Going wild for Gerry

Category: Interviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: April 11, 2006 | Publication: Toronto Star | Author: MALENE ARPE
Publication/Article Link:http://www.thestar.com

Beowolf portrayer has a wolf pack of loyal fans.

He's amused by Americans driving north to see film.

Good thing it wasn't super-fan Linda MacFarlane who was talking to the Scottish actor Gerard Butler last week.

"I can't believe I did the full interview in my kind-of-American accent," a surprised sounding Butler said at the end of our phone conversation. "I'm very proud of that. If I really turn it on, I can strengthen it and make it even more American. But I try to have still a bit of me in there, and then turn it up a notch when I get on set."

MacFarlane would have been disappointed to hear the Glasgow-born, Paisley-raised Scotsman abandon his burr in favour of generic American.

"I think initially my attraction to him was his accent. I saw him in Tomb Raider. I've always been attracted to the way people talk," the 59-year-old Torontonian says.

She is among a growing number of fans drawn to the star of Sturla Gunnarsson's film Beowulf & Grendel. Butler, 36, has inspired a feverish devotion somewhat disproportionate to his celebrity. "We think he deserves a little more fame than he's got," MacFarlane says.

His fans, who congregate online at GerardButler.net and at screenings, see it as their personal mission to make a success of Beowulf & Grendel, a Canadian film made in Iceland that played on 22 screens in this country earlier this month and, as of yesterday, had taken in $446,000 at the box office.

"I've watched all (Butler's) interviews and he's just a charming fellow, funny, witty. He's just a joy to watch, and to participate in what is going on in his life. We're all behind him and try to support him, which includes going to see Beowulf as many times as possible. I've seen it eight times," MacFarlane says.

Fans in the U.S., where the film based on the epic Anglo-Saxon poem has not been released, have braved the roads headed north and the unknown to see the movie in Canada.

Butler plays the troll-slaying, long-haired hero Beowulf and he can't heap enough praise on the movie crafted by Gunnarsson, an Icelandic native who is a veteran director of movies and TV episodes in Canada.

"There's just something about the film's message and its essence and the power behind it ... a richness to his storytelling."

Another fan, Sandra Horyski, 40, of Winnipeg, says she's talked to Americans who've driven "thousands of miles, not even knowing where they're going" to take in Beowulf & Grendel at a Canadian cinema. She adds that the film's DVD, which has just become available for pre-order for a June release, is doing well on amazon.ca thanks to American fans "ordering many, many copies." It was the fourth best seller last week, behind only Narnia, Brokeback Mountain and Final Fantasy VII. Not too shabby for a low-budget Canadian movie.

"I read a few consumer (movie) reviews and I'm amazed how many people say they came from the States," Butler says. "There's been a big outcry, you know, about the fact that it didn't have any distribution in the States and hopefully that will be remedied. I guess it's a story that's important in some people's minds, there's been a lot of enthusiasm for the movie coming out and that's great."

As for the Americans travelling north in their cars to see Beowulf & Grendel, "personally I think it's crazy, but I love it as well ... if I was going to see a movie I was interested in, I think maybe 10 miles would be my limit."

When it's pointed out that the main reason that people are travelling great distances is him, Butler laughs (which he does a lot) and says, "well, then they definitely are crazy."

Butler, who also starred in the 2004 film Dear Frankie, played the Phantom in the movie version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera and just finished filming 300 in Montreal, is on the phone from Vancouver where he's working on the "very Hitchcock" thriller Butterfly on a Wheel with Pierce Brosnan and Maria Bello.

He's a bit sheepish about the blatant zealotry of fans, some of who recently held a Gerard Butler convention in Scotland. He says the adoration is "very surreal. I never quite know how to deal with that question."

The mere thought of the convention, which had his mother as an honoured guest, prompts another round of that fantastic laugh.

"I don't know. I didn't call them up and say, `Have a Gerard Butler convention! Why don't you all fly to my home country and have a big convention in my name.' I heard about it and said, `Is this a joke? Why would they do it?' It's, er, well, you'd have to ask them why they would do it. It would be a little narcissistic for me to even comment.

"I'm sure that for them, it's a chance to get away and do something together. Because what's amazing is that these fans have made friends with each other ... apparently they're having two more conventions this year, one in Colorado and one in Vegas, and they're all caught up in the great friendships they've made with each other. I just kinda gotta go with it, and say, `Well, enjoy yourselves.'"

MacFarlane, for one, is thrilled with the friends she's met.

"I've never joined a fan club before, this is the first time. It's a great club to belong to, because there's a lot of camaraderie. I was part of the Toronto gathering on the day Beowulf opened and got to make a lot of new friends. The fan club is great we support Gerry any way we can, but we support each other too."

Her fandom has paved the way for new experiences. When Beowulf played at last year's film festival, MacFarlane was inspired to attend the festival for the first time.

"I've lived in Toronto all my life and I don't go downtown any more because the suburbs have everything. But it was wonderful being down there, seeing everybody having a good time, interacting ... I intend to go back this year, even if Gerry doesn't have a film there."

Butler's next film is the Zack Snyder-directed 300, based on Frank Miller's graphic novel on the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 B.C., when all of Greece became unified by the heroism of the King of Sparta and his 300 soldiers in confronting Persia's invading army.

The preparation for the Quebec-made film, in which Butler plays King Leonidas of Sparta, was gruelling. "I trained for this like I have never trained before. We made something that I think is going to be like nothing ever seen on film."

Such comments make MacFarlane fret.

"I'm old enough to be his mother. And I think a lot of the ladies on the website feel that way about him. We get concerned when he's working too hard because he seems to put so much into his roles. 300 was gruelling because the training was hard for the 300 Spartans to get their bodies to look like they needed to.

"We hope he got a chance to take a bit of a break ... We worry that he takes care of himself."