Gerard Butler bares all as a vigilante in 'Law Abiding Citizen'
Category: Interviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: October 21, 2009 | Publication: National Examiner | Author: Carla Hay
Publication/Article Link:National Examiner
Gerard Butler doesn’t shy away from questions — even when people want to talk about his naked butt. During a roundtable interview at the Los Angeles press junket for Butler’s movie "Law Abiding Citizen," Butler was immediately hit with questions about his butt-baring nude scene in the film, in which his vigilante Clyde Shelton character decides to be arrested while he’s naked. Instead of refusing to answer the questions (like a lot of celebrities would), Butler took the inquisition in stride and showed why he’s one of those stars who’s well-liked for his sense of humor.
Butler is known for playing a lot of macho roles, but in "Law Abiding Citizen" his Clyde Shelton doesn’t start out as a fearsome vigilante. Clyde is in fact a mild-mannered family man in Philadelphia, but his life changes forever when his wife and daughter and murdered in front of him during a home invasion. The killers are sent to prison, but Clyde remains bitter over the prosecution team making a plea-bargain deal with the worst perpetrator of the murders, thereby robbing Clyde of a chance to testify at the killer’s trial. So Clyde decides to get revenge on the people he feels are to blame for this miscarriage of justice, including prosecutor Nick Rice, played by Jamie Foxx.
When asked what he thought about his Clyde Shelton character and his actions, Butler was forthright in saying that he had mixed emotions: Although the actor doesn’t condone people taking the law into their own hands, he sympathizes with those who might want to seek revenge after experiencing the trauma of having family members murdered. Here’s what else Butler had to say during the interview, including what he thinks about how his blockbuster 2007 movie "300" affects people’s perceptions of him, how he dealt with Foxx teasing him on the set of "Law Abiding Citizen," and what his experiences were like with the paparazzi while filming "The Bounty" with co-star Jennifer Aniston.
[Says jokingly] Gerard, do you consciously look for roles in which you have to show your naked rear end, like you did in "Law Abiding Citizen"?
[He laughs.] Yes. I love to show my rear end in roles, and I’m thinking it’s become a bit of a habit, a bit of a tradition that I have to show my ass in every movie that I can. It was always a great scene in the movie, and it actually speaks volumes about this character —and like the rest of this movie, part of the wackiness and unexpected that happens. And once this character gets going, he’s completely unpredictable. And yet, when you distill it down, it makes complete sense that he would strip off, because he doesn’t want anything to interfere with his plans, because he’s playing it completely safe. I mean, there’s a genius behind it. And if it means I have to bare my ass again, then so be it.
What do you do to keep your rear end so tight?
[He says jokingly] Stick a cork in between there and constantly try to hold it in. No, I shouldn’t say these things. I’ve always had a tight ass. I have a skinny, tight ass. I can’t believe we’re talking about this. Basically, the body though, I was kind of inspired by watching [Robert] De Niro in "Taxi Driver." You know, that scene where he’s doing the pushups and he’s so cut. A lot more is said in that than in just being big and being a meathead.
And just stripping off naked, it says a lot of who he is in that moment. The planning, the commitment, almost the craziness going into that. Whenever I make those decisions, I go, "Oh, sh*t! Here we go!" It was another three months of trying to diet and get that body back.
Do you feel pressure to have an amazing physique when the role calls for it?
I’m a mixed bag when it comes to that. My role in "The Bounty," at the start of that movie, I’m a beer-swilling, piazza-eating, wake-up-with-French-fries-on-my-face [guy]. And for that, you’re really not supposed to have the most fantastic body. And for some roles, it’s important that you’re big and strong or slimmer and cut. And when I’m in between, it depend son the mood I’m in. I’m very extreme.
Sometimes I keep it in my head to train a lot, and sometimes I just abandon the whole thing, especially when I travel a lot. Sometimes I get into traveling mode, pop off into New York and then to Scotland and then into London and then into Iceland and then into India — and when I’m doing that, it’s very difficult to keep up my regime. So start eating like a pig, until I realize, OK, I’ve got to swing the other way again.
How do you personally feel about revenge?
I think it depends. You want to speak to the spiritual, together Gerry, then you turn the other cheek. But if you want to speak to the real Gerry, who’s like every other human in a situation like this [that Clyde Shelton is in], how could you possibly turn the other cheek? And definitely, I have a lot of fire in me when it comes to that. I completely identified with Clyde. No, would I want to go around killing everybody and bring a city to its knees? No, I hope not. But I can understand that motivation. I can understand that pain turning into that calculating revenge.
