Gerard Butler: I've been lucky with acting
EN Interview 3 - Gerard Butler, 44, is a trained lawyer turned actor. His breakthrough role came in the lead in the 2004 adaptation of the musical, The Phantom of the Opera. He followed with a slew of movies, and in fact, there was a period when it was difficult to watch a film that didn’t star Gerard Butler. Some of them include: 300, P.S, I Love You, Nim’s Island, The Ugly Truth, Gamer, Law Abiding Citizen, Olympus Has Fallen, and now he reprises his role in How to Train Your Dragon 2, the sequel to the 2010 hit. As far as his personal life, the handsome Scot ended his relationship with Romanian model, Madaline Ghenea, 25, in January of this year and he is currently single.
Looking rugged as usual, he’s in his adopted city of Los Angeles wearing black trousers, a grey and white shirt. He’s sporting a beard and his hair is longish.
Q: Which kind of animation movie did you go to see when you were a child?
BUTLER: Well, my favourite was Jungle Book. I remember trying to go to see Jungle Book five times and I could never get in. The cinema was always packed. I loved animated movies.
Q: What do you like about the world of animation?
BUTLER: You don’t have to go to the gym to make your voice better. I just have to speak with more resonance and a little deeper, that’s my working out. It’s great. I realised when I was doing it, I thought, 'Sh*t, I wish all my movies were animated!' Right now I’ve been crushing it. Like when I was doing 300 we would sometimes work up to 16 hour days and I would pump weights and train and go on and do fight sequences. You injure yourself and you only get four-five hours sleep in a night so your body doesn’t heal and you do it for months. By the end of the movie you’re a monster but you’re kind of like the walking dead if you do it over 15 movies, stunt after stunt. I’ve injured myself a lot and you can never take time off because the whole thing shuts down unless you literally lose a leg and then you’ve got to go back to work. So I’ve done a lot of my own stuff, sometimes you’re limping around the place. I broke two bones in my neck in Olympus Has Fallen, and I almost drowned in Chasing Mavericks. I was in a car crash in one movie, I’ve done so many things, and by the way I’m not whining; I love it. It’s like getting to play Cowboys and Indians as a grown up. I love it but you do hurt yourself so when you get a chance to do an animated movie and I get a chance to be so badass on the screen but it’s all animated, I’m going to take it.
Q: So what is Gods of Egypt? Who do you play?
BUTLER: I’m an Egyptian god. As soon as you hear the word god you know you’re f**ked. It’s like alright, there’s no getting out of the gym on this one, so I’m playing the god, Set, who’s the god of chaos and fire. He’s kind of like the villain of the piece, surprise, surprise. I don’t normally play villains so it will be interesting. I’m just saying surprise, surprise, because after saying he’s the god of chaos and fire, he’s hardly going to be the romantic interest.
Q: Are you attracted to history? Or for the action?
BUTLER: It’s just the way it goes. I mean listen, I’ve done that but I’ve also gone off and done Shakespeare movies done in modern times, and surfing movies, and I’ve played a soccer coach, so I do everything in between. But at the same time, I do feel like there’s a big part of my outlook and personality and my understanding of life and what excites me lies in mythology and history. So, I love to take on these heroic or even villainous characters because villains are heroes in their own ways. They normally have to be pretty exceptional people to get where they get so to climb into those bigger personalities and make them real and believable is an exciting challenge. I think fairytales, historical, or adventure pieces are timeless. They’re not fads and that’s why with How To Train Your Dragon, it’s this kind of stuff that is the cornerstone of our culture. We’re always going to be interested in things that happened a long time ago, ancient, real or exaggerated, real or fable and I love it. I find it so fascinating to go back to those periods, and I’ve done it. And yeah, the Vikings, I did Attila, I did 300 about Spartans and everything in between, a timeline which is medieval and Phantom. I love to mix it up but within that I do, everything in between, I’m going to do Point Break.
Q: Are you afraid to do this remake of the cult classic from the 80s?
BUTLER: That’s the challenge isn’t it? I love it. When I was in Phantom of The Opera, as the phantom, you know there were people going, 'He must die! Burn him at the stake! How dare he ever think he can be the phantom? He’s not even wearing a hat!' and the second you say you’re doing Point Break, I’ve met already ten people who have the strongest opinions, which is, 'You can’t make it the same of the first!' and the other half is, 'You’ve got to make it the same as the first!' so already it’s a lose-lose situation but at the same time, what’s exciting is any great movie will stand on its own two feet and I think the story is different but based on the same idea.
Q: You’ve done some romantic comedies, why do you think romantic comedies aren’t working anymore?
