In 2000, Robert Carlyle took on a role in ‘The Beach’, which stars Leonardo DiCaprio. Robert has a tiny role as a Scotsman, who sends his friend on a quest to find a secret island in Thailand, inhabited by marijuana growers. Robert did the role because his friend, ‘Trainspotting’ director Danny Boyle asked him to. Next Robert played an American crook in the action comedy ‘The 51st State’, also known as ‘Formula 51’ (2002). During this time Anastasia Shirley gave birth to a daughter, Ava. When Robert was ready to get back to work, he decided to return to the small screen in the TV film ‘Hitler: The Rise of Evil’ (2003). Although another villainous role, playing Hitler was certainly a different role for the actor.
In 2004, the Carlyle family welcomed their second child, a son named Harvey. During the rest of 2004 and into early 2005, Robert worked in films such as ‘Dead Fish’ (2005), ‘Marilyn Hotchkiss’ Ballroom Dancing & Charm School’ (2005) and ‘The Mighty Celt’ (2005) before taking his choice of characters to a new level in ‘Human Trafficking’ (2005). In this miniseries, Robert portrayed a trader who runs a model agency scam to lure young girls into brothels across the United States. The film is seen through the eyes of an ICE agent played by Mira Sorvino. Robert’s role in the series earned him a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries.
Robert’s father, Joe, passed away in 2006. Naturally, this was a very hard time for Robert, as his father had raised him on his own for most of Robert’s life. Says Robert: “Back in the Sixties, when I was growing up, the notion of a one-parent family – especially of a single father – didn’t really exist. And for him to have walked that road and lived that life and still managed to raise me and love me as he did, was just incredible.”
Robert and Anastasia’s third child was born in April 2006, a son named Pearce Joseph, named after Robert’s father. Next came roles in ‘Eragon’ (2006), the fantasy adventure film, and ‘Flood’ (2007), where he plays the lead role as a marine engineer attempting to save London from a massive flood. Robert broke his vow to never participate in sequels with the film ’28 Weeks Later’ (2007), which is about a virus that turns humans into zombies. It is a continuation of ’28 Days Later’ (2002), which Robert had previously turned down. In the film Robert plays Don, a man who abandons his wife after she is infected by the virus, causing a troubled relationship between him and his children.
In 2008 Robert starred as Charlie in ‘I Know You Know’. He took on another TV series for five episodes as David Russell in ‘The Last Enemy’, and played John MacCormick in ‘Stone of Destiny’ (2008). In 2008, Robert appeared in Kenneth Glenaan’s ‘Summer’ – till this day he considers his performance as Shaun as his best. Robert also starred in several TV films in 2008 and 2009, such as ’24’ (2008), a TV movie of the popular show of the same title. He played Jacko in ‘Zig Zag Love’ (2009) and in ‘The Unloved’ (2009) a father who abuses his daughter. The role earned Robert another Scottish BAFTA. In addition, Robert played Charlie in the drama ‘I Know You Know’ (2008). Wrapping up a very productive few years, Carlyle had another great role as Father Joseph MacAvoy in ‘The Tournament’ (2009). After that, a change came.
“At the time when I left, the [UK film] industry was struggling,” Robert explained in 2015. “There was nothing coming in and the budgets were so low that when I did ‘Summer’ and ‘I Know You Know’ back to back, I ended up getting paid the same as I got paid for ‘Riff Raff’ in 1990. You can only do that so often. I’d spent a whole career doing low-budget indie stuff, which definitely feeds your head but your pockets are empty. I felt that I owed it to my kids, to the family, to actually put a wee bit money in the bank and get ourselves sorted. Thankfully that’s what I was able to do.”
In fall of 2009, Robert returned to television as Dr. Nicholas Rush in the franchise ‘Stargate Universe’. Despite his first instinct to not do another TV series, especially a starring role for a whole season, Robert felt that Dr. Rush would be a very interesting character to portray and therefore he simply couldn’t turn it down. In the end, Robert ended up doing 40 episodes of ‘Stargate Universe’ between 2009 and 2011, including an episode that he directed in 2010. In 2010, Robert won the Gemini Award for Continuing Leading Dramatic Role for his work in ‘Stargate Universe’.
