Interview on Andrew Airlie by DailyRecord in 2015
ANDREW AIRLIE might be starring in 50 Shades of Grey but the heart of the former Queen’s Parkcentre-half will always be black and white.
The actor turned out for the Spiders before realising Hollywood might be a better bet than Hampden.
And while Andrew admits he is loving life on the other side of the Atlantic, he still looks for the results from his old side every Saturday.
Born in Riddrie, Glasgow, he and his family flitted between Canada and Scotland for a number of years when he was growing up before his parents Jim and Margaret finally settled in North America.
Andrew retained close links with home throughout his childhood and returned to Scotland in 1980 to try to make it as a footballer, playing for Queen’s Park and Glasgow junior side Ashfield.
He said: “The nucleus of the Queen’s Park team had been over in Canada for a tournament in the summer.
“Afterwards they went on a bit of a tour, playing the Ontario provincial team and some of the young hopefuls bidding for a place in Canada’s under-19 team. I was in that pool of players.
“We played them in a series of exhibition games. I did quite well and was asked if I’d thought about coming to Scotland to play.
“I knew I could rely on my Aunt Alice and live with her and make a stab at it.
“I went for a trial with Queen’s Park but I was only middling.
“After a couple of months I transferred to Ashfield and ended up playing for them for the rest of the season.
“I’d returned to Scotland hoping to stay, to become a full-time footballer and make my life there.
“My goal was to get to Celtic Park but when I didn’t get past Lesser Hampden, I knew that wasn’t on the cards.
“It opened my eyes that I was a dime-a-dozen centre back so I would probably have to look elsewhere for a livelihood.
“But I loved every minute of my experience in Scotland, the family and new people I met, everything. It’s not just nostalgic. It was a magical time for me.”
Andrew, now 53, went back across the Atlantic for a soccer scholarship in the United States and studied for a Master’s in international relations at the University of Toronto. He was about to begin his PhD when he decided to defer and give acting, his secret passion, a go.
He got the first three parts he went for and has been hooked ever since, building a lengthy and successful career in TV and film.
But his biggest role yet is as Carrick Grey, father of leading man Christian, in 50 Shades of Grey, the forthcoming film of the erotic bestseller.
While stars Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson have been at the heart of the discussion on online forums, fans have made their feelings known about the casting of every role – including Carrick.
Most fans wanted a big Hollywood name like Pierce Brosnan or Kevin Costner – not an ex-Queen’s Park centre-half from Glasgow.
The news worried Andrew’s wife Samantha so much she banned him from browsing the internet.
He said: “She was a little concerned because she Googled the character’s name and saw the wishlist of actors – Brosnan, Costner and so on. Crazy big names.
“I thought, ’Oh my God, the fans are going to go mad when they find out it’s me’ and she told me, ‘Don’t search this again, never look at this again.’
“But people have generally been fine. Anyone who has contacted me has been positive, saying I am just what they imagined.
“That’s going to be the tricky thing. Fans of the book see the characters in their own minds. Sometimes the actors who are chosen to play those characters don’t match up to that. Whether you can satisfy everyone, I don’t know, but there is nothing you can do about it.
“I am just delighted to be in a film of this scale and popularity along with all the other people who are involved in it.”
Fifty Shades of Grey, directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson, was filmed in Vancouver, where Andrew now lives.
The film is vastly different from anything else he has been a part of but he says he is enjoying watching it unfold.
If all goes well, he will be attached to the project for the full Fifty Shades trilogy.
He said: “I have a very small part in the first film but interest in my website has soared, I’ve had more fan mail and Twitter messages.
“It is not like anything else I have been involved in but it didn’t really surprise me because I knew how crazy passionate this fan base was.
“In the first film at least, I am not in it for very long, it is just establishing Christian Grey’s family and where he is from.
“They’ve said that I’ll be there a little more in the second one and a good bit more in the third but the scripts are not finished so we’ll see.
“I don’t think they are hedging their bets, just waiting to see how Fifty Shades performs at the box office.”
Andrew – real-life dad to Natalie, 12, and 10-year-old Callum – built up a good rapport with his screen kids, played by Northern Irish actor Jamie Dornan and singer Rita Ora.
He said: “Rita is high octane, as strong as a cup of coffee, and I absolutely loved her.
“Jamie, I can’t say enough about. He’s a football fan so we chatted about that and he’s a treat of a guy.
“He was completely open from the very beginning, a dream guy to work with.
“I’m sure this film is a very different experience for him but I hope he is enjoying it all.”
The erotic content of Fifty Shades of Grey elevated the books to notoriety, as well as bestseller lists, and is something which Jamie treated with a light touch.
Andrew, meanwhile, is just happy to have kept his clothes on.
He said: “Jamie joked about having to keep his shirt on but he really looked together.
“He was calm and a real delight to work with. He was enjoying himself.
“I’m aware of the content of the books, but there was nothing that I felt uncomfortable with.
“The main thing was I knew they were not going to ask me to get my kit off. Believe me, nobody wants to see that.”
Andrew is more than aware that Fifty Shades of Grey, which arrives in cinemas just in time for Valentine’s Day, is the kind of film which critics will be watching keenly.
But he hopes the books’ vast fan base will help insulate it from too much criticism.
He said: “I think the film might be critic-proof just because the Fifty Shades fan base is so enormous and so loyal.
“I hope fans are pleased with what Sam Taylor-Johnson has done because she put a lot into it.
“I also hope the wider audience can take it for what it is and, if you haven’t read the books, it is still going to be a film that’s worth two hours of your life.”