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Gerard Butler back in action with 'Olympus'
NEW YORK -- Olympus Has Fallen is all violent action and hand-to-hand combat, and as the star, Gerard Butler is jumping through hoops for most of the film.
There's no down time when you're trying to rescue the President from terrorists.
How much training did the actor have to do to take on this brutally physical role?
"None," says Butler, deadpan. "I just went in and did it. That's how bad-ass I am." And then he laughs madly.
"I've always wanted to say that! I did nothing! I just said the lines!"
Gerard Butler, 43, is funny, taller than you imagine and -- if you only know him from movies such as The Ugly Truth, Playing For Keeps or The Bounty Hunter -- far more interesting than you might assume.
In Olympus Has Fallen, which opens Friday, the Scottish actor gets back to the kind of testosterone-driven action that distinguished 300, the Spartan-heavy battle epic that gave Butler global recognition.
The two movies are vastly different, obviously, but for fans waiting around for the Scottish actor to get past his romantic comedy phase, Olympus Has Fallen will be a welcome relief.
Butler plays a Secret Service agent in the movie, and has to single-handedly recover the White House and the President (Aaron Eckhart) from the clutches of Korean terrorists. To do so requires stunning displays of martial arts and bloodletting, and the action never lets up from the get-go.
The impressive cast includes Melissa Leo, Morgan Freeman and Angela Bassett and the movie is directed by Antoine Fuqua -- so it's brisk, beautiful and bloody.
And in case you wondered, the actor trained for the film for months.
Butler is also a producer on Olympus Has Fallen. It's the fifth feature on which he's worn a producer's hat.
"When you start acting, you never see yourself as the person who will be offering jobs," he says, "and then suddenly you're a producer and you're offering roles to other actors. Or going to a director and saying, 'I'd love you to get involved ...' I've always wanted to work with Antoine"¦ I went and said, 'How do we freshen this up and make it vital and compelling terrifying and thought-provoking, and yet at the same time, draw out some interesting characters and climb into their heads and see this ordeal from where they're sitting?' And that's what we tried to do."
They largely succeeded.
Asked if he ever intends to add directing to his skill set, Butler says, "It crosses my mind some days, but first I have to learn to act half decently."
Butler grew up in Paisley, Scotland, where he was head boy at a Catholic high school.
He went on to Glasgow University and was training to be a lawyer before he became an actor; he was also, briefly, the lead singer of a band called Speed.
A certain mix of bravado and booze got Butler fired from his law firm about a week before he would have finished his training.
And so, at age 25, he decided to try acting and moved to London, where he eventually found stage work in a production of Coriolanus.
Butler's film debut came in 1997 in Mrs. Brown, and a move to Los Angeles in 1999 kicked his career up a notch -- he won roles in Dracula 2000, Attila, Reign of Fire, Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life and Timeline. His singing talent came in handy when he was cast as the lead in Phantom of the Opera (2004).
By the time the film 300 came along in 2006, Butler was a star.
He's talking as a producer when he says, "A lot of actors from the UK have done well in America." Butler talks about theatrical training and charisma and mentions Ewan McGregor and Colin Farrell.
"There's a certain charm and roguish element they can put into characters, a wildness, that whether you're showing it or taming it, it's alway burning in there somewhere." It's a description that fits him, too.
Butler's level of fame now means endless scrutiny, and he's been linked romantically to umpteen women -- Jennifer Aniston, Naomi Campbell, Cameron Diaz and Jessica Simpson among them. His take on celebrity is pretty simple: he got used to it. "Often, if I'm on the street with someone who's not experienced that before, and people are coming up to me, and talking to me, or if I'm at a premiere, surrounded, somebody will say, 'How do you deal with it?' The funny thing is, I hardly notice it anymore"¦ You gradually develop into that kind of celebrity status and you gradually learn to handle it and also dismiss it."
Anyway, he's pleased when fans want to talk to him about specific films.
"You can see they genuinely were moved or shocked, that's what hits me in here," he says, indicating his heart.
"If people are just excited, that's nice, but I don't necessarily know what that means. At the end of the day I'm just standing in front of a camera. I'm not performing a surgery or saving someone's life."
FAQUA NOT DOING '24'
Bad news for fans of 24: Antoine Fuqua, the director long associated with a film version of the hit TV series, says, "I'm not doing that movie."
From the sounds of it, nobody else is, either.
Sorry to be the bearer of bad tidings.
Not that Fuqua is looking for a job. He's currently working on a documentary about Suge Knight, the boxing film Southpaw and biopics of Tupac and Miles Davis.
Every actor who works with Fuqua talks about improv, collaboration and creativity during filming. He says there's a simple reason for the freedom he fosters on his sets: "I love actors."
Fuqua, 47, continues, "They're creative people and they bring the human element"¦ they bring their magic to a role. To tie their hands is a cardinal sin for a director, because you're not allowing them to bring what they bring."
Fuqua, known for music videos as well as such movies as Training Day, Shooter and Brooklyn's Finest, hopes to work again with Gerard Butler. They may team up on the thriller Hunter Killer, but meanwhile, the filmmaker compares his Olympus Has Fallen star to Sean Connery -- and not just because both are Scottish. "It's his presence. He's a big guy, he's got some kid in him, he likes to crack jokes, he has a youthfulness. He's a bit of a bad boy, in his own way. I think he's got a lot to give that no one has tapped into."