Leonidas, The Scot
Category: Interviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 9, 2007 | Publication: Frankly My Dear, Movies with Roger Moore | Author: Roger Moore
Spent weeks trying to arrange a phone interview with Gerard Butler, and when it came, it was an hour and a half after my deadline, so what appeared in the paper today was a bit hasty 9a LOT hasty) and a lot less than I would have wanted to say, in quality and quantity.
Here's the review of 300. I don't see a link up for the story, but here's a Q &A from the rest of our chat.
He's 37, a native of Glasgow, and has had his shots at the big time (Beowulf, where IS that now?, The Phantom of the Opera). But even though he's wearing a dandy Spartan beard here, this might be the big time break he was looking for.
"I hope people see the humor in this," he says. "It's beautiful and dark and weird, but you can laugh at this, too. It's sooooo over the top. I think, at first, the audience don't know if they can laugh. When they figure out it's a ride, and they can whoop and cheer and giggle at what they see and hear, they'll get going with it."
Q: What did you decide that this King of Sparta had to have, as physical and emotional traits, before playing Leonidas?
Butler: The physical thing begins with his very imposing way of standing, with great confidence and masculinity, every stance suggesting his power. That's the way it's shot, too. The same with the voice. The same with his extreme confidence he carried himself with. I loved his silences. Always, his mind ticking. You let all these calculating things simmer beneath what you're showing on the screen.
I also loved his humanity, his incredible focus and strength, his humor. All this confidence leads to arrogance. But they had every right to be cocky and formidable and arrogant. They earned it.
You really felt that you didn't have to show all this to the audeince. You let them come to find it within you.
Q: Hard to put yoruself back in a time, 2500 years ago, in ancient Greece, while on a soundstage in Toronto, with digital sets added later?
Butler: I'm used to climbing into strange situations, unusual characters and places. I do a lot of psychological things before I start that allow to think about something like green screens as negatives, I turn them into positives. I could sit and bitch about the green screen and the lack of green hills of Greece surrounding me. Or I could say, "This is a really cool way to try and do this. THIS is MY Greece, ancient Greece. This is my home." Take advantage of the fact that it allows me to focus only on the people I am talking to.
But there is no doubt that at times it was weird, when I am screaming at an army of a million, across the way, when actually there's 15 make-up artists, standing in my line of sight, in the back. I had to say, 'I hope to god Zack changes them into a million Persians, because otherwise, I'm going to look like a p---y.
Q: What do you think about the poltiical subtext of the movie, what this story has to say to modern audiences?
Butler: Listen, I thinkl that's for viewers to decide, critics, whoever. I can totally see the Persians as the Superpower, and I can totally see them as the other way, the menace from the East. That's not why we made the movie. We've made an historical tale told in the most entertaining way possible. To me, it's much more about those mythical values that are so important to us, eternally.
What amazes me is when you distill these values down, we can all identify with those issues that the king faces, his wife faces. What are we each willing to do for those values?
You can look at it thematically or allegorically. It doesn't have to be about nations against nations. As long as you're analyzing it for a good purpose, that's Ok. But negative, whiny discussions about about being 'anti-war' in my mind FEED war. We're focusing that energy on war. A pro-peace demonstration is a much more positive thing.
Q: Any thoughts about what this could do for your career? The reviews are saying this is an arrival moment.
Butler: You know, maybe I'm a weird cat, but I am trying not to hear it, all this insane buzz that people around me are tossing my way. I feel the buzz, but there's a part of me that won't let that in. A little sad, I know, but it's dangerous to listen to that stuff. That helps me stay focused, even though I'm FINALLY involved in a movie that seems to work on every level.
We'll see if it's a hit. There's a huge amount of interest and interesting things are coming my way. I've done a lot of roles that have acquired an intense level of work. I hope I've reached a place where I can take a rest and relax a bit and trust what's going to happen.
Q: Phantom would have done it, had it worked.
Butler: Even with Phantom, I learned about this, not to get my hopes too high. I always hope that I'm doing something that's great and that affects people. I can't get too attached to it, though. Otherwise, I'd be in a nuthouse. Phantom, I was happy with. But it didn't make it. I'd rather do a movie that people who like it, REALLY like it.
Q: The first time whowed you the costume, basically a Speedo, and nothing else, what worried you and sent you to the gym?
Butler: Every PART of my body, ALL of it. Scary. I've always had a relatively good body, and since Atilla the Hun was one of my first roles. Not that different in terms of the shape I had to get in. I let it go, from time to time. But I said to the people in the highest levels, 'Give me this and I'll get in kic-ass shape, I'm telling you.' I wanted to have a physique like you wouldn't believe.
I'm not a martial artist, not a Schwarzenegger. But I wanted people to go, 'Holy ----. how did he get like THAT?' I hope I've done that.