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A Spartan Transformation

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 2, 2007 | Publication: The Emory Wheel (Blog) | Author: Andrew Carlin &Ben Fisher

Posted by: DaisyMay

Scottish Actor Bares Secrets '300' (and a little skin)

The first thing you notice about Gerard Butler is his size.

The Scottish-born actor is 6 feet 3 inches tall and could probably bench press his publicist if you dared him. Eight months ago, when he was engrossed in his role as the powerful and uncompromising King Leonidas, no one would have put it past him.

He just wrapped on "300," an adaptation of Frank Miller's graphic novel of the same name. He has appeared in films like "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life," but "300" is Butler's most important, most highly anticipated film to date. But sitting in the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Los Angeles, it's hard to imagine he has a care in the world.

The question lingers, however, of just how he got so jacked in the first place.

"It certainly wasn't by drinking this f--king thing!" Butler says with a laugh, pointing to his can of Coke.

This is how Gerard Butler speaks - he's the unrated version of himself. With his hands flailing and a smile perpetually plastered to his face, it's hard not to lose yourself in his energy, especially when he's talking about preparing for the film.

"We trained our balls off," he says.

The men who play Butler's Spartan soldiers are as fit as any group of 300 guys ever assembled onscreen.

Every bit of training was necessary, considering the Spartan costume consists of merely a loincloth, cape and pair of sandals.

"We had to laugh at ourselves to get over it," Butler says. "I remember the first time I tried on my costume, I didn't have a cape. So it was literally just a loincloth and these little sandals, and I was walking through the studio passed the canteen where there were these big French Canadians with tattoos all over their arms. They were eating their sandwiches just watching me walk past going 'who the f--k is this guy?'"

Director Zack Snyder takes a more nuanced approach to the physical training required of the actors.

"The actors' physique is essentially part of their costume," he says. "They worked out really hard. But they were working out not for vanity's sake, but approached it from the perspective of their character."

Anecdotes aside, Butler is anything if not passionate about the new film. Set in the ancient Sparta, "300" tells the story of King Leonidas and his 300 soldiers who valiantly stand against the Persian King Xerxes and an army of more than a million men.

"I could tell the essence and the tone of the story, and I knew that I could abandon myself to it," he says. "When I first read the script, there was a class and an elegance about it, whereas it was also cruel and violent. [With King Leonidas] you meet a guy, [who] without having to do anything, always has the unwavering loyalty of his men. So there's nothing like the commitment and the allegiance and the courage that's experienced by this group of guys."

Butler finishes his Coke. He sits back and reflects on his first meeting with director Snyder in a coffee shop.

"Zack had been described to me by my agent as a really nice guy but kind of a film geek," Butler says. "So I expected to meet a really geeky guy as I went along. Then I met him and saw that he was this really cool, athletic-looking guy with tattoos all up and down his arms."

Athleticism wasn't the only thing the two men had in common. They both shared a passion for the Frank Miller graphic novel they were adapting.

"He had all this stuff prepared," Butler recalls. "I loved that he was spending all the time showing me, but of course my paranoia was that he was thinking 'I can't believe I'm wasting my time showing this idiot all this work.'"

Butler then begins to reenact a manic scene in the coffee shop, one in which he "jumped around and bumped into people," all in an effort to show Snyder he could handle the role of Leonidas.

After this demonstration, he stops and rather sheepishly admits he gets overexcited when he is in need of a cigarette break.

If your army was outnumbered three to 10,000, you'd need a smoke break, too.

- Contact Andrew Carlin at


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