BUTLER: I don’t know because I love romantic comedies, but its true and I’ve kind of steered clear of them recently as well. The last one I did was okay but at that point I thought that they just don’t excite me as much. I haven’t read a good one in a while, maybe it’s too soppy for an audience nowadays maybe it’s difficult to break the mould and to get one as truly classic and profitable and memorable. But all I know is for me, I’m kind of steering a bit clear.
Q: You’ve come out of it unscathed.
BUTLER: I’ve been lucky, The Ugly Truth, I loved it. And PS, I Love You, even on Bounty Hunter I had fun, as well as making Playing For Keeps, but really The Ugly Truth was so much fun to make and I loved the way that movie turned out even if people individually say they’re over romantic comedies, we all remember some of our favourite movies are romantic comedies, you can get passed them.
Q: What calms you when you’re at home?
BUTLER: Meditation. I love meditating especially since I moved to Malibu and I got a ranch and I meditate in a forest and it’s amazing. Every day I do it and I get up at 7am and I swear if I finish it and I’m ready to take on the day. I mean, when I think of movies when I was younger, not like The Godfather, but movies where I identify with the character, I thought that’s what I want to do! Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or Apocalypse Now; these were movies that I just loved. Interestingly, when I was 15 I had a dream that I was in a movie, and the next morning I woke up I went to my mum and said, 'I want to be an actor,' and she laughed and said, 'No, son,' And I said, 'No mum, I need to be an actor.' And I was in Scotland. A kid in Scotland who thought of being an actor, it was never going to happen. But it had to happen. It felt like, of course this has to happen, because I want this so much and it feels so right and yet you’re thinking, who are you kidding? And in this dream I was living in this kind of world and I was with the princess and there were flames coming out of our hands, and there were wizards. I don’t know what kind of drugs I must have been on but the wizards and kings were all standing and looking down at me. What you realise was that way more important than anyone ruling was the power of emotion and connection you felt. It’s too deep for a 15 year old but I just knew when I woke up that I had to marry a princess and that I had to be an actor and I had to live in those worlds.
Q: Who are you rooting for in The World Cup?
BUTLER: Listen I love Brazil and it’s in Brazil, they are the most fun historically and the best team to watch. They’re Brazil it’s not just the team, it’s the fans and when Brazil moves in, it all goes off. I would love to get down there. I was in Italy four years ago when they went out and I was in a room full of Italians as they lost. I could never imagine being in Italy in a room full of Italians when everyone lost.
Q: You took a year off until recently. What did you learn?
What I found, I think on this journey, was permanently taking time out of the craziness and dipping into it rather than living in the craziness and dipping in to tranquillity is a better way to be. I’ve always lived in Hollywood and my energy is that ADD energy and creatively, since I moved out to Malibu and also travelled to some more peaceful places and understood the value and coming from that more connected place, that it’s amazing what manifests when I do that and also how much more enjoyable the experience is being in a calm place than a crazy, flustered placed.
Q: You don’t seem like a Malibu guy.
BUTLER: No, no I don’t, but I’m from Scotland, right, so the thing is when I’m in Malibu I’m not even on the beach – actually, I am on the beach right now, but generally I’ve been staying in the mountains and I love it. It’s like being in Scotland. I’m very connected there. I’d rather be in the mountains than on the beach. I feel so at home and surrounded by nature. I did a lot of travelling, but it was actually settling here I found a great way to create more of a life here on my terms and going, ‘Oh I can do this forever; that’s cool.’
Q: Why did you decide to live in America and not to stay in London or in Scotland?
BUTLER: Well, I came here and in two weeks I had my first lead in a mini-series.
Q: But the life in Los Angeles is to move here and to wait.
BUTLER: I never did. A lot of the British actors who say they don’t come out here and try, I’ve seen them on every list and I see them at auditions. They come out here and try – it’s very difficult to make it in LA I acted in London for many years and I acted in Scotland, and I acted in LA. It’s a lot more difficult to make it in LA than it is there but I have found in my experience, many British actors come out here and I read in the press where they say, 'Oh I don’t care about Hollywood, it’s not for me.' I’m like, 'I’ve seen you out on 10 flights to LA, up for every movie,' but it’s easy to say when they don’t get the movie, 'Oh, I’d rather be doing theatre in London.' By the way, I’ve done theatre. I love theatre, but it’s just been my journey that I also love making movies. I go back to Scotland a lot. I go to London a lot, but it’s much harder. There are not many actors who’ve lived over there who still come here and have done as well because when you’re here you’re connected. I’m producing now so I have offices that I go to.
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