In 2010, Robert also did voice work as Gabriel, the video game’s hero, in ‘Castlevania: Lord of Shadow’. This was followed by 2013’s ‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadow – Mirror of Fate’ and 2014’s ‘Castlevania: Lords of Shadow’. In addition, he recorded an audiobook, titled ‘The Cutting Room’.
After wrapping up ‘Stargate Universe’, Robert took on another big television role. Beginning in fall 2011, Carlyle has played Mr. Gold (Rumplestiltskin) in the fantasy television show ‘Once Upon a Time’. His character is a malevolent trickster, a wizard and a manipulator, who can spin straw into gold and enjoys making deals with those he comes across. Robert finds the character fascinating: with Rumplestiltskin he gets to be creative. The show was an immediate hit, a fan favourite that was recently renewed for a 7th season. “The whole ‘Once Upon a Time’ thing is a phenomenon now,” Robert admits. “There’s some kind of community that has gathered, and the notion of Beauty And The Beast is a big thing for them – that anyone is capable of love and being loved. They fly the flag for the Rumpelstiltskin/Belle relationship in the show. They absolutely love it and they’re so supportive. I’ve never known anything like it.”
Robert Carlyle relocated to Canada for ‘Once Upon a Time’, where he has largely spent the last seven years. “An actor is only an actor if he’s acting, you know? So I’m on camera every day for nine months, and it’s fantastic to get the opportunity to do that. The level of these productions is high – $3-4 million per episode. You could make two movies for that over here. And, as you know, American television has gone through the roof in the last 10 years. People wouldn’t have touched it 15 years ago, but now people are queuing up to get in, so I think I was kind of lucky to get in when I did.” ‘Once Upon a Time’ will return to ABC during autumn 2017.
Returning to the big screen in 2012, Robert Carlyle received praise for his role in ‘California Solo’. He plays Lachlan MacAldonich, a former Britpop rocker-turned-agricultural worker, who faces deportation after living in Los Angeles for over a decade. Robert Carlyle won the Outstanding Acting Award at the 2012 Tallgrass Film Festival for his layered performance.
In 2015, Robert Carlyle made his debut as a film director, directing and starring as the title character in ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson’ (2015). The film takes place in Robert’s hometown, Glasgow. Says Robert: “I’d been offered this film purely as an actor about 4 or 5 times over the last 10 years, it just kept coming back, but I was always doing something else. Then I ended up in Canada working for American TV and there was a producer out there, John Lenic, who I’d become friendly with and he told me that there was a Glasgow script that I might be interested in and it was Barney again. I thought, ‘I can’t get away from this thing!’ but I knew there was something in it, and I started to get more heavily involved in it about 3 years ago.” The film co-stars the great Emma Thompson. “Emma Thompson she’s the jewel in the crown of the film, there’s no doubt about that, she’s absolutely brilliant in it”, Robert says. “Cemolina, the character she plays, is generally a guy’s part, a mad crazy serial killer-type man. There are very few parts written like that for women. So I knew I needed to find someone brave to do this.” And that he did. The film earned Scottish BAFTA Awards for Best Feature Film and for Best Actress.
In 2017, a long-awaited sequel for ‘Trainspotting’ finally saw light of day. Robert returned to the role of Begbie in ‘T2 Trainspotting’, which premiered in January. The sequel reunited the old cast and crew, including Ewan McGregor as Renton, Ewen Bremner as Spud, Jonny Lee Miller as Simon and, last but certainly not least, director Danny Boyle. In the film Begbie has just been released after serving time for 20 years. “I spoke to people who had served a lot of time, but in the end I didn’t use their experience. Real jail is a serious thing. ‘Trainspotting’ was never about that kind of reality. It has its own. It’s Trainspotting World, isn’t it? And pushing that world to the limit is the secret of the franchise. ‘Trainspotting’, the franchise. Sounds funny, eh?” Robert still names Begbie as his favourite role of all time.
It was announced in early 2018 that Once Upon a Time was cancelled and that the seventh season would be the last. So only time will tell what the future holds for Robert!
“Acting is probably the greatest therapy in the world”, says Robert Carlyle, one of the most gifted British actors of his generation. “You can get a lot stuff out of you on the set so you don’t have to take it home with you at night. It’s the stuff between the lines, the empty space between those lines which is interesting.”