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ONLY IN HOLLYWOOD: From Phantom to half-clad Spartan king

Category: 300 News
Article Date: March 8, 2007 | Publication: Inquirier.Net | Author: Ruben V. Nepales

Posted by: admin

LOS ANGELES -- Gerard Butler doffs his “Phantom of the Opera” mask, cloak and clothes and wears virtually nothing, save for a leather codpiece, in the film adaptation of Frank Miller’s graphic novel, “300.”

In a recent press con, Gerard, who vied against Daniel Craig for the James Bond role, spoke with a bit more bluster than usual. He was probably still psyched up from playing King Leonidas in “300,” where he had to be like a lion in order to lead a small army of 300 Spartans combating more than 200,000 Persian troops in 480 B.C.

The actor dismissed reports that the director, Zack Snyder, toyed with the idea of King Leonidas and his 300 soldiers appearing naked throughout the film.

Well, the finished product shows Gerard and his warriors semi-naked. But the biggest draw of “300” is that it is a surprisingly engaging film, thanks in large part to its impressive visual style reminiscent of “Sin City,” another film adaptation of a Frank Miller novel. Add the fact that, while it sometimes borrows from the golden look of “Gladiator,” it doesn’t take itself seriously.

Gerard, sitting confidently like King Leonidas himself as he answered questions from reporters, also talked about the supposed “failure” of “The Phantom of the Opera.” The Scotland native was sheepish, however, when asked about how he injured Hilary Swank while doing a striptease act in front of her during the filming of a scene in the upcoming “P.S. I Love You.” Read on for his account about how his disrobing almost caused serious eye injury to the Oscar-winning actress. His suspender snapped and hit Hilary above the eye.

Can you talk about how you felt wearing a codpiece and almost nothing else in the film?

Thank Christ I had four months to prepare for this role. I started training before everybody else. I disagreed with Zack because he wanted a more sinewy body. He felt the Spartans wouldn’t have eaten that much. I was a thinking, who the f--k cares. Who knows they didn’t eat much? I understood exactly where Zack was coming from, but I also realized that I have a six foot beard and a helmet that was like a skyscraper. I wanted a body to match those. When I took off my top and I put on that leather codpiece, I did not want to doubt, not even once, about how I looked or how strong I felt, that I could be like a lion, like an animal.

The first time I tried my codpiece, I have to say I still didn’t feel like I was there, body-wise. There was about a week to go before filming. I was walking through the studio in Montreal and there were all these big French-Canadian men—carpenters and electricians—sitting there, chewing their tuna fish sandwiches. Suddenly, they see this guy walking along in a codpiece and you could see them going like, “Okay, it’s going to be this type of movie (laughter).” There was a certain amount of vanity but that disappears in a couple of hours. The next minute, you feel strange wearing clothes. You’re like, “Oh, look, I’m in jeans. What’s this (laughter)?”

Zack told us that for a split second, he thought about having everybody naked. Would you have done the movie if he proceeded with that idea?

I don’t think Zack was serious when he thought that. We all have insane thoughts but ultimately we are not serious. I don’t think we could have made this film walking around naked. And I wouldn’t have done it. That would have been a ridiculous idea (laughing).

How did you get your body in shape for the role?

I am very proud of my body because I know how hard I worked for it. I trained six hours a day. I got an extra trainer even though there was already a film trainer who was “killing” everybody. I also wanted to sculpt and add muscle to my body. I would go and train with my guy and then go and do some gruesome sword and spear training with my stunt guys.

I would also pump before the shots. Pumping in between shots really helped. It made me feel so big and strong. Honestly, in the middle of the film, I was thinking they could send an army of a million and I would slaughter them all myself. That’s insane but I guess he (King Leonidas) was insane. And that’s a way to function so I didn’t feel like an idiot when I was speaking to my men, that they could see the lion in me.

Some folks are finding contemporary parallels in the war between the Spartans and Persians. What is your take on the film’s message?

The message in a film like this is the way you want to take it. What is interesting is, I have heard people describe the Spartans as Americans and Persians as Iraqis. I’ve also heard it the opposite way around. It’s really for everybody to find meaning in the film. That’s what the fun is about. They say it was drawing a line in the sand for democracy. Okay, which round? That’s what I find fascinating. I am not going to speak about that for fear of being blacklisted.

But I think that in films like this one, the big message I took was the purity of belief that is necessary in one’s life. How long are you going to really stick to what you feel is your honorable path? Or do you veer off with temptation and other things that perhaps are enticing but are not the truth? This film is about the extremes of sacrifice, honor, loyalty, faith, belief and that these are all exceptional values for people to try and adhere to but they have been watered down over the course of history.

For you, though, what would be the ideal reaction of the viewing public?

It’s funny because somebody mentioned vanity early on—that you end up trying to sound intelligent about this film. In fact, this film is just pure testosterone. It’s kick-ass. It’s fun. There are a lot of times it doesn’t take itself seriously that I really hope people get the humor. The test screening that I went to was like a rock concert. I saw people jumping out of their seats, applauding, laughing.

