60 Second Interview with Gerard Butler
Category: Interviews | Posted by: admin
Article Date: December 16, 2004 | Publication: Metro Cafe | Author: editors
Did you originally train as a lawyer?
I did. I studied law at Glasgow University and was even president of the law society. Then I trained with a fantastic law firm in Edinburgh, when it all went horribly wrong.
So was it you that forced me to sign a non-syndication agreement before I spoke to you?
I have nothing to do with legalities. I barely read my contracts. Now that I've escaped from those days, I don't want to venture back in even the smallest way.
So you left the law firm a week before qualifying?
I was fired. It was an awkward period of my life, I felt I was spinning out of control and the firm was nothing but sensitive. So a week before I qualified, they said: 'You're obviously not happy, you should do something you believe in because you could be great at something.' I never felt any bitterness towards them, and thank God they did it, otherwise I wouldn't be here. For it to happen a week before I was due to qualify was a little strange but, looking back, a week before was typical Gerry Butler fashion. I'm such a drama queen.
Sitting in the Dorchester having people order your lunch is probably a good point to look back?
I often feel like calling them and saying: 'Did I ever thank you for firing me?' The week before I was fired, I saw Trainspotting the play, and I thought: 'I can do this.' It was breaking my heart. So the day after I was fired, I moved to London to pursue acting. And the next year, I was back on the same stage playing that same role - Renton in Trainspotting - at the Edinburgh Festival. All the lawyers I worked with, including the senior partners who fired me, came to the show and hugged me afterwards, saying how proud they were. There was such a beautiful symmetry to the whole situation.
What was your audition in Andrew Lloyd Webber's house like?
I hadn't been nervous about singing for Andrew until the piano started. I was about to sing his signature tune, Music Of The Night, and my leg started moving separately from my body. I suddenly thought: 'Oh my God, I'm singing one of the most famous songs of all time, in front of its composer, one of the most famous composers of all time, and eh, I'm not a singer.'
Tell me Andrew Lloyd Webber's house is a mess...
It's disgusting, he lives in a hovel, it's only five feet by five feet, essentially a dustbin and a piano, with space for two people... No, he lives in the most unbelievable place, like a palace hidden away in Belgravia. He has a glass roof that opens up on the press of a button. I was sitting, waiting for him to arrive, and I realised that his roof opened up, so I thought: 'Oh good, now I can have a cigarette.' So I opened his roof and lit up, just as he walked up the stairs. I thought: 'Oh f**k, I've lost the job already.'
It must have been quite a risk to cast relative unknowns and one who wasn't principally a singer.
You could say that, or you could say that to cast purely a singer is a risk because in cinema, somebody who sings but doesn't act very well would be more disastrous than a Phantom who doesn't sing very well. This is cinema - it's close up. What's important is getting to the truth of the love story and the tragedy, and they therefore wanted actors before singers. They heard me sing, it's not like they took a gamble. And I'm saying that to you, but trust me, I had to say it to myself a hundred times.
Are you prepared to be critiqued on your secondary skill?
I always wanted every single note the Phantom sang to be infused with all of the bitter struggles, loneliness, and his longing and passion. If they'd gone for technically beautiful singing, you wouldn't have heard that. I have a Music Of The Night that is much more beautiful than the one in the movie, but it's far less moving.
Seeing as it's a Hollywood film, what are the chances of a sequel?
Ha, I don't know. I haven't even contemplated the idea. Sequels aren't my thing, and it's not in my contract either. Or maybe it is...
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Did you get to keep the mask?
Yeah, I was given one but I also think I nicked a couple. There were quite a few floating about. There were about 50 masks used throughout the production. We'd go through them quite rapidly.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Was being in court like acting?
I did some small claims stuff, nothing major. I trained for two years working as a lawyer, but I never actually qualified. Only once you've qualified can you make court appearances, but I can hardly say that the stuff was worth doing any performance over.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: Did you win any of the small claims?
Yeah, I did, but I messed up a few - a few that you wouldn't have thought were possible to mess up. My finest hour was when I was buying two places for my parents who were making a move to the Highlands and the guy they were buying one of the places from was going bankrupt. That was such a drawn-out, complicated process. I had the rest of the lawyers in the firm saying: 'See, when you apply your mind to something, you are fantastic. You have the makings of a great lawyer. Why don't you do this for all the other cases?' But my heart wasn't in it. That was the one case that I cared about, so that was probably my finest hour. Actually, it was probably my finest month because it took a lot of time to sort out.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: The lawyers must have thought you were mad moving down to London in pursuit of that dream?
Honestly? This is the thing that scares me at times. I'd never have made that decision had I not been mad at that point. And I was. It was such a strange part of my life that I look back now and think: 'Was that really me?' It felt like a completely different person, and yet, had I not been in that space, completely insane, I wouldn't have chosen that route. But I felt that I had screwed everything up, and amid the horror of that realisation there was a sense of incredible freedom. To just do what I really wanted to do, sort my life out, get myself together and follow something that I really believed in was a fantastic opportunity. Now I look back and I see how much people who followed similar paths struggle, I think: 'Why would I ever have done that?' Because the chances of me progressing anywhere were so small. I've been lucky.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: What was the big break in London?
I knew a casting director who was casting Steven Berkoff's production of Coriolanus, and I was helping her. The second day, before I'd spoken to Berkoff, I was buying his coffee when he came into the shop by coincidence. That's when we got talking, and I told him that I would love to read for the play. I almost didn't have the confidence to ask him. If I hadn't asked him in that moment, I wouldn't be sitting here right now, because back then I had no agent or anything. But I read for him and he gave me the role and, while I was rehearsing that, I got Trainspotting.
60 SECONDS EXTRA!: You've played Phantom, and you're lined up to be Robert Burns - quite some roles to follow.
Yeah and I've just played Beowulf as well. I've played Attila, Dracula, Beowulf, Phantom, Burns - I'm big on the title roles. I tell my agent: 'Only pass me the script if it's the title role.'