By LARUSHKA IVAN-ZADEH - Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Gerard Butler plays a family man whose wife and daughter are murdered in Law Abiding Citizen
Thanks to a leather thong, what can only be called a 12-pack and a bellow of 'This – is – SPARTA!', Gerard Butler thrust his way into global parody – sorry, collective consciousness – in 2006, as the muscle-bound lead in the box office record-breaking CGI sword and sandals epic 300.
It won Butler, among other plaudits, the illustrious prize of Biggest Ass Kicker at the 2007 Spike TV Guys' Choice Awards, and was the role he was best known for until his recent on-off one as the-man-who-might-be-shagging-Jennifer Aniston.
I'm not meant to ask him about that, though, because before interviewing him about his latest film Law Abiding Citizen, I had to sign a piece of paper saying I won't.
'I didn't even know you had to sign that!' he laughs good-naturedly, his Glasgow-educated accent making him sounding like Billy Connolly's younger brother (a part he actually played in his debut movie, Mrs Brown).
'It's just because in every interview it's like: "So, are you with Jennifer Aniston? What about Lindsay Lohan?".' (Allegedly he and LiLo were 'spotted' snogging at a party in Morocco recently.)
'And every time I say "not true", because it's NOT true! And it just gets really boring.'
Butler has a jovial, straight-in-the-eye charm that makes you (want to) believe him. A useful skill for an actor and for a lawyer, the profession he originally trained for until he "other interests", none of which were healthy.
'Let's just say I had 32 days off in two years – and 25 of them were Mondays,' he says.
Now wrestled free of such 'interests', Butler's clearly a man who relishes a fight, building a reputation for tenaciously pursuing movie parts.
His heroic build ('in Scotland I'm just like a lot of other guys but in America I'm seen as a very strong, masculine guy') has had Hollywood instantly casting 6ft 2in Butler in endless 'hunk' roles, most recently with multiplex romcoms such as The Ugly Truth and P.S. I Love You.
But the 40-year-old denies ever taking the soft route or that by taking everything from kiddie movies (Nim's Island) to The Phantom Of The Opera (the film version of the stage musical), he's hedging his career bets.
'The big success of 300 did not lead people to say, "Oh, we want to put you in a romantic comedy." Quite the opposite. It was a real challenge.'
'When it came to the auditions, we couldn't say "oh, here's Gerry being funny in a romantic comedy with Jennifer Aniston", so we would literally play tapes of me from talk shows. It was, "Look, here's Gerry spinning a funny story on Jay Leno" or "Here's Gerry goofing around with Conan O'Brien". That's literally how I got a couple of those parts.'
Law Abiding Citizen certainly assaults that newly won romcom image. He plays Clyde, a loving, mild-mannered family man whose his wife and little daughter are brutally murdered.
When a legal loophole saves their assailants from the chair, Clyde takes the law into his own hands, exacting torture porn, Saw-style justice.
'My manager and agents were like: "I don't know if you want to do this because things are going great – audiences might not want to see you in a romcom if they remember you as this guy who cuts people to pieces."'
Yet Butler finds it's the only way he can stay interested.
'I can't stick the same role in the same situation for too long,' he decides.
Which explains why he's also having a stab at Shakespeare with Ralph Fiennes' movie of Coriolanus, which begins shooting next year. Before Coriolanus, however, is The Bounty, aka That Jennifer Aniston Movie.
There is, however, a new lady in his life the perma-bachelor will talk about: his tiny pug, Lolita – so dinky when he bought her that she fitted into his palm. Awww! A bit of a girly choice, I hazard?
'Hey, she's a tenacious little f***er, my dog! She really is. When she was younger, I couldn't believe her insane fearlessness. She'd risk her life from moment to moment for no gain whatsoever.
'That's very much my character trait as well. I'm definitely insane and I've got quite a bit of courage.'
Who knew that inside every Hollywood hero, there's an ickle handbag dog just yapping to get out?
Law Abiding Citizen is in cinemas on Friday 27th November.