Star Turn: First, the Stranger, then stranger still

Category: Dear Frankie News | Posted by: admin
Article Date: September 26, 2004 | Publication: Los Angeles Times | Author: Mark Olsen
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Scot Gerard Butler plays a guest father in 'Dear Frankie' before becoming the Phantom.



Few actors can do the "tall, dark and handsome" thing well enough to pull off a character known simply as "The Stranger." Scottish actor Gerard Butler, 34, performs such a role in the heartfelt fable "Dear Frankie," as a man who acts as substitute father for a few days to appease a mother and a young boy he has never met before. And Butler will do it one better when he's seen this year as the darkest and strangest of strangers, in the title role of the film adaptation of "The Phantom of the Opera."

Butler himself had an absentee father. So absent, actually, that for his first 14 years, Butler was not even aware the man was alive.

"I think I've answered these questions so much," explains Butler in a lilting brogue, "that people think this was a powerful influence that really ruled my life. And I'll state first that it didn't, but what I do as an actor is climb in and explore those areas of my own life that are appropriate to the story. Therefore, obviously having not really had a father when I was younger, it wasn't something that messed me up at all. But for this particular movie, it was what initially pulled me in."

After a screening at this year's Cannes Film Festival, "Dear Frankie" received a standing ovation that reportedly lasted for 10 minutes. That's a long time. What exactly does one do somewhere around minute six?

"What do you do after one minute?" Butler retorts. "Normally an applause is 10 seconds long and after a minute you start to feel elated but uncomfortable. Then after two or three minutes you start to notice every move you make; it's all amplified 1,000 times and you become exceptionally uncomfortable and you're wondering, why aren't they stopping? And you start to feel guilty for standing there, although maybe that's a Scottish thing. After about seven or eight minutes, I screamed "Enough!" because I couldn't take it anymore. It gave me feelings from opposite ends of the continuum -- one of incredible elation and one of extreme discomfort.

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