Esquire meets Gerard Butler
"A month camping with Nicholas Cage or a month in a cage with camp monkey? I'd go camping"
Now devoid of Leonidas’ famous 300 beard and in town as the clean cut visage behind Hugo Boss’ new fragrance, Gerard Butler talks to Esquire about risking it all on set, marching to the beat of your own drum and watching Scottish football fans nearly burn down a pub in Glasgow
What’s the biggest physical challenge you’ve ever experienced on set?
I’ve experienced quite a lot, to be honest. My last movie was set in a space station so I spent a lot of the time weightless. There was one day where six different rigs were holding me, because they’re always shooting from different angles. You’re doing that for 12 hours at a time wearing a 65 pound space suit, and after five minutes you’re saying: “get this thing off me it’s unbearable!” I went through five weeks of that, so it was intense. Then again, on the surf movie, Chasing Mavericks, had to surf one of the most dangerous waves in the world (Mavericks, California) and I got trapped under it – I almost drowned as a result. I remember thinking when I was underwater: “this is actually it, I’m done.” I’ve got to learn to be a little less dedicated sometimes – a little less involved in the stunts, but it’s all part of the fun.
Given that you’re a proud Scotsman, would you rather sit in a bath of maggots for 24 hours or watch England win the World Cup?
I like maggots! I’m actually a fan of England, I’ve lived in London for many years and have always enjoyed watching the football teams. When I was a law student in Glasgow, I was working in a bar when England played Germany, and all the Scottish guys had bought German flags just to p***-off the English. There were four English guys, with little English flags and they were terrified. At half time one of the Scottish fans grabbed one of the little flags and set it on fire! The bar was so busy that everybody could have gone up in flames. I was furious, but it was fun. England has been my home, I’m so bored with Scottish people there saying “I hate England,” go back if you hate it that much! But, my success came from working in England, it’s where everything started for me. I’ll get s*** for saying this probably, but I’m a fan. Just wait until the Scottish press gets a hold of that…
If you were living in a world were acting did not exist, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be at home going: “what am I doing with my life, I need to do something!” I’m surrounded by a lot of people when I’m working, and when I’m not acting I like to sometimes be away from everybody. I live on a ranch in Malibu in the middle of nowhere and I love it. I’ve often thought if I wasn’t an actor I would like to be a forest commissioner. Maybe it’s just a romantic notion but I do like the idea of being forced to interact, for that to be your home and for the cities to be your visits. I like the idea of that.
“On shoot I got trapped under the waves and almost drowned as a result. Underwater, I remember thinking: this is actually it, I’m done.”
What character traits do you think a modern man such as yourself needs to have?
I’m very ambitious. If I consider my career I’ve been pretty courageous in what I’ve had to dive into. What’s also important for me – maybe now because I’m getting older – is understanding the beauty of success, but not at all costs. Being a true knight is not just battling, it’s what you contribute to life. Your deeds, your nobility and I think to show some compassion and care, but also being able to do what you want. March to the beat of your own drum I think, whatever that is nowadays.
What do you like most about your job and what are the challenges?
I love telling stories. I love the challenge of starting with a script and how you try to turn that into a movie. Seeing it take shape, moment after moment, and then watching that in a cinema, that’s fantastic. When you see moments that you’ve written or created or acted in and see an audience react to it, the impact, whether it makes them cry, laugh or turn in revulsion, I love that. The challenge is that not everyone loves the stuff I love so I have to deal with other people! It’s learning how to be patient, as well as understanding that you’re not always right, I think I’m right a lot… but not always. There are so many people involved in making decisions and deciding what works.
Finally, would you rather go on a month long camping trip with Nicholas Cage or spend one month in a cage with a camp monkey?
A camp monkey?! I don’t even know what that is! I think a month with Nicholas Cage. My buddy Freddy has a story about him, Freddy’s the guy I go to whenever I finish a movie. He’s not a journalist, but he once skipped into a press conference with Nicholas Cage and asked him the craziest, deepest question that almost made no sense, and Cage answered it brilliantly. That’s why I would choose a camping trip with Nicholas Cage. Then I’d get to be a forestry commissioner as well!
Esquire interviewed Gerard Butler at the launch of the new Boss bottled Intense, available in stores now