An Interview with Gerard Butler - Part One

Category: GB.Net Interviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: February 15, 2002 | Publication: GerardButler.Net | Author: KIM ZIERVOGEL
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It's early in the morning, the phone rings and Gerard Butler is on the line. He is apologizing profusely for having not called sooner. I have been less then enamoured with him for months now after he agreed to do this interview and then didn't get around to actually doing it. But as he rambles on about how much he likes the site and says how flattered he is with the work that has gone into it, my frustration melts away. This boy can pour on the charm. As we talk a bit about where I live and I explain to him it isn't up near Alaska somewhere, I grimace and cannot believe the words that are about to come out of my mouth. I ask him if we could do the interview another day. He readily agrees and we make arrangements for him to call back in a couple of days.

I hang up the phone feeling like the boy I've liked all year long has finally asked me to dance at the last dance of the junior high school year and I've said no because I don't like the song that is playing. I beat myself up for the next two days wondering if he will in fact call back.

He does.

Gerard is in a great mood. I ask him how he is and he goes on for a few minutes explaining how he was being fitted for costumes for his next movie Timeline that afternoon, how he trained at the gym, and how he is attending, on average, one and a half plays a day while in London. Earlier that week, he says he was in northern England with the man who's making all the longbows for Timeline and was shown how to work one.

I figure this is going to be an easy interview but before I can even ask my first, carefully planned question, Gerard has already steered me off course. I now realize this isn't going to go my way at all.

"In the new year of 2001, I went into a bit of a depression. It was almost a bit anti-climatic after Dracula (2000) and Attila," he reflects.

"And suddenly I signed onto this amazing agency (CAA) and my first two auditions were just awful, dreadful. Then I went in and read for Michael Apted (director of Enigma and The World is Not Enough) for Enough (a Jennifer Lopez vehicle) and I had two fantastic auditions," Gerard's voice rises in excitement. "I thought 'All right, this is the one. This is all mine.' And basically, my agent said 'Alright we'll get the offer' and it never fucking happened," he pauses and then adds, sounding a little starstruck "I was almost playing opposite Jennifer Lopez." (Do you think Lopez was probably thinking, 'I was almost playing opposite Gerard Butler'? Okay well maybe she wasn't but that is her loss.)

He was out in Dublin shooting Reign of Fire, sitting around telling Matthew McConaughey, who plays the leader of the American dragon-fighting team, about the role when a letter from Apted arrives on set for him. It contained some nice things about Gerard.

"So often you don't get a part and that's that. That's all you hear about it. (Apted) really went out of his way. It was a crackin' letter. So," he drawls "I've had it blown up 25 times and now it's stuck to my ceiling," he chuckles at his own joke.

Audiences are currently eating up fantasy films like Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring, which Gerard loved, and Harry Potter, which he "hated with a vengeance". So when Reign of Fire is released this summer it should only whet the appetites of those waiting for the next installments of Rings and Potter.

"I always worry when I try to describe (Reign of Fire) because essentially it deals with dragons. When you hear dragons, people go 'yeah right it sounds great,' you know."

Having said that, he is enthusiastic about the film. "Rob Bowman's (the director) idea was to take a situation, which to us as human beings, is just far-fetched. But if you can make that believable and draw the audience in then that is the main purpose of doing that kind of movie. If you can take something that is so out there and insane, if you can bring it right into somebody's, you know, vision, and make them really believe they are living in this environment, this world, so then they are scared shitless rather than people just going along to see some fancy effects. In a movie with this big of budget you know you're going to see some amazing stuff. (The budget for this film was $80M, at last report) But it's got to be more than that you know, and I think that's what we were trying to do in this really."

He describes it as cross between Alien and Mad Max where the Earth has been destroyed by pre-historic lizards that only come around about every 10 million years. (Don't hold him to that figure though).

"They feed off of, well, basically everything. They burn the grass, they burn the trees, they burn all the vegetation, they burn buildings and they burn people. But eventually they multiple so rapidly and they burn so much that they starve themselves out again, and disappear again for a long period. And we are unfortunate enough to live in a time when they've come back," he adds giggling "or fortunate enough or otherwise there would have been no movie."

Gerard plays Creedy who he describes as a street-wise entrepreneur who, if he were living in 2002, would be running a gang of small-time crooks. He insists that Creedy is a good guy who always tries to make things work with everybody.

"Christian Bale (American Psycho) and I, we're like best mates. We're the ones who come up with this plan that we all should end up in this castle and that the most important thing we have to do is we have to discipline ourselves in every way and make rules that nobody can break because this is the only way we're all going to get through this."

Creedy, he explains, brings the film back down to earth. Creedy questions what is going on.

"That's me in this movie, y'know? Somebody to say 'Can you believe this is happening?' and somebody who's willing to laugh at the situation. I would hope that I bring some humor into the movie."

