In early December, I caught up with Robert Carlyle twice at the Whistler Film Festival (WFF) as a writer for Blogcritics. The Once Upon a Time actor was at the snowy ski resorts in Whistler, Canada, for the North American premiere of his directorial debut, The Legend of Barney Thomson. He mingled with screenwriter Richard Cowan as well as producers Emily Alden and John Lenic at the Red Carpet.
The trio gleefully presented Carlyle with a DVD from the U.K. There was much for the team to celebrate, because Barney Thomson was picked up the previous month by Gravitas Ventures for a North American distribution deal, split on a dual platform of video on demand and theatrical releases. It was also a big winner at the BAFTA Scotland Awards.
Carlyle joined me on the Red Carpet for a minute, explaining his decision to change the original screenplay and use different locations. “I thought, if we’re going to make something in Glasgow, it should be the Glasgow that I know,” he emphasized with his Glaswegian accent. “All of the places that I chose, like the Barrowlands Ballroom and the dog track, I grew up in that part of the town. It was important for me to honor that.”
The actor-director elaborated further about the personal aspects of this cinematic endeavor. “Also, all these places are in danger of vanishing because things are getting knocked down and stuff like that,” he said. “I thought, well, this is kind of a way to document part of my past.”
After the screening of Barney Thomson at the Rainbow Theater, Carlyle, Lenic, and Cowan emerged for a general Q&A. Among the many questions, I quite liked the line of inquiry by a woman about Barney’s attire. “There’s a lot in how he looks which was my father. [My father] always wore a matching shirt and tie,” Carlyle answered. The similarities do not extend beyond physical appearance, however, as he clarified, “My father was not like that [in personality] at all!”
Shortly thereafter, I posed a question to Carlyle about his directing techniques. As the lead actor and the director, how did he prepare his shots? It’s an essential question because he carries out a couple of particularly complex sequences in the film. Carlyle’s tactic was to use a talented young actor named Mark Barrett as his stand-in for framing the shots. Given the extent of Barrett’s contributions, it seems inappropriate to consider him as merely a “double” on set.
“A lot of aspiring young actors ask for your advice and they never do it!” he exclaimed. “But Mark, he did become an actor. He learned the part [of Barney] and did it. And the cast felt like they were getting enough rehearsal time.”
The audience, which erupted into laughter regularly throughout the screening, gave Carlyle a standing ovation. It was a gesture that moved the Scottish actor, who was honored earlier in the evening with the 2015 WFF Maverick Award. It’s no surprise that his directorial debut ranked as the runner-up for the 2015 WFF Audience Award as well. The Legend of Barney Thomson comes out on VOD on February 2, 2016. It will be released in theaters on March 11.
Notes: This interview was originally published on Blogcritics.org, under the title “Whistler Film Festival: Interview with Robert Carlyle.” Minor changes include text edits and an additional Red Carpet photo.
I would also like to thank the staff at the Whistler Film Festival and Jive Communications for their exceptional professionalism and energy as they facilitated my interviews that weekend.