Spending time with Gerard Butler
There's never been anything conventional about Gerard Butler or his career. Having originally studied to be a lawyer, at the age of 25 he made a creative U-turn that was to set him on the path to fame, fortune and, by his own admission, contentment. The 43-year-old actor, best known for his roles in 300, PS I Love You and The Phantom of the Opera, has a busy few months ahead with many forthcoming movie releases including a collaboration with Morgan Freeman and Aaron Eckhart. Butler, who splits his time between homes in New York, Los Angeles and his native Scotland, recently paid Dubai a visit to open the new Roger Dubuis watch boutique at The Boulevard at Emirates Towers.
Welcome back to the UAE. You've taken time out of your busy filming schedule to be here. Tell us about your current projects.
Thank you, it's great to be here - the temperature is beautiful. Well, my surf movie Chasing Mavericks came out this month; it was really thrilling to work on. I had the best time making it. Then next month, I have a comedy-drama, Playing for Keeps, coming out that I did with Jessica Biel, Uma Thurman and Catherine Zeta Jones - all the grand dames. Dennis Quaid and Judy Greer, too, made up a really incredible cast. It's from the director of The Pursuit of Happyness, Gabriele Muccino, and it's a fun yet moving story about coming of age and facing up to your responsibilities. Then I have a big action movie coming out, it's about a terrorist attack on the White House and it's called Olympus Has Fallen. It has the most amazing cast including Morgan Freeman, Mellissa Leo and Aaron Eckhart.
Is there one elusive role that you are hankering to play but haven't yet?
There's a few and they're Scottish: Robert the Bruce and Robert Burns - all the Roberts. I'd also like to play Bonnie Prince Charlie because, at the end of the day, I'm Scottish and very proud of that. There's nothing like the feeling of pride you have belonging to your nation. Especially when your nation has such a tragic, romantic and courageous history as the Scots do. So at some point I'd like to tell at least one of those stories.
What do you miss most about Scotland when you travel?
I miss the warmth and humour of the people, the countryside - the beautiful highlands, mountains, lochs and glens.
You're based in LA and New York for the most part, so apart from Scotland, where do you like to escape to?
India and Iceland are the best places on the planet. I recently made a Viking film in Iceland and went travelling there. I disappeared into the middle of nowhere, camped on top of glaciers and watched the northern lights dancing all around as I cooked stew and potatoes. It doesn't get much better than that.
When it comes to your personal style, what do you always pack in your suitcase?
I'm happiest when I'm casual in a pair of ripped jeans and an easy T-shirt. I also love jackets and because I'm from Scotland, I have a thousand of them. I'm like the Imelda Marcos of jackets. Even when I'm going to a warm climate, I'll bring them along and realise, of course, I can't wear any of them.
You're here to celebrate the opening of the Roger Dubuis boutique in Dubai and sporting an impressive Excalibur Skeleton Double Tourbillion watch. As a global ambassador, why do you think you're a good fit with the brand?
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It's a very hard question because it forces me to start speaking about my own attributes. So let me tell you what they said when they got in touch. Looking at the parts I've played, I've often been in warrior roles - like Leonidas in 300, or a Spartan, a Viking, a Hun - and I've portrayed the virtues of a warrior: nobility, courage, sacrifice and honour. And I think that's what Excalibur is all about - the idea of strength, masculinity and power - creating that whole world. I think that's pretty close to who I am. When you put on this watch, you enter that world and it takes a certain kind of person to wear it as you make a big statement - because as you said, it's magnificent and big, which it is.
What key characteristics do you look for in a timepiece?
I see a lot of beautiful, classical watches, but at the end of the day that's all I see, they can be a little staid and traditional. I like this brand because it's very progressive, yet still attaches itself to the traditional mechanisms of watchmaking. The Excalibur is handmade and I've actually seen it made in the factory which gave me much more of an understanding, respect and appreciation of the love and creativity that went into it. The process is beyond mindboggling and the brand really is a breath of fresh air.
Do you remember your first watch?
Yeah, it was a Casio digital watch that my mum got me when I was 10 years old.
If you could freeze time what moment would you go back and stop?
I would go back to being 9 years old when I was playing football for my primary school. I scored a goal and it put us in the lead and I never felt so high in my life. All the older kids were watching us play the cup game - the semi-final - and they were screaming. To experience that for the first time in my life, I remember thinking it doesn't get better than this. Although there have been many fantastic occasions over the years, I've never experienced such an exciting, victorious high since. So, if I could freeze it there, that would be paradise for me.
Finally, the media has you cast as something of a rugged, loveable rogue - have they got you spot on or are they way off the mark?
That definitely defines a part of me but there's a deeper, philosophical part to me, too. There's also a whiney baby in me, an overly sensitive person and my dark and dangerous side. But I would say that if you were to quantify or define most of my life, then yeah, the rough and ready rogue would be the best description.
• Check out the video footage of our interview with Gerard Butler online at www.thenational.ae/multimedia