Andrew Airlie – (50/50 – 2011).

I recently got the chance to Andrew Airlie about his role in Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s new movie, ’50/50′. Here, Andrew talks about what it was like working with the cast and crew on-set and which three guests he would invite to dinner…

Hey Andrew. Thanks for taking the time out to talk to me about your new film ’50/50′.

What’s the general plotline surrounding the film?

’50/50′ follows the trials and tribulations of a young man, Adam, who must suddenly and unexpectedly face the fact that he must battle for his life when he is diagnosed with a very rare type of cancer. With the help of his loyal but often eccentric best friend, an over protective mother and a fresh from grad-school therapist, he faces up to the disease and a few other challenges life throws at him when he is already down.

Tell us a bit about the character you play in the movie…

I play Adam’s doctor, an oncologist. He is a brilliant scientist – endlessly fascinated with examining and exploring rare cancers and mutations but entirely devoid of empathic skills. He is beyond having a bad bedside manner – he is the kind of doctor who shouldn’t be allowed direct access to patients, period!

How did you get involved in the project in the first place?

The standard route. Maureen Webb, the casting director, brought me in to read for it. I play the role of doctors quite regularly. The director, Jonathan Levine, shortlisted a few of us to meet. I came in and read for him and we played around with one scene a couple of different ways, chatted a little bit and I was offered the role a few days later.

How would you say this film is different and unique?

I think it is quite fresh, original and contemporary in it’s exploration of a subject matter that can often veer pretty quickly into the tragic, heart-string pulling, maudlin world of drama – even when the subject is explored in a darkly comedic kind of way. (Which, admittedly, isn’t very often. I imagine studios don’t hear a lot of pitches for a ‘cancer comedy’.) This script and the performances just rang so true, I think, that it covered the ground we’ve seen before in a new way – honestly funny and heartbreaking in the same breath. Will Reiser’s script and Jonathan’s penchant and skill with a slightly absurdist and eccentric tone that still feels honest, was a great marriage.

The film stars Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Seth Rogen, Anna Kendrick, Bryce Dallas Howard, Anjelica Huston, Serge Houde and your good self – with Jonathan Levine onboard as director – what was it like work-ing with the cast and crew on-set? Any good anecdotes to tell?

In truth, I only filmed for 2 or 3 days and my scenes only involved Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Anjelica Huston and Serge Houde. It was an honour and extraordinary treat to work with actors of that calibre. Truthfully, I could go on for days about how professional, committed and generous they were with me – and everyone on the crew. It was a joy to be in scenes with them. Joseph was wonderful and inventive with each take and Anjelica was…Anjelica. She is everything you want in an actor and scene partner. Jonathan Levine was the most engaging, collaborative director that I have worked with in a very long time. Along with Will and Seth and his producing partners, they set a very nice table to come to work at. It was a very welcoming, supportive and relaxed set. They made everything feel so easy and relaxed – just a place for you to do your best work.

I did have a genuinely profound feeling and experience of how fragile life can be when we were blocking the first scene in the doctor’s office. The director called in some x-rays as props that he was considering having me use in the scene. Will Reiser was on set at that moment. And then Jonathan noted how strange it was that we were standing there contemplating the actual x-rays from Will’s treatment and experience. The tumour was large and ominous. Will made it through everything in the end – obviously – but it felt surreal to be standing there with the guy and his x-rays – which you were holding – that were, for him, a possible death sentence only a year or two before!

Let’s talk a bit about you Andrew. What made you want to get into acting in the first place?

Movies. Plain and simple. My parents were both avid film goers when I was growing up. They took me to the cinema often and introduced me to all the genres. For a young boy it was pretty heady stuff to imagine the world of the big screen and the chance to play at being an astronaut, a lawyer, a doctor, a soldier, a cowboy, a detective…and goodness knows what else…it was just too exciting to pass up.

You’ve been in a number of different TV series and films – which actors/actresses have been your favourite to work with so far and which project has been your favourite to be a part of?

This is always the toughest question to answer. Different projects hold a special place in one’s memory and heart for different and diverse reasons. Sometimes it’s the material, sometimes it’s the director, or the actors you are working with. It is so very difficult to pick favourites! I have had the good fortune to work with some really brilliantly talented and generous actors and directors during my career. It would be impossible to pick a single favourite project in film or TV! That said, I do have especially fond memories of ‘Defying Gravity’, ‘Reaper’ and ‘Intelligence’ from TV and ‘The Safety of Objects’, ‘Shattered Glass’ and ‘Wasted’ in film.

If you could have dinner with three guests – (living or dead), who would you choose and why?

  • The Dali Lama – for probably the same reason anyone would want him as a dinner guest.
  • Milan Kundera – because he is my favourite writer.
  • and my grandfather, my Dad’s father, who died long before I was born – because I never had the chance to meet him and because it would be so satisfying to know him even a little and for the sense of completion that would offer.

If you were stranded on a desert island – what three things could you not live without?

Food, water and shelter….? OK, OK… Books, companionship (you didn’t say I was stranded alone) – specifically, my wife, but only after our kids have grown up – and a nearby and recently shipwrecked cargo container of Macallan Casks.

How are you going to be spending your Christmas this year?

Close to home in Vancouver with family and friends and a few skating trips with kids.

What’s coming up for you in 2012?

I have a recurring role on a TV series that I can’t discuss quite yet. A small role in Robert Redford’s next film and one or two cable TV movies that should be out in 2012, ‘Collision Earth’ being the most likely to debut.

A lot of my attention and efforts recently have been concentrated on my writing efforts. I have a couple of projects of my own that are nearly finished and I hope to be shopping around next year. I have also been collaborating with a partner, the wildly talented writer/director Peter Howitt. We have been working on a couple of projects that are at different stages of development. One or two of them could be up and running in 2012. And I am also devoting a lot of time to honing my photography skills.

Thanks for the interview!


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