Interesting what the interviewer said about Butler's accent in movies...
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Gerard Butler: On saving the Free World
By Stephen Schaefer / Boston Herald
OLYMPUS HAS FALLEN has resurrected Gerard Butler's box-office standing after a series of flops, giving the Scots actor a well deserved hit with virtually nonstop action that appealed to audiences who wanted something stronger than the Stone Age family antics of the 3D animated THE CROODS. Butler was in high spirits when we spoke at the Waldorf Towers, gesturing as he spoke about the demands of making screen action look realistic and yet letting the actor go on without serious bodily harm to another cinematic save in the future.
Q:As Mike Banning, ex-Special Forces, ex Secret Service, who saves the United States and the Free World, do you feel as a Scotsman you’re following in the footsteps of say Sean Connery, going around saving the world from the forces of evil?
Gerard Butler: He was a British agent whereas I’m playing an American secret service agent and I’m just gonna take it as a testament to my fine acting to pull that off.
Q: Sean Connery never tried to change his accent, he always sounded the same. You do too right? Or did you try and do a more American accent here because you’re talking like you’re talking now?
GB: I soften my accent often but I was doing American. I had a dialect coach. We listen and she gives me every note and I listen and if it doesn’t sound full on American, I try and fix it. I’m sure there are times when it slips out but the problem is that over the years doing an American accent, my Scottish accent is starting to disappear and I hate myself for that. Sometimes people think I’m actually American.
Q: How does your career balance out between being the heroic action star that kills and the romantic lover? Do you have a preference on one or the other?
GB: It depends where I am. If I’m in the middle of a romantic comedy and it’s going well, I love it. A little bit of romance to cheer you up and some heart, you really get into that but I’m probably more in my element doing a drama or an action-thriller because I dig that. They’re fun to do. It’s hard to try and develop a character in the middle of all that action and that’s the challenge. Somebody that people can attach themselves to and connect with and fighting the demons within themselves as well as the demons outside which in this case are the extremists. Then when you’re in the middle of these huge sets and the testosterone is pumping through you, it’s exciting and you go -- “I’m lucky to be able to do this!” You’re telling a story that you hope will be able to terrify people and provoke them. It’s gonna excite them and maybe move them and make them laugh at the same time -- that’s what I try and do in the job.
Q: The reason OLYMPUS works so well is that we believe that you can actually do this stuff, you’re great for that type of thing. How did you see Mike, does he have issue even before the prologue where things go so badly for him?
GB: That’s why we put the scene in there [later] with Angela Basset where she says -- “You were crazy the day you stepped into my office” -- which was years before the tragedy. But yeah, I think he definitely has a screw or two loose but it’s never affected him in doing his job. The tragedy that happened was actually caused in some ways by him averting a greater tragedy. His job was to save the President, which he did. But as a result the President’s wife died and what a great dynamic that is immediately. He’s been haunted by that and having a screw or two loose, he is the kind of guy who would rather be in the thick of the action and do what he was trained to do and you get the feeling as the movie goes on that he kind of enjoys being that kind of uncompromising, brutal enforcer. In the interim period, where he’s been stuck in the Treasury [Department], you get such a feeling that he’s a caged animal and he’s not happy. It’s affecting his whole life, it’s affecting his relationship with his wife, Radha Mitchell, and yeah he’s not in the best space that he’s ever been and due to the weirdness of life and as a result of this attack and the White House being attacked and besieged and the President being held hostage, in some ways that moves him into his element. He’s now there to take no prisoners.
Q: When he says -- “I’m gonna take a knife and put it through your brain” -- he’s not kidding.
GB: No, that was my line. Because I always wanted to be saying something to him that was so brutal and cold and yet 100% convincing of what I’m gonna do --“I’m gonna take a knife and put it through your brain.” The funny thing is it was coming out of me, and in fact I said to the writer Dan Gilroy - who wrote ‘The Bourne Legacy’ - who came on - and we read with him and every night I was on the phone with him just trying to work to make it more gripping and more believable, more involved, more specific. Like why does everybody do the things that they do? And some of the fascinating parts of being Secret Service in this situation. You’re in the White House, what are you saying? Who are you trying to get in touch with, establishing lines of communication, playing the psychological games that you do with your arch nemesis? Eradicating threats, checking out and assessing their level of proficiency. All of these things, we show that! And that’s the kind of stuff that’s gold in a movie and really sucks you in.
Q: There are action actors now in their 40’s who are limping or have terrible shoulder or neck problems or their hearing is going. What are the physical things going on for you? How do you go through that for a movie?
