Robert Carlyle returns as Gaz in The Full Monty. Image: Disney+
Robert Carlyle is hoping history repeats itself as Disney+’s The Full Monty, the new eight-part sequel to what was, on its release in 1997, the highest grossing film in UK history, arrives on our screens. Because The Full Monty marked political change in this country.
“Is history repeating itself? I would welcome that,” Carlyle told The Big Issue, in a new interview. “And I’m sure most people will welcome that.
“We want change. There’s been too much bullshit. Too much shite going on. Let’s get away from the selfishness that this government glorifies in and infects people with. Let’s get a new broom and sweep that away.”
The film, written by Simon Beaufoy, was shot in the chaotic last months of John Major’s Conservative government. A time of sleaze, scandal and high unemployment. But it was released during Tony Blair’s honeymoon period as Labour Prime Minister.
For a film that showed the devastating impact of deindustrialisation on former steelworkers in Sheffield but was steeped in good humour, hope, solidarity and optimism, its release could not have been better timed.
“For anything to be a success, there has to be a healthy modicum of luck. And it was very lucky that the film was made and released at that time,” Carlyle said.
“We were heading into what became known as the whole Britpop era. For British films, British music, British fashion – all this stuff was front and centre in the world.”
The new series reunites the old cast of characters and introduces a new generation – this one dealing with the impact of years of austerity cuts. And Carlyle can see the parallels.
“The Full Monty is heavily political. When we made the film, we were talking about the death of the steel industry,” Carlyle said.
“I live over in Vancouver now, but I go back and forward to Britain and every time it’s like I get a little postcard.
“It seems pretty obvious to me that people are fed up. People have had enough of the Tories. Austerity seems to be going on and on and on. And now they are hit with astronomical fuel bills, there are rail strikes, hospital strikes.”
Asked why it has taken so long for a cast that also includes Lesley Sharp, Mark Addy, Paul Barber, Tom Wilkinson and Steve Huison to reunite, Carlyle admits it was because the film ended on such a high note – with the unemployed troupe of strippers whipping off their pants on stage at the working men’s club. How do you top that?
“The end of the film is so triumphant. So where could we go from there?” said Carlyle. “The film was all up, up, up. It is full of these amazing moments. There were no real avenues to take it down. But, of course, time has solved that.”
This is not the first time Robert Carlyle has returned to an iconic role. With T2: Trainspotting released in 2017, he has form.
“With Trainspotting, Danny Boyle always said, ‘I want to wait until you get older,’” Carlyle said. “There’s something really poignant about seeing the same faces 25 years later. So Danny was right. And Simon was right. I thought, I’ve been through this before. I like this – I know this works.”
The two contrasting roles – coming in the wake of an astonishing breakout performance in Cracker – catapulted Carlyle into the mainstream, as these small indie films became an era-defining cult classic and a box office smash.
“Cracker is what led probably to Begbie,” recalled Carlyle. “And I’d done a TV show called Hamish Macbeth that probably led to Gaz, in a strange kind of way.
“But it was massive for me. Most actors, if you are incredibly lucky, get one of those films in a lifetime. So to get two back to back was just fantastic. I’m genuine when I say this: I was so lucky. How lucky can you be, you know?”
The Full Monty is on Disney+ from 14 June
The full interview with Robert Carlyle is in The Big Issue magazine, on sale from Monday 5 June, and delves further into the politics and story of the new series of The Full Monty.
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