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Francis Begbie

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Well, this is a good fucking laugh, ain't it? You sweat that shite out of your system. 'Cause if I come back and it's still here... I'll fucking kick it out. Okay?
~ Begbie in Renton's hallucination

Francis "Franco" Begbie is the main antagonist of Irvine Welsh's novel Trainspotting, along with its critically-acclaimed 1996 adaptation and its 2017 sequel T2 Trainspotting.

Ostensibly a friend of the main characters, he barely tolerates them and all of them fear him in return; unlike most of the group, he isn't addicted to heroin - indeed, he actively looks down on them for their chemical dependence, despite being a habitual smoker and an alcoholic. However, Begbie's real addiction is to violence, and he will gladly take any opportunity to indulge it, from picking fights at the pub to mugging unsuspecting tourists.

Brutal, cruel and temperamental, Begbie can easily be considered a psychopath - one accepted by the rest of the group solely for his ability to supply them with cash.

Biography

Trainspotting

Introduced alongside his friends, Mark Renton, Daniel "Spud" Murphy, Simon "Sick Boy" Williamson, and Tommy McKenzie, Francis Begbie is one of the only two members of the group not regularly indulging in drugs - the other being Tommy. However, where Tommy is the upstanding straight man of the group, Begbie is easily the most morally reprehensible of the group next to Sick Boy.

In his first major scene at the neighborhood pub, Begbie brags at length about beating Tommy at a game of pool and frightening off a "hard cunt" who challenged him to a fight. Tommy later reveals that Begbie was almost too hung-over to hold his cue at the time and only won (barely) because Tommy was humoring him in a desperate attempt to avoid a beating; likewise, the challenger was really just a man eating a packet of chips at the bar, Begbie ultimately beating the unfortunate man to within an inch of his life for eating too loudly. Back in the present, Begbie finishes his drink and tosses his glass into the crowd below, badly wounding a female bar patron; far from owning up, he uses this as an excuse to start a massive brawl.

Begbie spends much of the following scenes tagging along with the rest of the group, either picking up girls at the club, or helping the rest of the gang mug tourists for drug money. When Renton and Spud get caught shoplifting, Begbie is one of the party guests for the celebration of Renton's acquittal; however, Spud ends up going to prison for the next six months, and when Spud's mother arrives at the pub in a state of chronic depression, Begbie goes out of his way to insult her in front of the other party guests - freely displaying his lack of empathy for anyone bar himself. Though Begbie drifts away from the group soon after, his menacing anti-drug stance weighs heavily on Renton's mind: while being forced to go "Cold Turkey" by his parents, Begbie features in one of his withdrawal-induced hallucinations, threatening to beat the heroin out of him if he's still on drugs by his next visit.

Several months later, Begbie gains serious police attention by robbing a jeweler's shop at gunpoint, though he was only armed with a replica and only ended up stealing worthless costume jewelry by mistake. Wanted for armed robbery, Begbie flees Edinburgh for London and promptly moves in with Renton - who is now working as a real estate agent and trying to start a new life free from drugs. Unable to leave the flat for fear of being caught by the police, Begbie spends most of his time lounging in front of the TV and littering the room with empty cigarette packs while continuously sending Renton out to get more cigarettes. One day, he also has Renton place a bet on a horserace - and quite unexpectedly wins big; for once in a good mood, the two friends go out to nightclub - only for Begbie to accidentally end up seducing a transvestite, and Renton's good-natured joking only brings Franco's bad temper further into the spotlight.

Sometime later, Sick Boy moves in with them. Unfortunately, Sick Boy is currently trying to reinvent himself as a pimp and drug dealer, and quickly becomes an even bigger nuisance than Begbie - particularly after he pawns a rented TV set and attempts to steal Renton's passport for good measure. Unable to deal with Begbie's violent temper-tantrums and Sick Boy's unending get-rich-quick schemes, Renton finally sets the two of them up with a new flat altogether - a supposedly impossible-to-sell property being leased by Renton's boss. However, when the estate agency finally finds potential buyers while the two sqatters are still in the flat, Begbie ends up viciously assaulting them.

This incident ultimately force Begbie, Renton and Sick Boy to return to Edinburgh - both to avoid further police attention over the assault and to attend the funeral of Tommy (who had died of toxoplasmosis some time after being introduced to heroin). After being reunited with the recently-released Spud, Begbie and Sick Boy reveal a new plan to make money: one of Sick Boy's friends has accidentally acquired two kilos of high-quality heroin and now wants it off his hands at a low price of four thousand pounds; in turn, Sick Boy has made contact with a major drug dealer in London prepared to pay top dollar for the product. Unfortunately, Begbie is able to confirm that Renton is the only one of them with the money to buy the two kilos, press-ganging him into blowing almost all his savings on the deal; for good measure, he also forces Renton to test the purity of the heroin by shooting up.

Following a tense journey to London in which Begbie spends most of his time worrying about getting caught by the police and screaming at Sick Boy for not bringing a pack of cards, they finally meet up with the drug dealer and are able to sell the heroin for £16,000. Briefly united by mutual joy and relief, the four of them celebrate at a pub in London and discuss their plans to split the the money between the four of them; however, while Begbie is bringing back a round of drinks from the bar, another patron accidentally bumps into him, spilling beer down Begbie's shirt. Enraged, he attacks the man in a fury, bashing his face against the bar and kicking him viciously in the head; Spud tries to intervene, but ends up getting his hand sliced open when Begbie draws a knife. Then, with Sick Boy insisting on leaving before the police arrive, Spud begging to go to a hospital, and an entire room full of witnesses looking on, Begbie refuses to leave until Renton brings him "a fuckin' cigarette."

The following morning, Renton comes to the conclusion that he can no longer tolerate his so-called friends or the lifestyle they have forced him back into. So, while the others are still asleep, he steals the £16,000 from Begbie and flees their hotel; however, he acknowledges that Spud never did anything wrong, and leaves £2,000 for him in a locker. Upon waking up to find the money gone, Begbie trashes the hotel room in a rage while Spud and Sick Boy hastily flee the scene; unfortunately for him, this eventually results in the police being called to investigate, presumably resulting in his arrest. Francis Begbie is last seen in the ruins of the hotel room, reaching for his knives and preparing to fight. Though he is likely only arrested for vandalism, sustained police attention likely results in the outstanding arrest warrant for armed robbery being discovered (and possibly his most recent assault cases as well), ensuring that Begbie will be serving a lengthy jail sentence.

T2 Trainspotting

Begbie is set to reappear in the sequel, which takes place 20 years after the original.

Gallery

Trivia

  • Begbie is played by Robert Carlyle, who also plays Rumplestiltskin.
  • Trainspotting's director Danny Boyle originally wanted Christopher Eccleston to play Begbie. However Eccleston was unable to take the role as he was filming the series Our Friends in the North.

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