TNT24 meets Gerard Butler star of Olympus Has Fallen
Entertainment Writer Stephen Milton sits down with Gerard Butler, star of Olympus Has Fallen.
Affordably arrogant, impossibly masculine and wholly likeable, Gerard Butler has carved out a niche Hollywood career, bouncing from romantic capers, The Ugly Truth, PS I Love You and The Bounty Hunter to burly action man roles in Machine Gun Preacher, Law Abiding Citizen and his breakthrough as King Leonidas in 300.
And after romancing Catherine Zeta Jones and rumoured ex, Jessica Biel in New Year rom-com, Playing For Keeps, Butler, 43, is back to his arse-kicking best in Antoine Fuqua’s Olympus Has Fallen.
A high octane thriller co-starring Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart and Angela Bassett, Butler plays Mike Banning, a disgraced former Secret Service agent who finds himself trapped in the White House when terrorists attack. Naturally our hero is the only one who can protect the president.
The laid-back Paisley bred star whose romances with some of Tinseltown’s hottest ladies including Jennifer Aniston, Ashley Greene and Cameron Diaz have often overshadowed his career and Butler himself admits he sometimes can’t quite fathom his leading man status.
“Now and then I think I’m going to be found out,” he snorts with a charming West Scots burr, planting his scuffed boots on the edge of a worryingly dainty coffee table at London’s Corinthia Hotel. “That really I haven’t a clue what I’m doing, that I’m just a mouthy Scot who got lucky.”
With upcoming roles in World War Two epic, Dynamo, submarine thriller, Hunter Killer and vocal duties for a sequel to Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon, it doesn’t look like the star will be running out of luck anytime soon.
Currently dating Romanian model, Madalina Ghenea, whom he met while shooting a commercial in Dubai, a sun-kissed Gerard, 6’2″, wears a crisp white tee, army green combats and very scuffed Timberland boots.
Q: Think it’s far to say you straddle the line between action and rom-com pretty successfully. In the past 12 months alone, you’ve gone from Machine Gun Preacher to Playing for Keeps and now Olympus Has Fallen? Is this an intentional mix?
BUTLER: I wish I was that calculating. Honestly I just take what I can get (laughs). I guess I like to mix it up, isn’t that what acting’s all about? Hopefully there’s no fear that I’ll ever be typecast.
Q: Olympus Has Fallen is another tough guy role, but what makes this movie stand out for you?
BUTLER: Antoine Fuqua! He’s the man who gave us Training Day, he’s a genius. It’s not your typical bombs and blasts; he exercises a masterful choreography of suspense and big screen action. And then coupled with a cast of that calibre, I mean [Morgan] Freeman, Angela Bassett, Aaron Eckhart, Melissa Leo, the list goes on. It’s like, ‘Let me just pretend I’m meant to be sharing a scene with you; that I’m at the same standard; that we’re not on completely different levels’.
Q: Is there a concern with this movie and the similarly veined, White House Down with Channing Tatum, that potentially one could derail the other?
BUTLER: Well Olympus is released first as far as I’m aware so it already has the edge (laughs). Personally I think we’ve made a very intelligent, standout movie with some quality performances from some of the best actors in the industry. Morgan Freeman, the man is a god amongst men and to be in his presence alone, it was like a master class.
Q: You’re a man who likes to do his own stunts; presumably nothing changed with this movie? I read you trained in weapons artillery and krav maga [Israeli combat technique- ED]
BUTLER: I think that’s half the problem with me these days, I think I can do everything. I’m getting on (laughs). I would shoot a scene where I’m fighting a terrorist or whoever, I’d run and hurtle back and land on the ground and do this fancy kick box move. And that’s fine if you do it once, but after twenty takes, you’re cut to shreds.
At one point my arm went black and blue all the way round because I was doing this same kung-fu move, over and over. I’m no spring chicken anymore and that’s something I have to realise.
But it’s hard because you want to be on that chopper or you want to be in that fight. You want to be doing the stuff that men do.
Q: Did your near death experience while shooting Chasing Mavericks in Hawaii [Butler was knocked off his surfboard and held under by two huge waves] change you as a person?
BUTLER: Man that was scary. I’ve surfed a lot of different waves before but these were probably like 20 times more powerful than the normal ones. It’s like you’re in an avalanche and it’s holding you down and you’ve lost your board and you’re spinning out of control and no one can help you.A lot of people who go through this, don’t make it back up. And then I did get back up but got sucked down again, and it all started again. That’s when you go, ‘Why did I do this, what was I thinking?’ Why did I have to do this stunt. That put the fear of God into me. The water now, I’m a little wary of, healthily so. But in general, you speak to any actor, if you do a lot of your own stunts, there’s always shit that goes wrong. I mean you’d think I’d learn about the danger of stunts after Pierce Brosnan nearly finished me off.
Q: You really need to explain this one?
