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Robert Carlyle on acting, whiskey and his role in 'California Solo'

Actor Robert Carlyle stars in
Actor Robert Carlyle stars in "California Solo."
Matthew Barnes

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Scottish actor Robert Carlyle knows how to leave an impression. He dropped trou in "The Full Monty," playing the leader of a troupe of amateur male strippers, and he terrorized heroin addicts as the psychopath Begbie in "Trainspotting." 

Now he's on the hit ABC fantasy show "Once Upon a Time," creating mayhem as an evil Rumplestiltskin. You can see Carlyle in a role that's a bit closer to home. He plays a Scotsman with a deep love of rock and roll in the new film "California Solo," which opens today at La's Nuart Theater. Carlyle joins the show live from the studios of NPR West in Culver City.

Interview Highlights:

On portraying the character of Lachlan in “California Solo,” which was written for him before he met writer/director Marshall Lewy:
“This is the first time that that had ever happened, that any director had written anything specifically for me. I guess my feelings when I read it at first, was, well, if I don’t play this, I don‘t know who is. ‘Cause, even though we had never met, he had obviously studied an awful lot, well, particular characters I had played through the years. And the dialogue flowed very very easily for me. So I thought yeah. It was a very very quick decision for me. I think within a couple of days, I said, ‘yeah, I’ll do this.'"

On the dissimilarities between the character of Lachlan and himself:
“I hardly drink at all. I’m not a very good Scotsman in that respect. I don’t really like alcohol and I’m very happily married with three kids. And, you know, they are my life. So no similarity at all in terms of the character and me. You know, this is a guy...who hasn’t seen his daughter in ten years, I think.”

On the character of Lachlan:
"He has no real feeling of his own self worth. He doesn’t feel that he’s worth anything to anyone. He doesn’t feel as though there is anyone out there who gives a damn about…whether he lives or dies. So he’s a kind of guy with an ambivalence to life in general, really. When you join him at first in the farm, he actually says that he is comfortably numb. I think that kind of sums it up for Lachlan at the beginning of the film, that he has had his moment in the sun, in the '90s with the Brit-pop era and that’s just been taken away through the tragic thing that happens, takes that way. And he’s quite happy then, to kind of live out the rest of his days of on a farm, something that he had done prior to his musical career. He likes it there. He enjoys sitting there in the bar of an evening, and then I think one of the wonderful bits of the movie in my opinion, are the podcasts that he does in his spare time, when he talks about the spectacular deaths of the great musicians, early untimely deaths of the musicians. He calls them flameouts.”

On the origins of the voice of Rumplestiltskin on the series “Once Upon a Time”:
“I have to kind of give it a slightly different tone. And it came from the most bizarre and unusual place. It’s an actual fact, my 6-year-old son. I just heard him one day as he runs about the house doing little voices and playing little games with himself. And he kind of does this, ‘bah bi duh bi duh,’ kind of thing. And I thought, that’s it. That is it. That’s Rumplestiltskin right there. He’s got this childlike quality, this bizarre creepy thing. You know, it’s very cute when a 6-year-old does it, you know when a 50-year-old does it, it’s quite creepy.”

On his one-take Johnnie Walker whiskey advertisement:
“That was a day and a half. I think, if I remember, rightly, I went up and down that hill about between 35 or 40 times…It was actually never meant to be seen by anyone, really. It was what we call back home in the UK, a corporate video, and it was done for Johnnie Walker employees. Johnnie Walker had actually been bought over by a Japanese company called Diageo and they made this thing for their employees to tell them of the history of Johnnie Walker and the whiskey. It makes sense when you know that because you think you’ve never seen a six-and-a-half minute-long commercial. And it can’t be cut into as a commercial. And to be honest with you, I wouldn’t have done it as a commercial anyway. But suddenly it was leaked somehow onto the net and it became this viral hit. It’s astonishing.”

Trailer for "California Solo":

Robert Carlyle in an ad for Johnnie Walker called "The Man Who Walked Around the World:"