Interview with 'Once Upon a Time' Star Robert Carlyle About New Film 'California Solo'

Photo Credit: Photo by Strand Releasing – © Strand Releasing
December 13th, 2012

Once Upon a Time star Robert Carlyle was kind enough to sit and talk with me about his new film California Solo.  He has done so many great films including: Trainspotting, The Full Monty, The World is Not Enough, and many more.   Robert tells me how California Solo fits into his style of acting and why he takes on roles like this.

Movie Room Reviews- Hi Robert Carlyle, it is a real pleasure to speak with you, and I know how busy of a man you must be between all your films and your television work on Once Upon a Time, so Movie Room Reviews would like to thank your for your time.

Since the 90‘s people have been watching you in doing fantastic work in films like Trainspotting, The Full Monty, The World is Not Enough and the list goes on and on.  We are here today to talk about a wonderful new movie that you star in is the Drama called California Solo

Can I first ask you to tell our audience what this film California Solo is all about?

Robert- Yeah.  I guess it’s a character driven piece so we can start by talking about the character of Lachlan.  Lachlan had his time back in the 90‘s as the guitarist with a pretty big deal brit-pop band. Something happened at the end that and he finds himself, when you join the film, living and working on a farm in on the outskirts of Los Angeles.  He is comfortably numb, that’s how the character is described.  He spends his days working on the farm and spends his nights drinking himself into oblivion.  For his own personal amusement he executes this podcast where he talks of what he calls “Flame Outs”. He talks about the stunning deaths of the worlds great musicians.  He’s happy to wallow in that kind of world of self pity.  Something happens at the beginning of the film, he stupidly gets caught drunk driving and gets a DUI.  This DUI suddenly spirals which makes him have to confront the demons of the past because his immigration status is certainly threatened.  He thought he had a green card and everything was fine, but that’s not the case.  So he bounces back and forth through these bureaucracies telling him that he has to go to this lawyer, and that lawyer, to try and save himself and his status in the country.  The last thing that Lachlan wants is to go back home to the UK.  There is absolutely nothing for him there, and of course he would have to confront everything he’s tried to escape for the last twelve years. 

MRR- I spoke with director Marshall Lewy a few weeks ago and he told me he wrote the film with your voice in his head for Lachlan, did you immediately feel the connection when you read the script?

Robert- I didn’t know that when I read it, but my first impression when I read it was “if I don’t do this film I don’t know who else will”.  It just sounded very like me, if not like me certainly echoes of characters I have played in the past.  Trying to give characters that don’t have a voice, a voice.  He (Marshall) has obviously studied my stuff very, very thoroughly, and it flowed very easily for me.  It was an easy decision to make.  I think I said yes in two or three days actually.  I was talking to Marshall and just thought yeah I like this guy, I trust this guy, I can see what he’s done with this script.  I was also looking for an opportunity to actually do a similar film that I’ve been doing all these years in Europe and the UK.  Try to get these unfortunate characters a voice, and I was interested to see how that would work in Los Angeles and this metropolis here.  So that was my main motivation for taking the film.  I thought I really gotta pull this off.  Really kind of show one of these real world characters that I’ve done in the past, just in a different environment.

MRR- Marshall wrote the role of Lachlan as a Scottish musician, and you too are Scottish, so I wondered if you had taken the role because of that.

Robert- Haha yeah. Had he told me that or not it wouldn't of changed anything.  I certainly felt that I liked the script, and I liked Lachlan. It was a new challenge because I knew he can come across as a bit of an a**hole really.  He maybe doesn’t deserve sympathy, but that’s my job then as an actor is to try to make you think differently about this guy.

MRR- You were in almost every scene is this movie.  You had nowhere to hide.  How difficult was it for you to show basically every emotion of Lachlan, every side of him? You had to be angry, happy, sad, composed, ready to fight and every other emotion you can think of.

