.

Carlyle said: “Charlie’s Scottish accent is superb. I actually asked him if he had Scots family.”

Cox, who is soon to be seen with Robert De Niro in Stardust, worked hard to get the Scots brogue.

He said: “I watched films like Ratcatcher and listened to Billy Connolly discs. Then I had a lot of voice coaching and talking to Ian Hamilton helped. It is rare to meet the person you are to play.”

Mara said: “Scots pronunciations are pretty hard but being surrounded by Scots has helped.”

His co-stars may be far from home but Carlyle can walk back to his house any time he fancies.

“It was full of kids yesterday for my daughter Ava’s fifth birthday,” he said. And the actor regrets that he hasn’t worked in Scotland more.

He said: “Maybe film-makers here think I won’t be interested or that I will be too expensive but nothing is further from the truth.

“Small-budget films are where my heart is but I am delighted to be back in Glasgow filming this.”

‘I love walking back home to my family after a day’s filming’ ROBERT CARLYLE

Set in stone

IT was winter 1950 when four Glasgow University students hatched their daring plan to reclaim Scotland’s Stone of Destiny.

With the help of young lawyer John McCormick, the stone raiders – Ian Hamilton, Kay Matheson, Alan Stuart and Gavin Vernon – broke into Westminster Abbey.

A full-scale police hunt swung into action but the wily students stayed one step ahead of them for months.

Eventually they left the Stone in Arbroath Abbey for police to find.

The students were caught but never prosecuted and the Stone was officially returned to Scotland in 1996.

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