Gerard Butler News: Movie 300
Category: 300 News | Posted by: maryp
Article Date: March 8, 2007 | Publication: The Philippine Star | Author: Raymond de Asis Lo
"I am very proud of the film. I am very proud of my performance." So began our roundtable interview with Scottish actor Gerard Butler.
The brooding actor met with The Philippine STAR three weekends ago at the posh Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills for the junket of 300, the spectacular new film from Warner Bros., which opens yesterday.
Based on the graphic novel by Frank Miller, 300 is an extraordinary chronicle of the near-mythic battle of Thermopylae where 300 brave Spartan soldiers fought valiantly against a throng of Persian invaders.
The grey-green eyed Butler, who prefers to be called Gerry, came to the interview fully bearded and armed with his sardonic Scottish humor.
"The filming process was fun, but it was tough." he says. "We had the silliest producer and he was like (and he starts mimicking the producer complete with Italian accent), ‘Oh, this is boring, I want to play soccer. Anybody have a ball?’ and I was like, ‘You’re the (expletive) producer! And you wanna have fun?’"
The actor is a relative unknown hereabouts but a glimpse of his modest film career would show an impressive filmography highlighted by starring turns with Angelina Jolie in the first Lara Croft Tomb Raider and the film version of the hit Broadway musical Phantom of the Opera where he portrayed the coveted part of the masked Phantom.
In 300, he plays fearless King Leonidas, whose courage and bravery inspired 300 of his loyal soldier to sacrifice their lives and face King Xerses (portrayed by Rodrigo Santoro) and his massive army of one million soldiers.
"I had the feeling this role is kind of a destiny for me to portray," says Butler. "And therefore, knowing that, I wanted to make this man (himself), standing up there — being the king, I wanted him to truly feel the king, to look like the king! I wanted to do it in such a way that they (the other actors) would feel that I am the king."
The actor’s emphatic approach to his character is indicative of his dedication to his craft.
In a separate interview, director Zach Snyder told this writer that the first part to be cast was that of Leonidas. "The first guy that was cast was Gerry and I met him on a coffee shop on Ventura Blvd.," he said, trying to hide the laughter that would come at the end of his story. "He (Butler) told me he did a lot of acting and he had the graphic novel. He was like, "Look, man, I am gonna be this," and he said that while throwing punches in the air and imitating what was in the book. Even the people in the coffee shop thought that he would get the part."
He did get the part but to get the right look, Butler, along with the rest of the cast, had to undergo rigorous training in sword fighting and body building because they will appear almost naked in the movie. It was particularly hard for the actor, who recalled that on a trip to Italy months back, a small girl came up to him in a coffee shop, pointed at his bulging belly and called him fat.
"I wasn’t really fit and I wanted to look amazing, feel amazing and appear all fired up for the part and I think that did a lot of damage," Butler says. He confides he had a trainer on the set and he would be pumping irons in between takes. "It’s not a good idea — especially to do it in four months!" he says while breaking into a smile. "But the training for me was a meditation on being a Spartan."
On being naked in the movie, Butler says, "It started off feeling a little weird but after a couple of days we got used to it. When you start getting into the story, you start thinking like a Spartan, talking like a Spartan, behaving like a Spartan, and ultimately dressing like a Spartan."
"The Spartan soldiers have incredible strength and they wanted to show it off. The more naked you are the stronger you feel," Butler stresses.
Asked if he could be as fearless as Leonidas, the actor initially said yes and hastily said no.
"Yes, I think Leonidas is one of the most fearless characters I’ve ever come across," he declares. "However, I know a great thing about Michelangelo when he said, ‘Rather set your targets too high and never reach them and set them low and knowing that you didn’t.’ So, if I say no, I couldn’t be as fearless as him then I never will be, but if I say yes, then I could get somewhere along the road to being there."
Butler studied law at Glasgow University and started acting on stage only after his graduation. His first film role was for Mrs. Brown with Dame Judi Dench in 1997. He next appeared in the James Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies before he finally landed his breakthrough roles in Tomb Raider and Phantom of the Opera. He is currently working on P.S. I Love You" with Oscar winner Hilary Swank.
300 also stars Brazilian superstar, Rodrigo Santoro, Lena Heady and David Wenham, who was Faramir in the Lord of the Rings series.