Exclusive Interview: Gerard Butler
The actor talks up Law Abiding Citizen, becoming a producer, and co-star Jamie Foxx
October 12, 2009
By: Elisa Osegueda
Fandango Film Commentator
When Gerard Butler first read the psychological thriller Law Abiding Citizen, he never imagined he would be co-starring in or producing the film. But once he rolled up his sleeves to help develop the characters and script, Gerard was ready to transform himself into Clyde Shelton, a victimized father seeking revenge on a flawed justice system.
Citizen follows Butler's character, a seemingly ordinary crime victim, and Nick Rice, a Philadelphia prosecutor played by Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, down a treacherous rabbit hole of violence and vengeance. In our exclusive interview, Butler discusses the making of the movie, working with Jamie Foxx, and why he bares it all once again on film.
Q: What were your initial thoughts on the film?
Butler: I think I just sat down, read it, was excited, scared, surprised, and thought, these are great characters. This is such an interesting topic and I thought it would be something that would become a memorable, fun, and action-packed film.
Q: You're co-starring in the film and you're also a producer. Tell us how you decided to get involved with this project.
Butler: We got this film two years before we started filming. My manager and I had just started our own production company and we said, "Look, we'll get involved with this as long as we can also produce it." Some people told me to get involved as an executive producer because they thought I wasn't going to get involved at the core level. I proved everyone wrong and surprised them because I went in, rolled up my sleeves, and got my hands dirty from day one. I was seriously involved in the creative process, working with the writers, and developing the story.
Q: Are you on your way to becoming a director?
Butler: Oh, god. That's a good question. Who knows? I don't feel that I'm anywhere close to being there right now.
Q: Who is Clyde Shelton?
Butler: I play a character named Clyde Shelton who initially is a fine outstanding citizen. He is a family man who does his best to get through life. Due to a horrible incident where he is almost killed and his family is brutally murdered, he's turned into a revenge-driven killer, who dives into all his pain, frustration and genius to stand up and devise a plan that will make those who placed him in that situation suffer.
Q: Do you find any similarities between Clyde and yourself?
Butler: Yes, I do. Not to the same extent, but as an actor you always want to use similar emotion, ideas, and principals that you have within yourself. It doesn't mean that you have to go out there and assassinate people. [Laughs]. But it's up to your own value system to know what is just and what is wrong.
Q: Who is the villain in this story?
Butler: I don't know. And I think that I'm even surprised how this all turned out. The beginning is so powerful because you see this innocent man have his family slaughtered in front of him and then to sit there with a lawyer and be told that "we can help you, but we can't help you that much," is unfair. That feeds you a lot throughout the movie because it allows the audience to watch this guy commit pretty barbaric actions and say, "Yeah, good job, well done." As far as the prosecutor, the would-be hero, you suddenly think, "I don't like the way you are. I don't like what you've become and your code of ethics." But you can also understand in the long run that [Foxx's character] is doing this for his family. So, there is a big struggle with who you are supporting in this film.
Q: How was it working with Jamie Foxx?
Butler: Incredible. He's a great guy with a really beautiful energy. When you start at the top with somebody like him it just sets the tone on set. When people see that they are working with a phenomenal actor and a good guy it helps create a nice energy and makes people want to work harder. Just to know that he was interested in a story that I was producing was the most exciting thing.
Q: Were there any pranks on set?
Butler: [Laughs] Jamie is a prankster and I'm a huge prankster…In this movie, there were fewer pranks than in others just because I was in a dark space a lot of the time. I spent a lot of the movie chained to a table. At one point, though, everybody walked out for lunch and just left me there. At first you laugh, ha ha ha very funny, but then you're like, I'm starving, this isn't a joke anymore—I want my lunch.
Q: Let's talk about the scene where the police officers are coming to your home to arrest you. One minute you're fully clothed and the next you're naked. Did you do it for the ladies or did the scene have a symbolic message?
Butler: I think there is a little bit of both going on. I felt it was the fortune of the public, especially the ladies, to see my bottom—my beautiful stunning, sexy body. I felt that in these times of hardship people definitely needed a distraction. [Laughs] Please say that I was joking. Often those funny statements don't work when people read them and they say, "Oh, no I can't believe he said that."
But this is a scene that survived many incarnations before we knew who was playing the role of Clyde Shelton. Originally Clyde was written as a fat, greasy man with a ponytail, who was dying of cancer, but that was all changed. The scene was pretty much a metaphor for the climate of the story and with what's to come of the character. The character is pretty much saying, "Here I am, here is the naked me, let's start fresh." Clyde has nothing to hide at that point and he doesn't want to take any risks when they're about to arrest him. In a larger level it was also a chance for the audience to go, "Wow, who is this guy?" but it's the start of many things to come in the story. You never know how he's going to act, what he's going to do, and it's very unpredictable.
Q: Tell us about your upcoming projects.
Butler: It's been a busy time for me between The Ugly Truth, Gamer and this movie. I'm pretty sick and tired of myself so I can just imagine what others are going through. Fortunately in my next movie people won't have to look at me; they'll just hear my voice in the film How to Train Your Dragon. I play the chief Viking who fights off dragons. It is a very beautiful coming of age story that comes out in March. I just finished filming the movie called The Bounty, which is a hard-edged romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston. I'm really excited for Bounty to come out because I think it's going to be very exciting.
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