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Scottish beefcake Gerard Butler shows his mischievous side
Reading Post film reviewer Kim Francis talks to actor Gerard Butler about the secret service and beefing up for action roles
Gerard Butler has a mischievous side. He walks into the bedroom of Whitehall’s Corinthia Hotel where I’m due to interview him and tells of his impulse to switch off my recording device.
So I’d get home and go, “What the **** happened to my interview?” Charming.
In fact, Gerard Butler has bags of charm. Well, at least you surmise he must as, if the press is to be believed, he seems to have lots of success with the ladies. There’s no doubting he’s a hunk: a welcome island of rugged brawn in a sea of Hollywood metrosexuality, but charming with it? He’s definitely impish.
On the day I meet him to talk about his latest film Olympus Has Fallen, about an attack on the White House, he’s swigging from a can of Red Bull and talking nineteen to the dozen, and I’m barely able to get a word in.
This makes a change from the last time, when a hangover meant he struggled to string a sentence together. Of the two, today is miles better, even if his answers are frequently meandering and technical.
To be fair to the former solicitor (he practiced law before becoming an actor), he does offer to provide shorter answers. I tell him I’ll take his answers as they come.
He waxes lyrical about the film – which he produced – and you can understand his enthusiasm. He isn’t backwards when it comes to talking about his own contribution: he’s very proud of the fact an actual secret service agent loved his performance as Mike Banning – the presidential bodyguard who saves the day.
“I went to a screening in Washington and the first person to speak – we did a Q&A afterwards – stood up and said, ‘secret service’ and I went, ‘Oh, s***’,” explains Butler. “But he said, ‘dude, that rocked, and you rocked, and I believed you were in the secret service’.”
Getting this type of response for his action roles is key to helping Gerard prepare.
“When I played Leonidas (in 300), I said, ‘I know you stunt guys think that the other stunt guys are tough as s***’ and I know they’re thinking, ‘here’s a soft actor trying to play a tough guy’. So I always want to train harder than anybody and have them go, ‘oh, wow. No, he’s nuts’.
“I wanted to feel that when I walked in front of them into battle that they were actually believing ‘I would follow you into battle’. And that’s what they said at the end. That’s why I trained. I was the only person on set who would pump weights before every shot. And I would train at lunchtime, and I would train at night, and I would train at weekends so I felt that when I was standing in front of them I deserved to be there. It’s the same with the secret service agents on Olympus Has Fallen.”
Like most actors, Butler wants to give one hundred per cent to the role he’s been hired for, not only to make it as convincing as possible for the audience, but presumably also to justify the pay packet.
“I’m willing to do anything for a role,” he says. “I mean, I was cracking bones and ripping things and being burned.
“You know you’re going to take a beating but you do it because you want to play the role well.”
Despite forays into romantic comedy territory and even children’s films, Butler talks with such passion about making action movies that it’s difficult to imagine him letting go of the tough guy reins.
Still only 43, he’s got plenty left in the tank yet.
And thank goodness for that, since there aren’t many around who can take on this Scottish beefcake when it comes to sheer, potent, on-screen manliness. Gerard Butler definitely owns that.