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From Tomb to Time

Category: Dear Frankie News
Article Date: November 1, 2003 | Publication: XPOSE Magazine | Author: XPOSE Magazine
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It's been a busy year for Gerard Butler. The one-time Dracula has been chasing ancient relics with Lara Croft and jumping back to the middle ages in the upcoming Timeline, as he tells Bryan Cairns.

Most actors would rather pull out their own fingernails than recall embarrassing jobs from their past. Not Gerard Butler. The Scottish heartthrob scrapes the bottom of his occupational barrel to find something so bizarre, one can't help but smile.

"Once around Christmas, there was a big advertising agency and I guess they were all gay or something like that", recalls Butler. "Me and these completely straight models were dressed up in chains and leather and had to pull in the most amazing sleigh you've ever seen. It was about 20 feet high. These doors opened and all this glitter came down from this 150 foot foyer. We were all looking at each other thinking 'What the f@**!!k are we doing here?' It was the most ridiculous thing I've ever seen."

Those days must seem a world away. Once an aspiring lawyer, Butler did the struggling thespian thing before securing the lead in a stage production of Trainspotting. From there, he's burned up the screen with the Oscar-nominated Mrs. Brown, TV Miniseries Attila and cult favorites Dracula 2000 and Reign of Fire. 2003 has been a particularly busy year for him, starting with his role as Terry Sheridan in Tomb Raider 2: Cradle of Life.

"What I love about my character is he's not the bad guy," offers Butler. "He just can't help himself. Like me, he needs to keep life interesting. He's definetly a rogue as opposed to the evil guy twisting his moustache."

"When I read the script, I knew I had to do this," he continues. "He's everything - he's a good guy, a bad guy, funny, charming, brutal, he has no master. He's his own man. You could totally imagine this guy walking into the sunset for his next adventure and that totally appeals to me. That's the kind of guy I'd like to be," he laughs.

Butler was so enthusiastic about becoming Sheridan he even chopped off the lengthy curly locks that had been his trademark.

"I was concerned before because you're used to long hair but the second they cut it off, I looked in the mirror and said 'Yeah, it looks good.' It's just so easy to live with now."

"I have to say," he continues, "that the movie has a great amount of dialogue and some fantastic conversations but it's also action-packed which I loved. Sometimes, you're on one scene for two weeks, filming all night and it's only two minutes long."

"Of course, when you're doing an action movie, you have to be the best-of-the-best. You have to pick up a gun, train a lot, and look like you know what you're doing. I'm supposed to be a character who is a brutal fighter, a superb marksman, someone who could do anything. We have a director who wanted us to do our own stunts and you can't beat when an actor does it."

But even Butler chickened out, or demonstrated some common sense, when it came to gliding down from the top of Hong Kong's IFC Building, one of the world's tallest skyscrapers.

"Those were the two craziest guys I've ever met in my life," he says of their stunt doubles. "They do it all over the world and just dive off buildings. We would be one floor underneath and they would just fly past us. It was unbelievable."

According to Butler, he still got put through the paces but the most grueling sequence had Croft and Sheridan jumping off a building and sliding down face first on steel cables while firing weapons.

"It was horrible," moans Butler. "The pressure of hanging upside down and then dragged up in the air. It was high, you were waiting for five cameras to get into focus, and you're like "For F@*!k's sake! Go! Go!' Then you come flying down and have to stop yourself from spinning which to me seemed impossible. We did about 40 takes and even after the first, I felt I was going to vomit. We were in the shade so it was freezing and I felt cold and sick. I really didn't enjoy that stunt so it better look good. I suffered enough for it."

Weapons-handling is also an important element of Butler's next appearance in the cinema, the much-delayed Timeline. As archeological site manager Andre Marek, Butler travels back in time to discover the Middle Ages weren't that full of chivalry as his team struggles to survive. To prepare for the movie, Butler brushed up on an old skill perhaps a little too much.

"I did a decent amount of sword fighting in Attila," he explains. "For Timeline, I had the most amazing coach and we worked real hard. Then we'd be on and director Richard Donner would say "You're too good." And I was like, 'What do you mean?' He said 'The whole idea is you may think you're good in the present day but there's a difference between messing around with a sword and actually being back there where your life is being threatened. You can barely breathe and the adrenaline is pumping through you so much so you're exhausted after two swipes but you're fighting against people who do this day-in-day-out.' I guess I had too much training."

While Butler has added another couple of Fantasy notches to his bedpost with Tomb Raider 2 and Timeline, he's quick to note he doesn't intentionally seek out such material.

"I've done plenty of other things but the United States hasn't seen them," he counters. "Last year, I did a six-part drama where I played a recovering alcholic. I do love to play all different kinds of roles. That's my favorite thing about acting: keeping it varied."

To prove his point, Butler is currently in The Big Apple prepping for his next two projects, the soccer drama The Game of Their Lives and a Joel Schumacher adaptation of The Phantom of the Opera. "I do consider myself blessed to be doing this and having these opportunities," he reflects. "I've had some great roles. I can never understand when I hear other actors throwing fits on set and going crazy. I take my job seriously but I like to have a good time and have as much fun as possible."

 


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