Keeping their eyes on the ball
Tell us about Playing for Keeps, what's it about?
Playing for Keeps is about a man named George who is an ex-soccer star, and he is trying to reconnect with his family, his son and his ex-wife.
He comes back to this small town and ends up coaching his son's soccer team and starts to have all these very tumultuous kind of relationships with these soccer moms, the soccer moms of the team and his ex-wife.
Stacey, the character that I play, he sort of just stirs up all this chaos in this small town.
Can you tell us about your character Stacey?
Stacey is a very protective mother, who has a nine-year-old kid, she's a woman who had to kind of rebuild her life from the divorce that she had with George before the movie starts, and she's very much a survivor.
She's someone who wants to create the life for her son that's going to be very supportive and secure for him, not interested in anybody else coming in and throwing that out of balance at all, and she's also someone who, you know, probably thinks a little bit too much about the family unit and a little too less about what she really wants as a woman, so she's quite complicated.
What was it like working with Gerard, Catherine (Zeta-Jones) and Uma (Thurman)?
They're all wonderful and amazing, and I feel so lucky that I've had the experience to be in a movie with all of these amazing cast.
They're so cool, to be surrounded by these women, women that I've looked up to and admired and now sharing a screen with them, and of course Gerard and Dennis, it was so fun, so cool, such great talents and just amazing, amazing scene partners.
Did you make any resolutions this new year that you can share?
Well yeah, every year it's, 'Finally speak French fluently', every year, just speak a second language fluently.
I usually pick French because I'm halfway there, and I still haven't done it, so this is my year.
You should talk to Bradley Cooper…
I know, well, it's annoying, because he speaks it so fluently, and wonderfully that I just feel like 'oh, come on, you can do it'.
To what extent was Playing for Keeps a film of a boyhood fantasy, and getting to play a Celtic player, albeit a fictional one, George Dryer?
I was amazed actually how much I got caught up in it, watching the movie thinking 'Oh, that was me, I played for Celtic, I played for Liverpool', even though that really just involved a day in the studio, shooting some football moves and then slotting them into an actual game, but I was just wearing the top and filming that, it was easy to make that leap and go 'Yeah…'
In fact, I played a charity game for Celtic against Manchester United, so that was really a dream come true. I felt like that was the universe answering that intention that I put out.
And we get to see the end of some classic strikes in the film. Did you have any input into which goals they should choose for that sequence at the beginning?
Absolutely, we chose them from a lot of suitable set-pieces from actual games, and then I maybe performed six or seven different moves and from there we said 'Okay which are the ones that look best?' but I wanted the overhead kick and the header.
Your young co-star, Noah Lomax, is great, isn't he? There's a lot of brilliant children in British and American movies now, but he's particularly good...
I think the kids steal the movie – Noah's character, he's such a tender, sweet little kid, he's got the craziness to him, he's got the anger, but he's just a good boy, and that's what breaks your heart about this because he never did anything wrong, he's like a typical kid.
He idolises his father, he loves his mother, his mother brought him up, but it's like, 'He's my dad, my dad's a soccer hero, a football hero, why doesn't he turn up, why is he not there?' and you get all of that out of this kid, he broke my heart when I was filming with him, and then just also as a kid, as a buddy, he was a good sort.
And Dennis Quaid's character, Carl King, he's a little bit full of himself, Tell us about that fight you have that kind of turns into a wrestle…
It was brilliant, he came in and made so much of that role, he's just got this thing where he's just got to constantly hit me, so when he's talking he's like squeezing me, and I'm like, 'Whoa', and then he's like, bang, banging me, so every time we finished a scene I'd be black and blue with bruises, but he, Dennis Quaid is such an old pro, I thought he was so funny in this movie.
And just finally, looking forward to future projects, you're attached to Dynamo, another football story written Andy Dugan, is that in the pipeline?
It is in the pipeline, it's a little further down the pipeline, we don't even have a script yet, and I would say that's more of a Schindler's List of football movies than a Playing for Keeps, it's definitely a dark harrowing tale of a struggling football player during the Second World War, but yeah I would love and hope that we get to make it because it's such a powerful story.
When it was pitched to me, I was literally crying listening to it. I said to my buddy who was producing it, 'You should actually just film you telling that story and put it on in a cinema, you don't need me, you don't need anything else, just the way you said that, I would pay to go and see that movie'.
Playing For Keeps is on general release now.