BUTLER: We were shooting this chase scene [for movie Butterfly on a Wheel] in a high rise car park and whatever happened with Pierce, he ended up driving straight towards a wall and didn’t apply the brakes in time and smashed right into it. Initially we we’re fine, but I quickly realised my ribs came out, pretty painful stuff. I think Pierce was ok (laughs). It’s like five years later though and I’m still having problems with my ribs. I literally had the chiropractor come over to my hotel the other night to crack them back into place. Price you pay for doing your own stunts.
Q: You must have a little resentment towards Pierce after that incident?
BUTLER: It was an accident (laughs). And to be fair, I’ve been thrashing around on sets for years, I’m just in bits regardless. Actually, I was at a game recently in LA, and I was standing next to Kobe Bryant and we chatted there for ages. And he was there advising me how to heal injuries like jumping into two ice baths everyday and I’m thinking, ‘f**k that. I know I’m from Paisley but even that’s too much for me.’
Q: You started out in Hollywood relatively late by industry standards [34 when he landed the lead in Joel Schumacher’s The Phantom of the Opera]. Do you think that late start served you well?
BUTLER: I can see how easily the younger ones in the game go off the rails. The money’s been thrown at you, the fans, you’re constantly being praised and it’s hard to stay grounded. And it doesn’t matter what age you are when you start or when success hits. I was that bit older than some of the young fry setting off now and it doesn’t make any difference. There are a lot of privileges and opportunities taken for granted in this game, until you sit back and realise, it’s a good life. And I see that, I see I have a very good life, one that I like to slow down now and enjoy.
Q: Slow down and enjoy? Sounds like you’re looking to settle down?
BUTLER: Priorities change as you get older. I guess part of me would love to have toddlers running around, to enter that new stage in my life. But sure, that’s pretty normal for anyone really.
Q: You initially trained to be a lawyer but threw in the towel to move to London and make it as an actor. How difficult were those early days?
BUTLER: When I first moved to London, it took a good two, three years of slave labour, doubt and pure ‘what am I doing here’ type attitude. I was working waiter jobs, as a telemarketer, you name it, I did it while trying to pursue this impossible dream. But then I landed a job behind the scenes at a theatre and that’s where a shift happened, where I suddenly found myself in an environment where I could potentially meet people who could help me get started.
Those years in London, they gave me a foundation. As much as I love the international lifestyle my career has afforded me and travelling the world, coming back to London, reminds me of what I went through to get where I am today.
Q: And what does going home to Scotland remind you of?
BUTLER: How much of a little shit I was back in the day (laughs). Scotland is home, Scotland is my roots and you know, you always get that ‘feeling’ when you arrive back, each and every time.
Q: Let’s talk about some of your earlier roles; PS I Love You, the Irish accent wasn’t the best…
BUTLER: Why are you bringing this one up? As soon as I heard your accent, I thought, ‘Here we go, it’s going to be about PS I Love You’(laughs). I’m the first one to say, it wasn’t the best attempt. It came across like more of skit and it wasn’t going to win me any awards…
Q: You said it! And then you went on to play a leprechaun recently in Movie 43. Have to ask; what were you thinking?
BUTLER: Well the way I see it, I made a terrible fail of the Irish accent once, can’t get any worse as a leprechaun surely. It literally was one day’s work and I’m very happy with how it turned out.
Q: It wasn’t a roaring success at the box office, to say the least.
BUTLER: A movie like that was always going to be made more for the experience, rather than the money. I’m just glad I was a part of it; c’mon when else am I going to share billing with Kate Winslet, Hugh Jackman and Halle Berry in the same movie.
Q: Any truth that you’ll feature in the sequel to 300?
BUTLER: I think it’s done. Unless they’ve used CGI and not told me about it, I don’t think I’m in it (laughs). They offered it to me and I really liked the script but I didn’t understand why I was there for the movie; all I was doing was giving a political speech, it was only a minor side line. It just felt better that I wasn’t a part of it.
Q: What do you have coming up next?
BUTLER: Couple of projects in the offing, can’t really say too much about because I’ll curse them if I do.
Q: Can you talk about Dynamo?
BUTLER: Dynamo’s an intriguing, fascinating story centring around a milestone football match between this Ukrainian team who faces off against a formidable German squad during World War II. It’s a powerful, very harrowing movie, but that’s a long while from being made.
Q: So what are your goals for the future? Do you ever dream some day of winning an Oscar?
BUTLER: All the time, the whole practicing the speech with the shampoo bottle in the shower job (laughs). No, not really, I mean it would be lovely, wouldn’t it? So many say they aren’t bothered but it’s a lovely recognition for your work, I think every actor has a moment where they think, ‘That’d be nice’. But we’ll see down the line, who knows. My goals? Just to keep working, be happy, healthy. Can’t really ask for more than that can we?
Olympus Has Fallen is in Irish cinemas now