I HAD TO REVISIT DRINK DEMONS

Category: The Jury News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: February 16, 2002 | Publication: Daily Record | Author: Grame Whitcroft
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GERARD BUTLER HAD TO FACE UP TO HIS BATTLE WITH THE BOTTLE ALL OVER AGAIN FOR HIS LATEST ROLE, SAYS GRAEME WHITCROFT THE JURY, ITV, SUNDAY 9.30PM

NO ONE but Gerard Butler knows how hard it was for him to play the role of recovering alcoholic Johnnie Donne in The Jury.

Just four years ago, the Glasgow-born actor had to quit drinking before it destroyed his own life.

Gerard, who has been widely tipped to be the next Bond after Pierce Brosnan, admits he couldn't believe the script for The Jury when he read it because it resembled his own experience so closely. It was a part he couldn't resist - even if it did scare the life out of him. "I would not have been able to play Johnnie without experiencing some real low points battling with my own alcoholism," says Gerard. "So I can really relate to some of the more negative aspects of his character.

"Seeing the script gave me the creeps. The part grabbed me and terrified me at the same time. It brought a lot of stuff back for me and that's what scared me about it - but I knew I had to play it.

"Johnnie has just got out of rehab and has nothing - before he was assertive and smart, now he's struggling. He has to build everything up again from scratch because he's lost all his friends and the friends that he does have were drinking buddies he can't see again.

"It wasn't that bad for me but it was pretty bad and you never forget that scared feeling."

Gerard says drinking played a big part in his life in his late teens and early 20s. "I'm not counting but it's been four years three days and six hours since I last had a drink," he jokes. "I drank a lot. I had a year in America and got drunk for a month with a bunch of Irish guys.

"I was still drinking when I got back to Edinburgh - in fact I turned up drunk for an interview and still got the job. It was about then I realised I had to stop drinking before it got any worse. I didn't go into rehab, I dealt with it in my own way.

"It was hard but I did it and I don't drink now. Some of the most miserable periods in my life were when I was drinking heavily - and people thought I was happy. Now I'm happier but I don't have to show it. I'm a lot more comfortable with myself."

Ironically, given the subject matter of The Jury, Gerard, who is fast making a name for himself in Hollywood after films like Dracula 2000, Mrs Brown and Tomorrow Never Dies, started off as a lawyer in an Edinburgh firm.

"My conversation starter when I was introduced to someone used to be, 'Hey, how you doing? I'm an actor. I used to be a lawyer'," he says.

"After I'd got into acting I would often dream I was still a lawyer and wake up depressed - until I realised it had just been a dream. It's just not the kind of life I wanted to live."

Gerard's acting career took off when he moved to London. After some stage work he got his big break with a part in Mrs Brown. With further parts in Fast Food, One More Kiss, and the film version of Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, his film portfolio started to take shape.

It really took off when he played the starring role in Dracula 2000 as well as roles in Harrison's Flowers and the gangster flick Shooters.

Gerard is now re-charging his batteries after a hectic schedule which saw him criss-crossing the Irish Sea filming Reign Of Fire, a science fiction adventure film, as well shooting The Jury in London.

"It was non-stop," he says. "One day I'd be in London and the next in Dublin. At one point I filmed all day in London and flew back to Dublin to work all night there. I got run down but it was worth it as the part of Johnnie was something I had to do."

Also starring alongside Gerard in the six-part series is fellow-Scot Helen McCrory with whom his character begins an affair.

Sitting on the other side of the fence as a juror in a murder trial in The Jury brought home to Gerard how difficult jury work can be.

"If you're a barrister or a QC, you deal with trials and court procedures every day," he says. "But it can be completely different for a juror. I hadn't realised how disturbing it can be. It can affect people permanently.

"Johnnie is thrown into this pressurised environment and can't cope with it. It was tough just doing it as an actor because we were in the courtroom for a month.

"I should have had a chat with my brother about it because he was on jury service recently - except he had to be taken off the case.

"It was a murder trial and he had to be removed because he fainted when it came to seeing the physical evidence - knowing him he probably did it deliberately."

Copyright 2002 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday Mail Ltd.