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Robert Carlyle shared interesting insights on set locations and his directing techniques with Blogcritics at the North American premiere of his directorial debut.

Whistler Film Festival: Interview with Robert Carlyle

Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, and Richard Cowan
Emily Alden, John Lenic, Robert Carlyle, and Richard Cowan at the North American premiere of ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo: Pat Cuadros

Blogcritics caught up with Robert Carlyle twice at the Whistler Film Festival (WFF). This month, 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 last 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 a kind of way to document part of my past.”

Robert Carlyle and Emma Thompson
Robert Carlyle and Emma Thompson at the Barrowland Ballroom in ‘The Legend of Barney Thomson.’ Photo courtesy of the Whistler Film Festival.

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.

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About Pat Cuadros

Pat Cuadros earned a B.A. in Art History on a full scholarship at the University of Virginia. Pat is a frequent reviewer of all things Washington, D.C., but she's also covered events in Canada and London. Highlights in her work include articles on Simon Callow, Ian McKellen, and Mark Rylance. Pat particularly enjoyed interviewing Lawrence Gowan of Styx, Ndaba Mandela, and Sir Derek Jacobi & Richard Clifford.

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