Family & Companions
Despite a warm, genial personality, actor Robert Carlyle made a career out of playing dark, crazed and often brutally violent characters, but none more vivid and visceral than the sociopathic Begbie in his breakout film, "Trainspotting" (1996). Prior to his international breakthrough, Carlyle spent three seasons as the star of the police series "Hamish Macbeth" (BBC Scotland, 1995-98), while appearing in a number of British-made films. After "Trainspotting," however, Carlyle did an about-face to play a down-and-out steelworker who marshals his fellow out-of-work mates to earn cash by staging an all-male strip review in the critically heralded comedy "The Full Monty" (1997). Following a sympathetic turn in "Angela's Ashes" (1999), he was arch-villain Renard to Pierce Brosnan's James Bond in "The World is Not Enough" (1999) and a crazed man ranting about a hidden paradise in Danny Boyle's "The Beach" (2000). He went on to brilliantly portray the Führer in "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" (2003) and a powerful sex trafficker in "Human Trafficking" (Lifetime Television, 2005). On the small screen, he continued delivering the goods as a mad scientist on "Stargate Universe" (Syfy, 2009-2011) and the Machiavellian Rumpelstiltskin on "Once Upon a Time" (ABC, 2011- ). No matter what type of role he played, Carlyle fully inhabited each character with such force and conviction that he developed a solid reputation for being one of the most electrifying performers on either side of the Atlantic.
Born on April 14, 1961 in Glasgow, Scotland, Carlyle was abandoned by his mother, Elizabeth, when he was only 4 years old. His father, Joe Carlyle, was a painter and raised his only child by himself, bringing him up in various hippy communes where Carlyle said he felt a great deal of love, despite the unusual and often dangerous environment. But when he was 15 or 16 years old, Carlyle felt the sting of his mother's abandonment and spent the next few years rebelling and hanging out with the proverbial wrong crowd. Carlyle dropped out of school when he was 16, joining his father in the painting business. A few years later, Carlyle happened to purchase a copy of Arthur Miller's The Crucible, which effectively flipped a switched in his head, drawing him to the craft of acting. He first studied at the Glasgow Arts Centre, before attending the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama, only to drop out in 1986 because he hated the stuffy, debilitating nature of the institution.
After leaving the Royal Academy, in 1990, Carlyle formed the theater company, Rain Dog, named after a favorite Tom Waits song. Carlyle's obvious talent attracted the attention of director Ken Loach, who cast the actor in "Riff-Raff" (1991) as an ex-con whose squatter lifestyle leads him to fall in love with a hopeful singer-cum-drug addict (Emer McCourt). On the made-for-British-TV drama, "Safe" (1993), Carlyle displayed his darker side playing Nosty, the vicious, hard-drinking leader of a homeless gang who likes to do things like stab himself with a broken bottle. In another BBC production, Carlyle expanded his range by playing the tender gay lover of a Catholic priest (Linus Roache) in Antonia Bird's endearing drama, "Priest" (1995). Carlyle followed with a compelling performance in "Go Now" (1995) as a vibrant young man who learns he has multiple sclerosis, before making another dramatic about-face by playing a twisted football fan who vows to kill 96 people in revenge for the famed Hillsborough disaster in "Cracker: To Be a Somebody" (A&E, 1995).
Carlyle next landed what became his signature role: the drunken sadist Begbie in Danny Boyle's much-acclaimed "Trainspotting" (1996), a darkly comic look at the on-and-off addiction of a heroin junkie (Ewan McGregor) and the disintegration of his friendship with a group of losers, liars, thieves and psychos. The actor was virtually unrecognizable in his next film, "The Fully Monty" (1997), playing a good-natured, but unemployed steelworker who organizes a group of his fellow mates into a Chippendale-style dance troupe to make some desperately needed money. Carlyle was wary about doing "The Full Monty" at first, feeling it might not be beneficial to his career. Instead of being a career-breaker, "The Full Monty" propelled Carlyle into the international spotlight, which of course brought about its own problems - chief among them, unwanted tabloid stories and pesky journalists hounding him for interviews.
If Carlyle wanted to avoid the trappings of celebrity, he could not have found a worse place to hide than in playing the rabid anti-capitalism terrorist Renard in "The World Is Not Enough" (1999), the 19th installment to the James Bond franchise. In "Angela's Ashes" (1999), he played a drunken, unemployed louse of a father who moves his family from Brooklyn back to their Irish homeland, where he continues to be unable to provide for his family. Reuniting with Boyle, Carlyle showed up briefly as a drug-addled, sun-bleached Scotsman named Daffy Duck who sends an American backpacker (Leonardo DiCaprio) on a quest to find a secret island off Thailand inhabited by marijuana growers supposedly living in a quasi-utopia in the film, "The Beach" (2000). After a rather forgetful turn as an American-hating crook in the abysmal action comedy "Formula 51" (2002), Carlyle turned to television movies and gave a riveting performance as Adolf Hitler in his pre-Führer days in "Hitler: The Rise of Evil" (2003).
