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300' star Gerard Butler: 'I am the guy for this role

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 7, 2007 | Publication: Scripps News | Author: BETSY PICKLE

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It's barely 10 a.m., and Gerard Butler is already giddy from answering questions about his manly new epic, "300," in which 300 Spartan warriors valiantly face Persian King Xerxes and his tens of thousands of soldiers at the Battle of Thermopylae.

"How cool was that body suit?" he remarks impishly in his beguiling Scottish accent as he warms up to a fresh group of reporters at a Beverly Hills hotel. "That puts the question about training out of the window, doesn't it?"

Of all the special effects in "300," Butler's physique may be the most impressive. And it's no body suit. But if Butler has had his fill of describing the training regimen he went through to achieve his ripped torso and well-defined biceps, he certainly is happy to rave about playing King Leonidas in the stylized epic based on Frank Miller's graphic novel.

"I don't want to sound like a wet rag, but in actual fact it's an honor," Butler gushes. "It really is an honor. I made certain promises to people before I started: 'Give me this role and I'll kill it. I am the guy for this role.'

"One thing that I think I can do well is keep the strength and the power almost like you're sucking it in from everywhere around you, and I had that element of insanity which I bring with the Scots blood in me."

In the years since he dropped out of Glasgow University's law school to pursue an acting career, Butler, 37, has played more than his share of larger-than-life, iconic characters _ from Dracula in "Dracula 2000" to the Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera" to Beowulf in "Beowulf & Grendel." But he grabbed the chance to play the legendary Spartan king.

"At the risk of sounding a little twee, if that's the word, I felt like (it was) my destiny to play Leonidas," says Butler. "I've played this kind of role, and yet I knew that I'd never had a chance to play it on this kind of platform."

Butler loved everything the film demanded of him.

"I hate to say this in case I go on and do '300 No. 2' _ but it did feel like ... a swansong in a way in terms of just giving everything," he says. "I think I knew after meeting everybody and seeing the look of the film that if there was ever a film to put your whole heart and soul and physicality into, this was the one."

Director Zack Snyder, who co-wrote the script with Kurt Johnstad and Michael B. Gordon, shot "300" against green screens and blue screens in a dormant Montreal industrial site. The landscapes, sets (except for three that were constructed) and gritty look were created digitally in post-production.

"It looks like nothing you've ever seen before," says Butler. "It's a rush. It's like a shot of adrenaline in the arm that kind of spreads throughout the audience.

"But at the end of the day it really makes you feel something, I think, because it's a very powerful story and you dig the characters, and at the end you understand their journey and their pain and their sacrifice."

Though they kill with gusto, the Spartans in the film aren't as ruthless as they are in Miller's graphic novel, the actor says.

"We had to soften that a little bit," says Butler. "But to me sometimes our heroes, Leonidas and his men, they almost feel like the villains.

"These guys, they're animals, and yet they're very, very smart. Every single dimension of this film had a fresh and different feel and taste to it and (what stood out) more than anything was the pure toughness and the masculinity of the piece. That's what I really dug."

"300" isn't a history lesson. Even though it's based on a true story, it's more like mythology, an aspect that appealed to Butler.

"I can't help thinking that that's one of the reasons why these roles affect me so powerfully that I want to play them _ and perhaps that I'm given those roles _ because I have a natural fascination with mythology and the collective subconscious and just climbing into that," he says.


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