Gerard Butler would have dodged explosions in law school, too

Category: Interviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: March 26, 2008 | Publication: National Post (Canada) | Author: Bob Thompson
Publication/Article Link:National Post (Canada)

Gerard Butler can play a wily warrior or a sensitive sort. In Nim's Island, he gets to play both. Opening April 4, the action-fantasy film features Butler as a marine biologist living on a tropical island with his young daughter (Abigail Breslin).

In assorted make-believe moments he's also seen as the world's greatest adventurer, the hero of a series of books written by an agoraphobic San Francisco author (Jodie Foster).

When the father goes missing from the island, a series of events brings the writer and the child together to help save him. And while all three actors have their moments, the picture's truly an ensemble.

"It's sort of half Alice in Wonderland meets Huckleberry Finn, and half showing a regular sort of life," Butler says of the movie shot in Australia last summer. "It has a good sense of fun about it and it's a really nice idea to show survival in all sorts of ways."

Nim's Island also turns out to be an appropriate change of pace for the versatile actor, especially after the macho-man performance in the Spartan war epic 300 that vaulted him to action-star status.

Earlier this year, he also got in touch with his romantic side opposite Hilary Swank in the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You. But that's not to say he's abandoned the tough guy parts.

For instance, Butler recently wrapped Game, by the Crank filmmaking team of Mark Develdine and Brian Taylor. In the futuristic thriller opening next year, Butler plays Kable, a top-ranked warrior in a highly rated online contest in which humans control the action.

Expect lots of automatic weapon fire, multiple big bangs and the lead actor to be ducking between his dives and his dodges.

"I probably had to run through 200 explosions," he estimates of the shoot, filmed mostly in and around New Mexico. "There was a massive one right behind me and of course I'm wearing sleeves rolled up to my arms and not much else but the fatigue clothes protecting me."

To make matters even more intimidating, Butler says the assistant director was warning other cast and crew to cover their skin and stay at least 100 feet from the bomb site just before the detonation. "I'm like 20 feet away listening to this," recalls the actor.

The scene and the bomb went off without injury or incident. And despite those hardships, Butler says he's enthusiastic about Game's prospects, just as he had been previously with what became the blockbuster hit 300.

"In actual fact Game wasn't an obvious choice for me," he says. "There were bigger budgeted and more obvious films that I could've done, but I felt these guys have an incredible imagination and a freshness and an edge and a risk-taking about them."

The Glaswegian could be talking about himself. Once a lawyer-in-training, then a rock 'n' roller, he headed to London for a change of scenery and lucked into the lead in the 1996 stage adaptation of Trainspotting.

He later won positive notices movie parts roles in Mrs. Brown and the James Bond flick Tomorrow Never Dies. He was the title character in Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000, but more importantly earned international fame playing opposite Angelina Jolie in 2003's Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life.

Over the next three years, he mostly missed the mark in Phantom of the Opera, Beowulf and Grendel and The Game of Their Lives. But 300 changed all that. Now he's a movie star with an independent-minded actor's attitude, coping with the adulation and the attention, which he avoids whenever possible.

"The thing is I'm a nice guy, so I'm not so good at saying to a fan, I don't give a f--k about your reaction," Butler confesses. "So I'm like, Ah, come here.' Then before I know it I'm stuck in a 10-minute conversation with someone who's crying from joy."

As he says, the alternative - nobody knowing or caring who is - "is a lot less interesting."

"And career wise, there's a feeling of momentum," he adds. "There's a foundation and it's a pleasant feeling."