Gerard Butler Interview
By Fred Allen
After a few rough years at the box office, Gerard Butler is getting back to business in a big way. With two big new films about to be released back-to-back – Gods of Egypt and London Has Fallen – the 45-year-old Scottish actor is in position to reclaim his former status as one of Hollywood’s top leading men.
While Gods of Egypt sees him play a villainous deity of fire and darkness, London is Falling sees him return to the role of the secret service agent Mike Banning (first seen in the 2012 hit film Olympus Has Fallen) who uncovers a plot to assassinate world leaders gathered at the London funeral of the British Prime Minister. Did Butler bulk up for both roles in the style of his former 300 alter ego?
“Not a chance,” Butler laughs. “I trained, of course, and got myself into good shape for both films, but I’m never going to go through what I did for 300. When you’re sculpting your body and bulking up to that extent, you’re only doing it for vanity. I’d much rather concentrate on the fighting techniques and things like that which are what adds to the realism of what you need to bring to the work.”
Having previously established himself as a go-to player in various romantic vehicles including including P.S. I Love You, The Bounty Hunter, and The Ugly Truth, and Playing for Keeps, Butler’s career has suffered from the declining fortunes of romantic comedies in Hollywood. That explains why the 45-year-old Scottish actor is now focusing on more dramatic fare that should reestablish his box-office credentials and give him more opportunities to exploit his naturally roguish screen persona.
Butler was born in Glasgow to Margaret and Edward Butler, spent his early childhood in Montreal, Canada, until his parents separated when he was 3 and his mother moved back with Gerard, his sister, and his older brother to Scotland.
A brilliant student, Butler excelled as a law student at Glasgow University where his charismatic personality and legal acumen earned him the prestigious position as head of the Law Society. But after beginning work as a trainee at a major law firm in Edinburgh, Butler felt depressed and disillusioned and that’s when the desire to change his life took hold.
After being fired by his law firm – though he admits he brought it on himself – Gerry, as he likes to be called, got his chance to pursue his dream of becoming an actor.
Gerard Butler lives in Los Angeles with his girlfriend Morgan Brown, a formermodel turned property developer and interior designer. They have been seeing each other for the past year and a half and attended the Toronto International Film Festival together in September. Butler is also the new brand ambassador for Boss Bottled, the new men’s fragrance for Hugo Boss.
Gerry, are you enjoying doing some of these bigger action films of late?
I love it! I like the tension and physicality that comes with doing fight scenes although on Olympus Has Fallen Rick (co-star Rick Yune) and I beat the shit out of each other! (Laughs) I wound up with two crack ribs and a broken bone in my neck. But apart from that I like playing tougher kinds of roles. Some of the other stuff I have been lately doing wasn’t getting the attention I had hoped for so it was time to go back and get bad-ass again.
Do you think audiences appreciate that side of you?
I think doing 300 created certain expectations and they kind of follow you around. That film got my career going and I’ve been able to make many different kinds of films and play a lot of interesting characters. That’s what I always wanted to do as an actor. You still have to pay attention to the business, though, and figure out what kinds of projects are right for you and are going to find an audience.
You went from working at a law firm to becoming a Hollywood star. How do you make that kind of adjustment in terms of the life you lead and trying to maintain a degree of privacy?
I live pretty normally but can’t really stay in one place very long or crowds tend to form around you. When I go to a shopping mall or I’m getting a coffee, I usually move as fast as possible to avoid attracting any attention. I still like to do errands on my own and it’s fine as long as the paparazzi don’t start following you. That’s the only downside. I’m very lucky to be doing what I’m doing.
Do you ever wonder what your life would have been like if you had kept on
working as a barrister instead of getting into acting?
Sometimes I think about that. There’s a part of me that misses Scotland and I imagine that I would probably be married and have a few kids by now if I had stayed there. Becoming an actor was a massive transformation for me but I didn’t have the heart to stick it out.
I would have made a good lawyer except I hated the work. I was drinking andpartying every night and I got fired. But my bosses also knew that acting was my passion and they were very realistic with me and said I should just go and do what I really wanted to be doing instead of wasting my time at the office. They were right! (Laughs)
Were your worried about risking the chance for the kind of security that came with being a lawyer to take a chance at acting, a profession where very few get to be successful at?
Oh, I was very worried. I still wake up sometimes at the night in the middle of a dream where I’m back at the office in Edinburgh. It’s a strange feeling but it reminds me that I didn’t enjoy the work I was doing.
I still remember my very first day going to work and showing up in dark suit and ties and thinking, “Is this what I really want to do with my life?” I spent most of my time poring over tax cases and in a way it was a huge relief that they fired me because that was what got me to follow my dream. The very next day I packed my bags and moved to London. I was still in shock, but that was the best thing that could have happened to me.
You’ve just been appointed as Hugo Boss’s brand ambassador for Boss Bottled. The image of the fragrance is today’s man. What does that signify for you?
It means being passionate, intense, strong, but also sensitive. I’ve always loved being able to talk to women in a very deep and vulnerable way where you’re not hiding behind any kind of macho exterior. It’s important for men to be caring and compassionate in life and I’ve found that women will appreciate that about you when you are able to talk about yourself and be open about your feelings.
Have you always had that kind of gift when it comes to charming women?
Even as a young man I was drawn to the kind of sensitivity that women bring to the way they see the world. Women don’t think the same way as men and that’s part of what is so fascinating and attractive about them.
Have you changed a lot over the course of your Hollywood career and all the success you’ve had?
I’m not as driven as I was although I’m still very ambitious. I’ve learnt to relax more and try to enjoy everything that comes with success. I meditate a lot because I find that helps calm me and keep things in perspective. There’s nothing better than sitting on the beach and meditating on a beautiful sunny day.
Are you still very attached to your pug, Lolita?
I take Lolita with me almost everywhere. She doesn’t like being in the car for long distances, though. But I bring her to the set whenever I can and at least there she can wander around a bit. I’ve had her since she was three months old and now she’s nine – that’s a pretty long relationship for me.