Gerard Butler's just a regular 'Gamer'

Category: Interviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: August 30, 2009 | Publication: New York Daily News | Author: Ethan Sacks
Publication/Article Link:New York Daily News

After hearing the war stories from the making of his latest action thriller, "Gamer," it's no wonder Gerard Butler made a tactical retreat to romantic comedies like this summer's "The Ugly Truth" and "The Bounty," currently filming in New York.

Filming the intense action sequences for "Gamer," opening Friday — in which the 39-year-old Scottish actor plays a wrongfully convicted soldier forced to join a human video game — took a physical toll.

There were stuntmen firing all kinds of guns and pyrotechnics all around him during the big action sequences. Despite the frigid winter temperatures in Albuquerque, where the movie was filmed, he was constantly being sprayed with freezing-cold water to make it look like he was drenched in sweat.

"You'd be doing some takes where there would be 15 to 20 explosions [that] were all around you, and you'd have to know where you were going or you were going to get blown up," says Butler from the safety of a couch in a mid-Manhattan hotel room.

"I've got to say, in this movie, there were many times I was hit by flying debris from explosions or from squibs that would bang against your face or your head," he says. "You'd get little injuries, but you move on, it's part of the adrenaline."

Since his breakthrough role as the hulking King Leonidas in "300," Butler has been sprinting down a bizarre career path — one where he is equally comfortable portraying a lover or a fighter. He says he needs to recharge his batteries, physically and emotionally, after doing an action movie with a romantic comedy or a drama.

"There's been a lot of door-to-door 16-hour days," said Butler, "but just by the nature of what we do, you laugh a lot. ... It's breezier. And I'm not spending all this extra time doing gun training. But by the same token, you miss the testosterone."

It isn't even out of his range to muscle his way into a musical, as he did for 2004's "The Phantom of the Opera."

"It all starts with the fact that Gerard Butler is a hell of a good actor and has a wonderful sense of humor," said Richard Donner, Butler's director on the 2003 action movie "Timeline," via e-mail.

"He's ‘a man's man', the kind of a person you want to go have a couple of beers with."

He won't just take any old role. For " Gamer," he signed on only when filmmakers Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, the brains behind the "Crank" movies, convinced him of the film's deeper allegory about society's increasing overdependence on technology — sandwiched between explosions and haymakers, of course.

Butler still considers himself a regular guy — or at least as normal as he can be when he looks out the window of his Manhattan apartment and sees a giant poster of himself from "Gamer" across the street.

But life is getting surreal for him. Just hours after his interview with The News, Butler set gossip sites across the planet wagging with reports that he was spotted at a Meatpacking District club holding the hand of his co-star in "The Bounty," Jennifer Aniston.

Dealing with paparazzi, he says, is one of the toughest things to get used to. They materialize suddenly, one recently catching Butler sitting outdoors at a restaurant and telling the actor that he wanted to snap him in the act of eating.

‘It was almost like holding out a [stick] for a dog," says Butler, laughing at the memory. "Every time I got my fork, he picked his camera up, so I put it down again and he put his camera down. Then I'd pick it up again. " This went on for 15 minutes.

"The only time I could eat was when a bus went past or a truck. Then literally the truck would stop and I go boom, boom, boom and I'd shovel the food in," he said demonstrating frenetically with an imaginary utensil.

As much as he loves New York — and Los Angeles, where he splits his time — his occasional return trips to visit his family in Glasgow keep Butler grounded. He says he comes from a passionate people that was fighting among itself long before the English arrived. That "fire" fuels his performances.

And no one is willing to mix it up with the 6-foot-2 actor like his mother, Margaret. "I go home and they'll cook Christmas dinner, and she's like, ‘C'mon, give a hand, come on, wash the dishes or put the dishes away.' "And I'm like, ‘Mom, I am a major Hollywood movie star, I can't be doing this. It's embarrassing.' "

But when his mother isn't impressed, "I end up on my hands and knees, wiping up the floor."