Butler's a nice guy under all the muscle

Category: Interviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: October 5, 2008 | Publication: Cherry Hill Courier Post | Author: AMY LONGSDORF
Publication/Article Link:Cherry Hill Courier Post

Gerard Butler might have led 300 Spartans into battle but underneath the ripped abs and dangerous deltoids lurks a big softie.

This is a guy, after all, who admits to sitting down and sobbing after his "P.S. I Love You" co-star Hilary Swank suffered an on-set accident that required three stitches.

This is a guy who rhapsodizes about returning to Iceland because of "the beautiful colors in the sky." And this is a guy who insists he doesn't run the other way when he sees weepy fans approaching. What would King Leonidas say?

"The thing is that I'm a nice guy," says Butler. "I'm not so good at going, "I don't give damn about your reaction!' So if I see (an over-excited fan) I'm, like, "Ah, come here.'

"Then the next thing I know, I'm stuck in a 10-minute conversation with someone who's crying. So that's a problem. I don't get noticed that much but if I do get recognized, it can be a bit time consuming."

Butler was supposed to become a star a few years ago when he was chosen over hundreds of better-known actors to play the disfigured hero of "The Phantom of the Opera." But it wasn't until 2007 when he donned a cape and codpiece in the $456 million-grossing "300" that the Scotsman earned household name status.

"It feels good," says Butler, who'll turn 39 in November. "I guess there's an invisible energy (around my career) now. There's a feeling of momentum."

Another side-effect of stardom is that the never-married Scotsman, who's been linked to Naomi Campbell and Cameron Diaz, is routinely cited as one of Hollywood's most eligible bachelors.

"I genuinely don't get too caught up in that," he says. "That's a nice addendum and it makes me smile. I suppose you'd rather it was being said about you than not being said."

Following the surprise success of "300" there was pressure on Butler to find another movie that would storm the box office. But, in the end, he went with his gut.

"There was a lot going on after "300' but it's never been my thing to just jump on the back of (a hit)," says the actor, who'll next be seen in "Game," a sci-fi thriller opening in 2009. "I think that's how you shorten your career. I had a lot of offers for things that, to me, just weren't that exciting because I'd been there and done that.

"It's like when Russell Crowe did "Gladiator;' he didn't come back and try to do another "Gladiator.' You have to move on."

Butler overhauled his he-man image by appearing in the family film "Nim's Island" and by romancing Hilary Swank from beyond the grave in "P.S. I Love You."

Now, Butler is back to his indie-movie roots with "RocknRolla," a Guy Ritchie-directed valentine to sex, thugs and rock 'n' roll. Butler plays a small-time crook named One Two who, in an effort to bilk cash out of a real-estate scam, runs afoul of an old-school London kingpin (Tom Wilkinson).

Ritchie, who's directed Brad Pitt, Jason Statham, Benicio Del Toro and Vinnie Jones in films like "Snitch" and "Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels," never doubted Butler could pull off the tricky role. "Gerry is that intangible mix of charm and danger, of sincerity and guile," says the filmmaker.

For Butler, the biggest drawn of "RocknRolla" was being able to help Ritchie turn gangster cliches upside-down and inside-out.

"We've seen so many years of gangster movies where you have these stereotypes which are normally very much followed," says the actor. "If you're a gangster, you're tough and almost foolproof. So what's funny with this movie is to actually delve into that world and see that these guys don't always get it right. Maybe they're insecure. Maybe they forgot their keys. Maybe their friend is gay. It's the silly and ridiculous things that make a story like this more human."