Growing up, that was the thing: If you can imagine anyone touching your family, I wouldn’t just pay them back, but I would take great joy in making them suffer in the most horrific ways. That’s shy if you look at the scene where [Clyde] gets a hold of Darby, it’s hugely gratifying, even to the audience. The audience are cheering and going, "Yeah, go get him!" If you want to stop and analyze that, that’s kind of scary that they’re getting behind such a barbaric act.
Do you think that Clyde commits crimes that are worse than the original crime, because he starts to go after people who really weren’t responsible for the deaths of his wife and daughter?
Absolutely! And at some point, he has to stop being the … revenge killer we have compassion for and becomes the villain, the guy who has to be stopped. That was always a big thing, for me anyway: At what point doe he go too far? There’s got to be a little moment or one killing too many or something you see — maybe a lack of remorse — where you go, "All right. This has become something else. It has become sociopathic behavior, and it is time to put an end to this."
But at the same time, what I love about this and what I think makes it unusual is, there is typically a standard of heroic behavior, because it takes a lot of them to stand up for themselves, because normally, they’re going by some code of conduct that means that they can’t quite hit back. And then the guy’s left at the end. Do you kill the bad guy? "No, I’m better than that. I’ll arrest you, even though I want to kill you." That’s not what Clyde does. And there’s a part of us, in a way, that wants to do that: "Kill the bad guy! Don’t just go as far as you have to, but go further."
I think that was one of the reasons why "300" was so popular. The guys didn’t just sit back and say, "If you fight us, we’ll fight back." It was like, "If you want to take us on, we will do everything in our power and use every terrorist tactic to bring you down."
Do you think that since the 9/11 terrorist attacks that people have been more willing to see revenge as the right option?
Yeah. I think, going back to "300" and this movie, it touches a nerve. Even seeing the trailer for this movie, people go, "Wow! I love that idea!" I think it’s true. In terms of the U.S. and the Western world, they often feel restricted in the reaction they can have. Terrorists are allowed to play by any rules, and we can’t. There are certain rules we have to abide by, and I think it can get very frustrating to the public. "Well, why don’t you do the same thing?" And that’s what happens in this movie
But then again, that’s why it’s open to discussion, because in a lot of ways, yes, Clyde has become a terrorist, but how far do you condone that? Yes, I’m compassionate for him, and I can understand. Even the prosecutor [played by Jamie Foxx] understands why [Clyde] is doing what he’s doing, but at the same time, you’re condoning a terrorist like the terrorists we have around the world right now. That’s a good thing — there’s no easy answer to what’s going on.
Do you think the general public feels that they can’t get any real justice from the justice system?
I think that’s an age-old problem. That’s why we’re constantly having t adapt the legal system. If you look at the ancient legal system, [compared to] now, which is hugely different, because you always have to move with the current morality and the current opinion. And the reason why that happens is people say, "You know what? This is no longer just. Justice is no longer being served."
I’m not an expert on that. But I have no doubt that there are many legal cases where justice s not be served for many different reasons. But I think in this system of lea bargaining, there’s a lot to be said in saving of resources and saving what could be a waste of time. But at other times, it doesn’t allow absolute justice for the victim.
Jamie Foxx said that when he was doing this movie, he would watch "300" in his trailer and he would tell you, "OK, you’ve got to live up to that." What are your thoughts on how "300" has affected your career and your image?
I don’t want to cheapen what Jamie was saying, because it does sound very crude to live up to "300," but Jamie’s a very wise guy, and he knows that something he says simplistically is going to have a deeper reaction within me. Because at first, I was saying, "But this is not ‘300.’"
But as time went on, I knew what he was getting at. It’s just a different kind of intensity and power and being a stalwart in the context of this story. There was a real head-to-head, just like Leonidas had with Xerxes. And as time went on, that did come out. Maybe not in a form that Jamie would’ve thought of or maybe in a form that I would’ve thought of. It’s just that the more we rehearsed together, the more we played those scenes, something else happened — and none of us could’ve predicted how it was going to turn out, but there was definitely an element.
This [comparison to "300"] is something I totally get: An element of two great warriors, two great tacticians, who both have a purity if their belief system, but unfortunately, those belief systems, for whatever reason, are very, very different. But there’s a huge amount of respect between both of them.
When we were developing this ["Law Abiding Citizen"] script, I always said there was kind of a love between both of them. They could’ve been best friends. I see a lot of hope and beauty in Nick, and I understand that at the end of the day, he’s trying to make a living and trying to provide for his family. But in what way does he do that? He’s taken the easy option. He’s learned to partake in a system that can often take the easy way out. I feel like he’s more of a hero than that.