Although Reign of Fire doesn't sound like it lends itself to a lot of humorous moments, Gerard does look for roles that do. That's not to say he wants to be the next Jim Carrey.

"I love nutty roles; those roles that you can climb into and give a lot of color too. It might be some off-beat wacky, low-budget script, and I might just say 'oh my god, I have to do this."

Ariel Vromen's short film Jewel of the Sahara comes to mind, in which he plays an British Army captain that gets kicked to death while screwing a camel.

"I haven't really chosen my roles on the money available. I've done movies that for what to me is a lot of money. And I've done movies for nothing because I like them and because I wanted to work."

In preparing to play his characters, Gerard says he tends to draw from his own experiences.

His latest project "The Jury", is a mini-series which is currently airing in the U.K. on Sundays, and has him playing Johnnie Donne, a recovering alcoholic. Without the formal training of drama school Gerard relies on himself to get into character.

"I spent so much time just in my own head. Just kind of memories, just kind of going into myself and I became so worked up and stressed out. But it worked perfectly for the part. When I finished I thought that to me was very much the right approach."

Gerard is a person who takes things to the extreme.

"I'm a clean person for three days and then I'm a slob for the next four. I'm like that in everything. I'm completely one and then I'm completely the other you know? My flat right now is really not bad. I spent a lot of time today throwing out shit and folding this and folding that and putting this away. But there are days when I walk in's like everything. I'm either dieting or I'm eating like a pig. I'm either working out or I wouldn't want to see the gym for a million years. I'm smoking 50 cigarettes a day, or I've stopped. Currently, I've stopped. I've stopped on Monday, yet again," he says like he just can't believe it. "Or I'm being Mr. Tidy and I'm making sure every jacket is hung up and everything is put away and then as soon as one thing goes on the floor, that's the precedent and everything else just lies on top of it for the next few days until I get really upset."

The extreme behavior helped him prepare for the role of Johnnie. "A lot of my research just goes in my head," he begins slowly, then as he continues on the words fly out of his mouth, "walking about, constantly thinking what about this, what about that, what would he wear, what would he do, how would he be, what would he like. And you start to build a character that way."

The extremes Gerard goes to and the wild times in his life help him to find something in his characters that he can relate too.

"I have lived a varied life and I feel that when I do something I can draw on past experiences. I've come to really cherish that; cherish every color that I have instead of fight against it. Any success that I have had is because of me, Gerry Butler, who has loved right up to this day, every good and bad thing he's ever done. And that's what informs me as an actor."

He seems so sure of his abilities but those moments of surety always seem to be backed up by humbleness.

"If I look at what landed me Attila, what landed me Dracula, I went in with something, in my view, that could have easily been deemed as a pile of shit. But it turned out to be exactly what they were looking for. And therefore through my six years I've learned to trust my own instinct much more. But it's constantly changing and evolving which makes me always excited and always nervous as well. Every time I get a job I think 'what the hell am I going to do about this one', ya know? And every time I notice I have different ways (to develop the character) depending on the job."

But enough about character research. He finds it boring to talk about that. He says he doesn't want to "wank on" about it anymore because he'll sound boring. Uh-huh. Yeah, if you say so. So let's wank on about why the majority of his characters seem to die.

"I die some pretty gruesome deaths. I was poisoned (Attila) and burned alive (Dracula 2000). I was shot in Shooters; I was shot in Please! Oh my god, I was shot in Fast Food as well."

The amount of characters he has portrayed that have died seem to hit him. Let's recap the movies in which he dies: Attila, Dracula (2000), Shooters, Fast Food, Tale of The Mummy, Tomorrow Never Dies, Please!, Jewel of the Sahara. Any others? Not so far.

His character Gus in 'Lucy Sullivan Gets Married" should have been shot.

"Lucy Sullivan, I can't even remember what happened to me in that. I probably just ran away with the money. That was a very fun character but a very dreadful show," he says, thinking back to the show.

"It is just such a shame when they take a script that is so colorful and clear and at the end of the day turn it into something very, very dull. I don't like it but I've only ever seen one episode of it and I couldn't watch anymore."

And once again Gerard has unwittingly changed the subject.

"I actually enjoyed playing that character. You know it's funny. I think a lot of people joked about the fact that, and some people weren't joking, when they said 'you know the only thing is Gerry, you really weren't acting when you were playing Gus.' I don't think they were really talking about his ability to break into houses and cover it up. It was more his very kind of," he searches for the right word. Charm, I suggest? "Charm," he takes up the word "and wit," he adds. "And at the end of the day his roguish qualities."

The Merriam Webster Dictionary describes a rogue as a scoundrel or mischievous person. Self-professed rogue Gerard laughs while admitting, "I'm a bit of a bad boy. But not the type of bad boy that you would want to protect your wallet from...I like to have fun and I am a bit of a rogue."

