Robert Carlyle refused to adopt English accent at RSAMD

SCOTS actor Robert Carlyle has revealed that he dropped out of drama school in Glasgow because of pressure to adopt a middle class English accent.
Robert CarlyleRobert Carlyle
Robert Carlyle

Carlyle says he refused to take on a “received pronunciation” - or RP - accent while studying at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD).

Aged 21, he walked away from the RSAMD and only returned after five pleading phone calls from the then principal.

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Carlyle, famous for his role playing Scots hardman Begbie in the global hit Trainspotting, said he went back to his studies on the condition that he would be allowed to speak in his own Scots accent.

Robert Carlyle playing the iconic role of Begbie in TrainspottingRobert Carlyle playing the iconic role of Begbie in Trainspotting
Robert Carlyle playing the iconic role of Begbie in Trainspotting

Carlyle made the revelations at a recent event in Glasgow, where he was promoting the campaign to build a statue of famed 1930s boxer Benny Lynch in the city.

Recalling his days at the RSAMD, where James McAvoy, David Tennant and Alan Cumming also trained, he said: “Acting didn’t seem right, it wasn’t a real job. My da’ had a real job.

“There were about 20 of us in the year but most of the students were middle class and from down south and I didn’t know how to deal with all of this.

“One of the reasons I hated drama school was because we were all required to speak in RP, and I thought ‘I can’t be f****d with all of this.”

Robert Carlyle playing the iconic role of Begbie in TrainspottingRobert Carlyle playing the iconic role of Begbie in Trainspotting
Robert Carlyle playing the iconic role of Begbie in Trainspotting

He described one of his fellow students from the tough Castlemilk area of the city who succumbed to pressure to adopt an RP accent

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“I thought, ‘What the f**k?’ He told me he’d changed his accent and was then kicked out of the house. And rightly so.”

The Full Monty star, who is returning to play Begbie in a sequel to Trainspotting, said that he walked out on the course at RSAMD - now known at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland - around Christmas.

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He went on: “The principal, Ted Argent, phoned me up and asked me if I was coming back. I said ‘Naw.’

“He called again. Same answer. He called about four or five times in a two-week period. To get him off my back I went in to talk to him and I was persuaded.

“My deal for coming back was I didn’t have to speak middle class English, and Ted Argent agreed.”

His comments follow widespread criticism of the British acting industry after it was revealed that half of Britain’s best actors have been privately educated.

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In February a report from education foundation the Sutton Trust revealed that 42% of Bafta winners were educated independently and 35% attended grammar schools.

Meanwhile 67% of Oscar winning actors attended fee-paying schools - in spite of national figures showing that only 7% of pupils attend them.

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Elsewhere in his speech, Carlyle also leaked a few key details to Trainspotting fans hungry for updates on the sequel to Danny Boyle’s 1996 cult film, which is set to begin filming next month.

Speaking of his character Begbie, he said:“Well, I can say that when the movie begins he’s in jail.”

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This fact that will come as no surprise to those familiar with Begbie’s violent persona.

But Carlyle also hinted that Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh’s latest novel - The Blade Artist - might also include some clues on the plot of the new film and the development of Begbie’s character.

In the novel Welsh explores the “softer side” of Scotland’s most notorious thug.

Carlyle said: “Here’s a thought. When The Blade Artist came out it threw a real spanner in the work because Begbie is very much alive and in a very different line of work.”

Carlyle also spoke about his decision to back the campaign for a statue of Benny Lynch.

He said: “My grandfather saw him box and this legend was with me as a wee boy. And later, his rags-to-riches story really hit home.”

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The campaign aims to raise £100,000 for a statue of the Gorbals-born boxer - the lead character in one of Scotland’s best-known sporting stories.

In spite of measuring just 5ft 4in, Lynch took the European and World “flyweight” championship titles in the 1930s, before dying of alcohol-related illness at just 33 years old.

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As well as lending his outspoken support to the campaign, Carlyle has also donated a signed pilot script of the US series Once Upon a Time for an auction to raise funds.