Can you tell us about your filming accident with Hilary?

This was for a romantic comedy that I am so excited about. Hilary is a dream and especially because I almost killed her. She can get through that boxing movie but she can’t get past my suspenders (laughter). It’s important for me to say this because that was probably the lowest point in my acting career—to see her fall back and put her hand on her head. She was still laughing because the thing was so funny. Then I saw a trickle of blood and I wanted to die. I said, “Oh my God, I am so sorry.” In the middle of this pain she said, “This is not your fault.” She didn’t bitch. She didn’t whine to anybody. All these people crowded around. That woman was so cool.

What do you think went wrong with “The Phantom of the Opera”?

Honestly, I think if you were to bring down Martians and show them a bunch of movies and then show them “The Phantom of the Opera,” I think they’d go, “That’s a pretty fantastic movie. I thought it was Joel’s (director Schumacher) ultimate masterpiece.” Unfortunately, there are other things that play against a film’s performance such as suspicion and negativity. I felt that Joel got a pretty negative vibe, that Andrew Lloyd Webber got a pretty unfairly negative vibe. The music in that film is just so beautiful, eternal and gorgeous. I don’t know but maybe people felt it jumped on a bandwagon. But again, to me the film stood alone as something. I am not the public but I really had expected it to do better but it still did okay and internationally it did well. It was a great experience for me. There were a lot of people going, “Where the hell is Michael Crawford?”

There were huge expectations since “The Phantom of the Opera” is one of the most successful musicals of all time. How did you cope with the film not doing as well as it was expected to do?

It saddened me that the film didn’t do better but I have come to realize that everything in my life is for a reason. A great saying for me is to keep an open mind to everything but get attached to nothing. Yeah, it could have done better. There’s a reason it didn’t. I don’t know. I moved on. I am still very proud of what happened in “The Phantom of the Opera.” I still see that it’s Joel Schumacher’s finest work and that it sits in a lot of people’s DVD libraries. I know a lot of people who still get a lot of enjoyment out of it. Some you win, some you lose.

Now that you got your body in such excellent shape, do you still watch what you drink and eat?

I am drinking far too many cans of Coca Cola a day. I think that I’m about to come into some sense of balance because I spend too much time in the extremes training or going the other way and kind of blowing out on that. But then there’s a natural part of me that always watches what I eat. Nowadays, I don’t eat a lot of burgers or French fries. If I’m going to eat something, I’ll eat a nice bit of fish or a bit of chicken and a salad so I guess at the end of the day, I am more aware of my diet through these films.

What do you do when you are not working?

I sleep a lot. The strange thing in becoming successful in this career is that it has led me in strange ways to enjoy more of the simplicities of life. I have been getting into meditation and stuff like that and appreciating the richness of just seeing friends, going to the movies, doing a bit of traveling, going for a hike. The strange thing is, I abandoned a lot of my extra hobbies and sports as I climbed and scraped my way up. But I feel that I am in a position now that I can relax and let things come to me a little bit. I’ve made a big focus of my life now making space for leisure, recreation and relaxation because I’ve worked really hard. I’m proud of how hard I’ve worked but I also realize it’s taken its toll in some ways. Now I am much more confident that whatever is going to happen is going to happen for the right reason and therefore it’s time to just relax a little bit and enjoy myself.

Do you have somebody in your life that’s important?

I have somebody in my life that’s important but the dimension of the relationship just changed a little bit. And yes, I’d love to get married someday. Perhaps too much of my focus and psychic energy has been on the whole acting thing and not enough has been paid to other areas of my life. Now I realize that I have to pay more attention to those areas and that’s what I am trying to do right now. But I include women as leisure time. No, I am joking (laughter). But yeah, I would love to get married one day and hopefully, if I quit smoking then I could have more of a true belief that I will see my grandchildren running around.

What else do you like to do in your spare time?

Probably pretty much like my scene with the queen in “300.” I am a really snuggly guy. I prefer nothing more than snuggling up with my woman, hugging and keeping warm. It’s the best thing in the world to me. I feel like I am back in the womb when nothing can happen to you there. I’ll be spending more days probably doing another press conference like this in Berlin. So maybe I’ll be snuggling the table in front of me (laughter), snuggling my cup of coffee, yeah.

James McAvoy, another Scottish actor, told us that he couldn’t live in Los Angeles because maybe he would get less intelligent with all the sun here.

I don’t know if rain and cloud make you more intelligent but if it does then I’m a f--king genius (laughter), having grown up in Scotland. But I shouldn’t say that because I actually think I come from the most beautiful country ever. I am amazed that when I go back there every time, I get filled up. It affects me not just in a superficially stimulating way but in a deep, deep way. I need that because LA doesn’t fill me up like that. It fills you up in a different way. It fills you up egotistically but perhaps not so much spiritually.

Do you give in to temptation?

Oh, yeah.


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