“Every actor has got their own methods, but back in the day when I was younger and a bit more stupid, I thought I had to do this to really feel it.” – Robert Carlyle on Method Acting
Scottish actor Robert Carlyle has gained a reputation for fully immersing himself in his roles. Famously, he had several teeth removed to play the vicious Begbie in 1996’s Trainspotting. In an in-depth interview about method acting with Shortlist, Carlyle talks about the extreme lengths he went to in order to get into characters — and how he has since learned it isn’t entirely necessary to be as “method-y.”
When playing a homeless man in a 1993 episode of the BBC anthology series Screenplay titled “Safe,” Carlyle actually spent two weeks living on the streets. While it helped prepare him for the role, reflecting on it now makes him realize it may not have been necessary. He explains:
“Years and years ago, I was a bit more method-y. Every actor has got their own methods, but back in the day when I was younger and a bit more stupid, I thought I had to do this to really feel it: You have to become this thing. I did a film called ‘Safe’ a long time ago, about homelessness and I’ve never been homeless homeless before. I’ve been ‘without a home,’ staying on my mate’s floor while getting another flat. But I’ve never been on the streets.
“So, I lived on the streets, here in London, for two weeks. Which seemed like two months. I still remember that experience. To this day, I can still smell it. It was a very, very, very grim couple of weeks.”
“It was something I felt I had to do back then to understand this person that I was playing, and that kind of method acting can certainly help in that respect. But of course, you don’t have to kill someone in order to know what it’s like to be a murderer! Eventually, as you get older, you leave all that behind. I mean it would be impossible for me to be homeless on the street now. You could disguise yourself to a certain extent, but people might go, ‘You’re Robert Carlyle!’ and it’s ruined then, isn’t it?”