Christmas isn’t too far away. Can you share your memories of what Christmas was like for you when you were growing up in Scotland?
It was almost impossible to contain my excitement for Christmas. I didn’t come from a particularly wealthy family, but the thing about that was that anything we got was so much appreciated. My mum was a single mother, and with my dad living in Canada, we didn’t really get anything from him. But all the rest of the family — we came from a very close family — and a lot of aunts and uncles and great-granduncles would make sure that we were all right. My uncle would build us a sled. We would get some weird and wonderful gifts.
We were always thinking that we were going to catch Santa Claus coming down from the chimney. Coming form a country where it gets cold and it snows, there’s a real Christmas-y feel in Scotland around Christmastime. Then comes the day when you have to start getting the presents, and it loses a lot of that magic. Suddenly, it becomes a huge pain in the ass.
You seemed to have a lot of paparazzi following you around when you were filming "The Bounty." Was that the most intense experience with the paparazzi that you’ve had while filming a movie?
I’ve had movies with more people watching, more of the public. In "Phantom [of the Opera]," I would be doing scenes with literally 400 extras watching me perform. In "Attila the Hun," we did scenes with 700, 800 people there watching you.
But [my experience filming "The Bounty"] was by far the most in dealing with paparazzi … Unfortunately, for poor Jennifer [Aniston, who co-stars with Butler in "The Bounty"], it’s this road show that comes. And then, of course, there were all those rumors about her and [me], just because we’re doing a movie together, which brought even more paparazzi. They’ll take 10,000 photographs in one day and then wait for that moment when you have a hug or look at each other a certain way. And then more individually, when you scratch your nose and that’s "nose picking." You don’t realize it and think you can get away with it, and then suddenly, you make that one move and they’re like "Yeah! Got you, you bastard!"
At times, there were 30 of them [paparazzi photographers], and that’s cool. A lot of them are really good people and some of them are a nightmare. And they go out of their way to disrupt filming. It’s sad, because you’re there and o have a crew of 200 and you’re just trying to make a living. And we work sometimes 16 hours a day. And then you have those guys who don’t care. They’ll stand in your shot. They’ll sit and wait. And you go over and speak to them and they’re like, "Don’t f*cking touch me. I’ll get the police on you." So you’ve got to sit there and wait.
Or they’ll [use] flash [with their cameras] so the [movie’s] film is useless. It’s unbelievable sometimes what they do. And this is allowed. We’ve just got to sit back and watch this. That can be very frustrating.
Do you think people might confuse your movie "The Bounty" with Mel Gibson’s 1984 movie "The Bounty"?
No. I have issues with that name. I think of ‘The Bounty" and I imagine these Pacific islands and throwing a captain overboard. But no, ["The Bounty Hunter"] is actually about me playing a bounty hunter, and the bounty is my ex-wife. And this is perfect because [my character] hates her and all [he] wants to do is take her ass to jail and watch her suffer. So it’s very, very funny. It’s "Midnight Run" meets "War of the Roses." I think that’s the best way to describe it.
It’s funny, independently, before we started, I was talking to Jen about it and she said, "I call it ‘Midnight Run’ meets ‘War of the Roses.’" And I said, "That’s exactly how I describe it! It’s the two movies that I picked." I guess it’s a very ample description.
You’re developing a movie in which you’ll be playing Scottish poet Robert Burns. Any updates on when you’ll start shooting it?
Yeah, God knows when. It’s been held up because I’ve been busy and Vadim’s been busy and then more recently, he was freed up but I was busy. And sometimes when I’m free, he’s busy. There’s a few niggling things to do with the script before we’re ready to go. I think the thing is it’s a passion project for everybody, and sometimes it has to go on the back burner. But it will definitely be made at some point.
Is the movie going to have Robert Burns’ poetry in it?
Yeah. We’re staying with the language, which is one of the reasons why it’s tough to make. If it’s just his poetry, as much a sit is beautiful language, a lot of people would have no clue what he’s talking about. But if you can bring it within the context of the story and it comes out like the perfect music of the time, that’s what we’re trying to do: not too much about the poetry and not too about his life. A real perfect balance.
Who are more expressive: "Phantom of the Opera" fans or "300" fans?
"Phantom," when it touched people, it touched them in such a deep way in how carried away they would get in expressing their passion. But way more from "300," because that was definitely a more worldwide phenomenon. And I’ve ha d a lot of people say that it affected their lives and where they went with their careers. That’s kind of incredible.