Although rumors of his behavior abound on the Internet between strangers and the women who claim to have crossed paths with this man, he declines to give specific examples of his roguish behavior. Those Internet rumors are not lost on him.

"I've had people I know tell me about things that have been said that are complete bullshit," he says sounding amused and a bit perplexed by it all. He rattles off a handful of rumors, including what seem to be the favorite ones out there: his love child in Toronto and his engagement. He denies both.

Gerard is lost when it comes to a computer, even though he owns a G4 PowerBook. He admits, in that roguish way of his "I don't know how to work a fucking computer...and I don't know how to get onto the bloody Internet with it. And I've never properly managed to get into my e-mail. It's all hopeless to me."

So how does he even know about Friends, family, managers, and agents show him the site.

"I'm chucked with the web site I think you guys are doing a great job. I try not to get too involved with it but it doesn't mean I don't kind of think 'damn' whenever I get on there and look at it. I'm constantly amazed by the kind of job you guys are doing. So I'm very, very happy."

What? You didn't think we would ask what he thought about the site? After all, without Gerry we wouldn't be here now would we? But what about the way we run the site, I push, are you happy with that?

"I fully appreciate that you guys are looking after my best interests. I've never really doubted that you know."

But enough about GB.Net.

What does Gerard love about acting? He never knows what's going to happen from week to week. He gives a for instance.

"I was supposed to be in Mindhunters playing an FBI agent. It was the male lead with Val Kilmer, Christian Slater, and LL Cool J," he effortlessly rattles off the other actors confirmed for the Renny Harlin film.

"One day you're going along doing your thing and the next your whole life has changed because it does when you land a role. Suddenly you're living that character, you're thinking that character. You're imagining the place you're going to be filming. You're giving the director ideas. Then just as soon as that happened on the 27th of December, my manager called me and said 'It's all off, it's not happening. Miramax has pushed the movie and now it runs into Timeline' And all my stuff was sitting in Amsterdam. All my clothes were in Amsterdam waiting for me to arrive to start the movie," he laughs, then sighs. "It's a crazy business."

It sure is when Hollywood puts their trust in a very inexperienced ex-party animal Scotsman, his words.

"I think now that I'm now starting to grow into success or the feeling of success which really came out of luck," he sentences remain fragmented.

"Things were really going along nicely (in London) and I literally stepped off the plane to LA and I was offered a pilot. I was told to consider a holding for a major studio and I was offered Attila. And this all happened in the space of two and a half weeks. There was a part of me thinking 'well this is where I belong.' It was all happening, and there was a part of me thinking 'oh god it's all going to stop tomorrow.'"

What has helped him to stay grounded and land the roles he wants is to treat acting like a job and not a dream or fantasy.

"I didn't find I got on as quickly in my career as when I cut all the bullshit and said alright I want to do this because I'm good enough and it takes away a lot of the kind of flighty, fanciful, more fun and dreamy elements of being an actor. But at the same time you get the opportunity to play those parts you know?" I briefly wonder why when he constantly says 'you know' it doesn't sound as annoying when my best friend says it.

"I said I want Attila, I got it. I said I want Dracula, I got it. I said I want Reign of Fire. And I certainly wasn't used to having that kind of ratio. It started the ball rolling. Cause once you've done Dracula and Attila then people start to know who you are and then suddenly, without you having to say to people 'Hey I'm really good and I'm in this. People are actually saying that about you."

Once again Gerard reflects on the nature of acting. "It's a funny old business."

Enjoying his success but still enjoying his relative anonymity he takes pleasure in mundane daily tasks. "You know, I fuuuucking loooove this shiiit," he sounds excited to be folding his socks.

"In some ways my life has changed. Suddenly you have fantastic agents, you have a publicist, and you have a manager. You have people inviting you to premieres and you're invited to parties. And that's all good and fun but at the end of the day pretty much all my friends have been my friends for a long time. I still walk about my flat and go 'shit, when am I going to tidy this place up, and when am I going to do that photo album and when am I going to fix that washing machine.'"

He's explaining how he has had the same maid for three years, that comes in once a week, to clean his North London flat. "I love her to death," he professes, "but I can't bring himself to ask her to do something specific besides generally cleaning up."

The constant ringing of a cell phone in the background interrupts us. I ask him if he needs to get it and he politely excuses himself.

Once again Gerard is apologizing profusely to me and says he really needs to go. A friend is waiting for him to go to dinner. Before I can get my 'thank you for taking time out to talk' he is asking if he can call back tomorrow. Surprised, I reply yes. He takes down my number, yet again. As we say our good-byes I feel this is the last time I'll hear from him.

I'm wrong.

Up Next - Gerard talks about Timeline, Speed and breasts.