Gerarld Butler Interview - Law Abiding Citizen
Gerard Butler. The mere mention of his name conjures up images of a Spartan king slaying his way through countless Persian warriors with abs of Scottish steel pulsating on screen. No doubt, he's a man's man of an actor. He kept your girlfriend tuned in to 300 while you finally had the perfect movie date night. And how can you be jealous? The guy is cool.
Well, now he is boss. Butler started a production company, Evil Twins, in 2008 with long-time manager, Alan Siegel. The first project to be birthed by the duo, Law Abiding Citizen, a vigilante tale that opens nation-wide this Friday.
UGO spoke with the budding producer about his role as an anti-hero, favorite on-screen kill scenes and what makes this Scotsman so damn rugged.
UGO: You've been acting for ten years and Law Abiding Citizen is the first producer credit that you have under Evil Twins. What is it about this movie that got you so involved?
Gerard Butler: One, because, we looked at a script that we loved and were very excited by it. It seemed to come across as one story but end up as another and I felt that it took you by surprise, it wasn't quite as you expected. And it kind of coincided with the fact that it was time for us to produce our first film. You know we just started our own production company, and this came along at the right time and we felt this had a very commercial pitch to it as well. It could have some meaning behind it and, at the same time, it could be a lot of fun and suspenseful, and have that popcorn feel to it.
UGO: (Director) F. Gary Gray was at the screener and he got to see first hand how the audience reacted to the brutality and element of surprise of the film. The audience definitely did respond, so much in fact that during a shocking scene, someone just up and left. Is it a compliment to know your character can move someone to react strongly to what's on the screen and perhaps lose their popcorn in the bathroom stall?
Butler: (laugher) To me, it's the best thing about this business, to see an audience react strongly, whether it's whooping and cheering, groaning (in a good way) and letting out those gasps and shocking sounds. This film has it like no other. The only film I've done before like it in any way was 300. And, an actual fact, I hear way more audience reaction here than I had during 300. I've been to a few screenings now and that is my favorite part. Sometimes you go to screenings of your movies and it is with a certain amount of trepidation that you walk in. You think "Oh I hope they like it, what if they don't." Where as with this, I turn up with excitement because I can't wait to see the audience react, because I know they will.
UGO: The audience seemed to be on the side of Clyde Shelton, your character in this film. What is it about the anti-hero that you feel the audience connects to?
Butler: Well I have to say, I'm a little surprised and perhaps even slightly concerned (laughter) just how much the audience can get on my side. There are times where you can feel and hear the support of an audience when incredible morally questionable acts are committed by my character. I think that this kind of story, where you have that anti-hero who finally stands up for himself and hits back in a way which is, perhaps, even more than commensurate to what happened to them, to see (the anti-hero) act and punish and harass, and say "no, it's time for you to hear what I have to say ... for you to suffer because you made me suffer." You have that element inside that says "yes, way to go, well done. I wish I can do that." We live in a time where we feel suffocated from that. With the external policy of this country, you wish it can act more with the economy. Everyone feels trapped within those confines and it's all very frustrating because it's out of everyone's control, and you wish you can act in a way that Clyde Shelton acts, but it's not quite possible.
UGO: Yeah, people are tired of waiting for bureaucratic lines to cross to get the job done for them. It's a frustrating time where people want more reaction now. It's a very timely movie in that and the reflection of our society wanting more action.
Butler: Yeah, I think that's one of the things we felt to a certain extent when we wrote this, that it does definitely touch the universal feeling inside everyone. But I have to say, I'm surprised and very happy. I don't think even I expected it would effect people and make them react the way they do.
UGO: Clyde Shelton is a villain that can give Batman a run for his money, being a sinister master-mind. You do have a law education background at Glasgow University. Did that help you any in developing this character?
Butler: I think that my legal training helps me, in terms of developing any kind of character ... to think of things on both on a gut level, which I think is my best asset, and it allows me to think of things on a more intellectual and academic level as well, in terms of reading a researching. But also, in this case, in developing the whole thing. I was developing this character in the context of a larger story, I was heavily, heavily involved in working with the writers in developing this story from two years before we started filming right through to the end. And then there is the legal system itself, which of course I had an easier understanding than most because I studied in that realm. However, I did study in Scotland, so that's a different legal system. It definitely helped in that immediate understanding of the situation and the issues of this justice system.
UGO: You've killed your fair share of people, on film of course. Are there any kill scenes that stand out as your favorite, or are they like children where you love them all the same?
Butler: Um, that's a scary question. Yeah, just because I'm killing people, I love it all the same (laughter). If we go back to what the film is about, if I'm killing someone that's bad to the core and so against what I go for, and we remember that it's strictly in the sense of fantasy within a film, then yeah, you can have fun doing it when you disassociate yourself from the reality of the situation. Sometimes, when you really imagine that this might be possible, it's quite scary. In this film, there are many times when I'm shocked at how I would react when I have my hands over my eyes, it's almost with disbelief that I watch what I'm about to see. And that actually never happened to me before where I'm like "oh no, oh my god you are kidding me?" It's very powerful stuff. But definitely, my favorite deaths would be my march in 300, which I'll never forget, where I walked through these attacking Persians and slay like 12 of them with a sword going into the guy lying on the ground in slow-motion, that was really amazing. And in this, it's hard because I don't want to give away too much, there are a couple of killings: one of which I commit myself, which I think is pretty unforgettable. And then one that happens with another character, which I think is one of the most shocking, surprising scenes ever made. I feel proud of that one because I created it. I remember having to pitch it to everybody and having to explain the synchronicity of the action and why it would be such a surprise. Then, you see it actually happen and the audience literally jumps out of their seats. I can sit back as an actor, it feels great. But then again, as a producer who developed these ideas, you can sit back and go "wow, I made those people jump like that." And that is one of those moments when you think "I love this business, I love that I have the opportunity to try and do that."
UGO: You control people's emotions for a good two hours, somewhat magical...
Butler: It is. And then it's hard to even imagine the scale that it happens. You can see it in one audience in a cinema, and maybe people in the street come up and give you an enthusiastic response, sometimes a hugely enthusiastic response and emotional greeting. And then you think, well, if that happens a lot here, say in New York or LA or in London, you know that it's also happening in South Africa, Korea, Germany. For instance, The Ugly Truth opened #1 over most countries in the world and you think "wow, I can't believe that they love this movie in Brazil and Korea, or that they understand it in the Philippines."
UGO: You have this appeal that really reaches, women love you and men want to be you. What makes you so god-damn rugged? Is it a total surprise to you?
Butler: Oh it's definitely a total surprise to me. Even when people tell me that, that's the only time I ever can understand it. When people tell me that, I normally say "no, they are just being nice." When you start your career, just because you are a guy who's more than five-feet tall and you don't have green ears, they say you are a stud, a hunk. But if it is to be caused by anything, I'd say it is the trials and tribulations of an upbringing in a working class area in Scotland. I came from a family full of the most fun and interesting characters who were naughty and delightful, raconteurs and singers and entertainers. Just for fun. People who had great yarns and stories. Growing up in that community, you had to have a lot of personality to get through. That allows me now to delve into a lot of deeper emotion, to be funny to be silly, to be violent, I feel like I pretty much can do anything.