A GRIEF-STRICKEN Robert Carlyle has pulled out of his latest film following the death of his father three weeks ago.
The actor has quit the movie, Dragnet, plunging the producers into panic, as he struggles to come to terms with the loss of his father, Joe, to whom he was very close.
The 3m drama, about the crew of a Scottish fishing vessel, began shooting without Carlyle, but it had been expected he would rejoin the cast and crew in Ireland following his father's funeral a fortnight ago.
Carlyle, 44, had the starring role as a deckhand on a boat ferrying Chinese immigrants from Belgium to Scotland.
Most of the film takes place on the boat, and it is notoriously difficult to shoot at sea in normal circumstances, without the unexpected loss of the lead actor. The schedule was rejigged to shoot scenes without Carlyle, in the expectation that he was coming back.
However, the star of Trainspotting, The Full Monty and the James Bond film The World Is Not Enough, was deeply affected by the death of the man who single-handedly brought him up and who he described as "the greatest man I know".
Carlyle's wife Anastasia is expecting their third child, and the actor decided he could not carry on with the film.
A spokeswoman at ICM, Carlyle's agents, confirmed: "Robert's not doing it. Peter Mullan is doing that role now. That's all I have to say on the subject."
Carlyle's agent said she could not comment on when he might return to filmmaking, or if any other projects might be affected by his absence.
He is scheduled to appear in The Meat Trade, Irvine Welsh's contemporary spin on Burke and Hare, alongside Colin Firth. He has also been linked with the planned remake of Whisky Galore. Both are scheduled to be shot in Scotland in the coming months.
Playing his Dragnet role would have been particularly difficult for Carlyle in the circumstances. "He starts off as a kind of clown, a joker who lives for the next moment," said Eddie Dick, Dragnet's Edinburgh-based producer. Eventually the crew are faced with an agonising decision. "By the end what happens to him takes him to a different place - a different sense of morality," Dick said.
Following Carlyle's departure, the producers were forced to find an immediate replacement.
Fortunately they were able to get Mullan, who is one of the few Scottish actors of sufficient stature to join fellow Scots Gary Lewis, Martin Compston and Steven Robertson on the boat.
The film's publicist, Maud Halferty, put a brave face on the change. She said: "Peter Mullan has taken Robert Carlyle's place at short notice, which everyone is delighted with."
Mullan's previous films include Trainspotting, My Name Is Joe and On a Clear Day, for which he spent much of his time in the sea, in the role of a man who wants to swim the English Channel.
"The film is on schedule," Halferty added. "Thankfully they didn't have to reshoot any scenes, as Robert wasn't on camera when he dropped out."
Shooting has been going on for three weeks in the Irish Sea, on the quayside and in the town of Wicklow, and filming will be completed next month at studios in Cologne, Germany.
Its title could be changed to avoid confusion with the Dan Aykroyd comedy of the same name.
Carlyle grew up with his father after his mother walked out on them when he was only four. They travelled around the country when Carlyle was young and his father was looking for work as a painter.
The actor once said it was always "me and my dad against the world".
When he left school at 16 he followed in his father's footsteps and worked as a painter, which led directly to his first big break in films.
Ken Loach, the English director noted for his emphasis on realism, was looking for actors who had worked in construction for his 1990 film Riff-Raff. Carlyle went for an audition and won a starring role.