Robert- Certaintly.  Your’re making me dizzy even saying it.  It was a challenge no doubt because I am in actual fact in every single scene, so you got to like me ( laughs).  It’s such a character driven piece in that respect.  It was not frightening but slightly daunting I would say.  I was kind of a pain sometimes to Marshall saying “why don’t you shoot something else?” (laughs) “Any scene with any other character just to give yourself to cut away from”. Marshall to his credit just stuck by his guns and said “this is going to work” and said “people will watch people will stick with it”.  He was confident in that.  Well I guess it’s up to the audience to decide whether he was right or not; but so far so good.

MRR- You basically get Lachlan’s point of view and that’s about it. 

Robert- That’s it.  There is no other character that really gets any view time in the film.  Everything just kind of orbits around this essential character of Lachlan.  Having said that there are some lovely characters that were beautifully brought to life by the ensemble cast.  Alexia Rasmussen I think is lovely as Beau, A Martinez as Warren, even Danny Masterson does a great job.  I think the performances were great despite the fact that it’s pretty much a one man show.

MRR-  You are a huge fan of music especially 90‘s brit-pop, which is what this movie centers around.  What was going on with brit-pop at the time? Why have the bands that came out of there been so influential? And what bands. or who. really made this time so special?

Robert- It’s one of these times I guess in history that you didn’t realize was happening until it happened.  I was fortunate enough to essentially find a lot of fame right about the exact same time as all this was happening with bands like: Oasis, Blur, The Stone Roses.  Those were three of the big bands at the time, and an awful lot of what I did was based on my knowledge of these bands, and my knowledge of these people like the Gallagher brothers, or Damon Albarn from Blur, or Ian Brown from The Stone Roses.  These are guys that I had met and hung out with at that time.  I kind of thought “what would they be like know in Lachlan’s situation had it all ended?” That was a great help to me to have that experience I think.  Marshall kind of knew that I think.  Anyone that knows anything about me knows I have a lot of friends that are musicians from that time.  I think Marshall was hopeful that that would come into play and support my portrayal of the character.  It was a very interesting film to make on so many levels, not least of all that. 

MRR - You performed the song “California Solo” on the sound track.  What do your music friends have to say about that you think?

Robert- Um.. Because the film hasn’t come out yet back in the UK, I haven’t had to face that one yet.  I think Paul Weller will give me a complete kicking for even attempting it. I love Paul.  Paul is one of these musicians that hates every other musician. (laughs) He is a great guy though.

 I think it holds up and I think the savior for me is that Lachlan was never a singer, he was a guitarist. So I sing in California Solo, and because in the film he had one solo album called, strangely enough, California Solo and he sings this song from that.  I deliberately didn’t try do anything spectacular with my singing voice.  I didn’t take any lessons or anything like that. I just let that come up.  Interestingly enough, not intentionally, but it does come across quite Dylan-esque. I’ve been very happy with what people have said about it.

- MRR- I think like it goes along with the organic feel of the movie.

Robert- Yeah I think so, I think that’s right.  Nothing is wedged into this film.  Nothing’s forced in there.  It would be crazy to try and force a polished, highly produced, singing track.  That’s exactly why I sang on that take, on that day, in that room in LA.

MRR- I think it sounded great.

Robert- Well thank you very much.

MRR- The film has been doing well and has already won a few awards at the Woodstock film festival, how has the audience responded to the movie and to your performance?

Robert- Well I have been really, so really warmed to that.  It’s amazing because I’ve done an awful lot of small budget independent films, that’s really my bread and butter in terms of my career.  Of course, you do things for the love and some of these films don’t even see the light of day.  They might get distribution for a couple of months and screenings in the UK, or whatever, and that can be really disheartening you know? With California Solo I had no expectation of it whatsoever.   I said “if this film works great, if it doesn’t well it will be another one of these disappointments”.  Something somewhere as elevated this little film to hopefully a wider audience, and I really hope that people do give it a chance, and come see it, and be suggestive of Marshall’s direction in the same why I was when I watched it.  I was really taken by the film.

MRR- Well it’s a great film and it premiered December 7th in LA at the Nuart in LA.  Hopefully soon enough our audience will be able to see the film. 

I am so glad to have gotten a chance to talk to you Robert.  Thank you so much.

Robert- Oh thank you so much.  It was an absolute pleasure.