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MOVIES: King of his craft

Category: Interviews
Article Date: March 21, 2007 | Publication: | Author: Andy Dougan

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GERARD BUTLER worked hard to get the role of the King of Sparta and is enjoying all the success it has brought

GERARD BUTLER is a happy man, as well he might be after his film 300 smashed US records to take 36million in its opening weekend.

On the day of its UK premiere in London, the Paisley-born actor admits he still can't quite come to terms with the numbers but he knows one thing.

"The more you earn something," he says earnestly, "the more you appreciate it."

Currently Butler and everyone else connected with 300 is appreciating it big time.

The film is based on a novel by Sin City author Frank Miller and is based on the Battle of Thermopylae, where 300 Spartan warriors faced hundreds of thousands of Persian.

Butler is Leonidas, king of the Spartans, and director Zack Snyder knew the moment he saw him he had his man.

For the 37-year-old, this epic battle movie took him back to his days as a boy.

He says: "The family would get into the car and head for the Highlands each weekend.

"You would see this spectacular scenery and couldn't help but think of the stories of Robert the Bruce, William Wallace, and Bonnie Prince Charlie.

"You were just steeped in history and I always wanted to be involved in that sort of heroic adventure."

That he reckons was the first stirrings of his desire to act - "my fantasies were always set in fantasies" - and it never really went away.

He went to Glasgow University and qualified as a lawyer but eventually couldn't resist.

"There were peaks and troughs when I thought I should do something else but I always came back to this," he gestures around the room.

"Maybe this was my destiny."

No-one would grudge Butler his success. He's been knocking on the Hollywood door for a while now.

Films such as Timeline, A Sound of Thunder, and even Phantom of the Opera haven't set the box office alight.

I wonder then if Butler ever felt that he might not get the chance to fulfill that destiny? Would Hollywood tire of him before his big chance came?

Butler thinks for a moment and fixes me with a hard stare and I can see why Snyder saw something regal in him.

Relaxing again he insists the thought never occurred to him.

"I have done a lot of things," he says referring to his films, "and made some money and also learned a lot."

He continues: "there have been hopes and expectations along the way."

That education, he says, wasn't just about learning his craft and becoming a film actor.

It's also about dealing with the highs and lows of the business, how to cope with someone labeling you the next big thing and then the film not performing as everyone expected it to.

For 300, for example, although everyone wanted him for the film, Butler says he had to sell himself to the head of the studio.

Doubtless Warner Brothers were a little apprehensive about committing to a 31m film where the box office appeal of its leading man was unproven.

Other actors with lesser credits would have stormed off in a strop. Butler made the call, chatted to the studio boss and got the job.

"This is the biggest challenge of my career," he says of playing Leonidas, a role for which he had to train for six hours a day to get into the physical condition the part demanded.

"One of the reasons I wanted it so much was that this film never plays it safe. We never take the easy option and I was excited by that."

He is also excited by the possibilities his box office success presents. He is not interested in comparisons with other actors. He dismisses suggestions he is the new Russell Crowe by pointing out that he is just Gerry Butler.

There's talk, for example, of him taking the Kurt Russell role in a remake of Escape From New York, but he is now going to be linked with just about every action film going.

His immediate plans are a little different.

"I've just done a romantic comedy," he says. "I want to take the chance to do all sorts of thing, I want to be zany, I want to be different."

He's right enough, you do appreciate it more when you've earned it.


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