GB: Well in ‘300’, we had a lot of fight sequences as well. I spent three months having a guy running at me full speed, hitting my shoulder and then lifting him over my body. You do that a couple hundred of times and your shoulder’s hurting. You’re pumping iron, you’re taking hits, you’re picking them up, you’re throwing yourself all over the place. But in this movie I was up against it more; it was more hand to hand. You had to take punches. At one point, my arm went black and it looked like a cadaver. It was black and purple from my wrist to my elbow. At one point I had a bruise the size of a soccer ball on my right leg. Cut my hands and burned my throat when Dylan [McDermott] flicked a cigarette and it caught the glycerin and it burned. I got a big scab there. I was hit in the eye by a bullet casing because I was firing next to a pillar and it went BOOM! I thought someone punched me in the face. So you’re always, it’s definitely not something that everybody can do but if you can do it, then the more you do it, the better you get at it. You sign up for the fact that you’re gonna get a few grazes and a few bruises along the way. To be honest, when you come out of the movie and you see it, that’s what makes it all the more special. If I’d come through this movie with little to show for it and say that I didn’t hurt myself in any way, I don’t think that I’d be appreciating what I’m doing as much because you think that Mike Banning wasn’t hurting at the end. He limps out of that White House. It’s very strong for women this movie, there’s such powerful female character who garner such respect and have some much integrity and strength and I love that. Even my wife, Radha...
Q: Well in real life you’re not married or have a child and something that’s cool in the movie is you have such a great paternal relationship with this boy Connor who is the President’s only child. Was that always there?
GB: Connor was always in the story and it was always a very powerful, emotional tool to see how much he loved Mike and how much Mike loved him and how it broke his heart that Mike no longer worked with the President. Again, suddenly I’m there and it’s just the two of us in the White House and I have to get this kid, who as well as being the President's son is also the tool and the potential to really test the President’s loyalty to his own country. Because these extremists want his son so bad and they know that if they’re gonna get anything out of the President [it's by using his son as a hostage]. We all realize that fact and it’s all about getting Connor the hell out of there.
Q: How do you recover from the physicality of a movie like this?
GB: You spend a lot of time with a chiropractor and a physical therapist and getting deep massage and crying, going -- “Why did I do that? It’s probably not even gonna be any good.” A lot of times sitting in a therapist chair. In a few months you’re ok I guess.
Q: Banning’s not a reflective guy though?
GB: I think he is. I think when he gets down to business, it’s all business but I think in his life he has way too much time to reflect. He sits in that chair in the Treasury office all day bouncing his ball and going -- “How the f--- did this happen? I trained all those years to protect my country and protect the President and now I’m here looking at accounts.” It’s killing him. I think unfortunately lately, he’s had too much time to reflect but I think that he’s ultimately a man of action. He needs to be in action and this horrific situation gives him the chance to be where he should be.
Q: Did you pick up anything from the Secret Service guy who was working on technical stuff with the movie?
GB: Everything. We had two special Secret Service agents. We had Rickey Jones, Joe Bannon. And Darrell Connerton who is a security advisor to the White House. In Washington and we had other Secret Service agents who would train me on the field. We’d go out shooting guns, he’d teach me the way they think, the way they move. I also worked with a SWAT team. And then a lot of our stunt team and stunt coordinators were Special Forces. You learn so much from them and we used so much of that in the movie because, to me, you had to be gripped every time you were with Mike. What’s he doing? What’s his protocol? When is he thinking outside the box? When is he assessing? When is he killing? When is he kidnapping? When is he establishing lines of communication? All those things that are fascinating. Then people go what really does happen in those situations is what we wanted to create so we take some of that stuff and use it in performance or put it in the script so you are always knowing or discovering the next move.
Q: You’ve been in the business a long time, how do you deal with success and failure?
GB: You win some, you lose some. Sometimes you win a couple or you lose a couple. You’re in the business of trying to make movies for the right reasons and sometimes they don’t work out as planned or they’re not marketed as they should have been or people don’t get the same point as you did. But I always try and have a message in my movie, and I’ve never had a movie where I don’t hear back -- “I love that for this reason” -- it affected them. That’s what I try and focus on rather than the sh-t that comes with it because what’s the point? It’s just a fact, it’s all information and unless I can learn from it. In actual fact, I feel like I have learned from my experiences both good and bad. I’m always analyzing and thinking without playing safe, what can I learn from recent mistakes and recent results?
Q: Do you think that goes back to your legal training?
GB: I think it does.
Q: So you’ll read your reviews?
GB: I don’t read a lot of reviews but I read a few on each movie and see what the movie is getting. But I’m more interested in what the audiences think. You go into watch this movie and you go in with a regular audience and they’re pumping their fists, they’re screaming, they’re laughing, they’re gasping. Some of them are crying and they’re all coming out going -- “Holy sh-t.” I just read a review the other day that they said they never knew what it meant to be on the edge of their seat - 'until I was literally on the edge of my seat for this whole movie.' That’s what I dig because that’s me. I’m a moviegoer. I want to have the same experience and at the end of the day, you want good reviews but often reviews are so indirectly related to what the consumer is actually enjoying.
Q: You’re doing the sequel to HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON?
Q: Have you done it already?
GB: I’ve done a lot of it but there will still be another year before it comes out.
Q: Is that the next one that’s coming out for you?
GB: It might be, yeah.