Carlyle took depravity and sadism to new levels in "Human Trafficking" (Lifetime, 2005), a compelling and often gut-wrenching miniseries that chronicled the international sex slave trade and its impact on the United States as seen through the eyes of a rookie cop (Mira Sorvino). He played a ruthless trader who runs a model agency scam to lure young girls into brothels scattered across the United States - a role that earned the actor a 2006 Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or a Movie. After a forgettable performance as an evil sorcerer in "Eragon" (2006), the actor broke his vow to never do sequels by starring in "28 Weeks Later" (2007), the continuation of Danny Boyle's excellent sci-fi horror film, "28 Days Later" (2002) that saw the British Isles devastated by the so-called rage virus, which turns humans into blood-thirsty zombies. Carlyle played a Londoner who abandons his wife (Catherine McCormack) when she is infected by the virus, causing a rift between him and his two children (Imogen Poots and Mackintosh Muggleton).
On the small screen, Carlyle co-starred in the made-for-TV movie, "24: Redemption" (Fox, 2008), where he played an old friend of Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) who works as an African missionary running a school to assist war orphans. Following a supporting turn in the indie drama "Summer" (2008), which earned him a BAFTA Award nomination, he co-starred in actress Samantha Morton's directing debut, "The Unloved" (Channel 4, 2009), a British television movie about an 11-year-old girl (Molly Windsor) growing up in an orphanage. That same year, he was the lead on "Stargate Universe" Syfy, 2009-2011), playing the Machiavellian scientist Dr. Nicholas Rush, who loses his mind after the death of his wife while leading a spaceship crew at the outer edges of the Milky Way Galaxy. Despite Carlyle's critically acclaimed performance and a loyal sci-fi following, the show sagged in the ratings and was cancelled after two seasons. That same year, he joined the cast of the fantasy hybrid, "Once Upon a Time" (ABC, 2011- ), which wove Grimm fairy tales into a modern day procedural. Carlyle portrayed Rumpelstiltskin, who operates a pawn shop under the pseudonym Mr. Gold and acts as a dangerous Faustian character in fairy tale land.
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Cast (TV Mini-Series)
Began acting at age 15 (date approximate)
Made film debut in "Silent Scream"
Appeared as a political candidate in the British TV production "Taggart"
Acted in first starring role in Ken Loach's "Riff-Raff"
Made first collaboration with director Antonia Bird, the BBC-2 TV-movie "Safe"
Co-starred in Bird's controversial film "Priest"
Starred in popular Scottish TV series "Hamish Macbeth"
Made his U.S. TV debut as a villain in "Cracker: To Be a Somebody" (A&E)
Played a man stricken with multiple sclerosis on the TV drama "Go Now"; released theatrically in 1998
Reteamed with Ken Loach for "Carla's Song" (released in the U.S. in 1998)
Won critical appreciation for his turn as the psychopathic Begbie in Danny Boyle's acclaimed film "Trainspotting"
Starred in the Oscar-nominated sleeper hit "The Full Monty," playing an unemployed steelworker who hits on the idea for a ragtag group to perform a strip show
Made third film with director Antonia Bird, playing a gangster in "Face"
Co-starred with Jonny Lee Miller in the period drama "Plunkett and Macleane"
Portrayed the villain to Pierce Brosnan's James Bond in "The World Is Not Enough"
Reteamed with Antonia Bird (when she replaced Milcho Manchevski as director) on "Ravenous"
Co-starred with Emily Watson in "Angela's Ashes"
Landed a featured cameo in "The Beach," helmed by Danny Boyle
Co-starred in "Formula 51" aka "The 51st State"
Cast as Jimmy in the action fature "Once Upon a Time in the Midlands"
Cast in "Eragon" a fantasy/adventure movie based on the novel of the same name
Earned an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie for "Human Trafficking"
Co-starred in "28 Weeks Later," the sequel to Danny Boyle's 2002 film "28 Days Later"
Acted in the Fox TV-movie "24: Redemption"
Starred on the Syfy adventure series "SGU Stargate Universe"
Joined the cast of ABC fairy tale-inspired series "Once Upon A Time" as Rumplestiltskin
Played a former Britpop rocker facing deportation from the U.S. in "California Solo"