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Category: Interviews
Article Date: July 17, 2003 | Publication: Daily Record (Glasgow, Scotland) | Author: RICK FULTON

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GERARD BUTLER knows he's more famous in America than he is in his native Scotland - and that's just how he likes it.

But a kiss with Angelina Jolie in next month's Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life - which will premiere this Monday at the famous Grauman's Chinese Theatre in LA - will change all that.

And beating Antonio Banderas and Michael Crawford to play the Phantom in the long awaited movie version of musical, The Phantom of the Opera will make him as big a box office draw as fellow Scots Ewan McGregor, Dougray Scott or Robbie Coltrane.

Gerard, 33, said: "Everybody in Scotland keeps saying: `Who is this Gerard Butler? They keep saying he's doing well in Hollywood.' But I'm hard to recognise.

"In Atilla I had long hair and a beard and in Dracula I had pale face and long hair.

"I look completely different in everything so I don't get recognised and it's not something that concerns me. In fact, I prefer it that way because you know I just love to go about and do my things.

"Thank God nobody recognises me while I'm walking down the street scratching my a*** or something. Suddenly you have to become wary of stuff like that.

"I don't want people looking at Gerry Butler with his finger up his nose."

Phantom of the Opera director Joel Schumacher chose the 6ft 2in Scot over proven Hollywood name Banderas for the lead role in the adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's hit musical claiming Gerard was "the Scottish Colin Farrell".

As it was Schumacher who made Farrell's Hollywood name in the movie Tigerland you sense Gerard is just about to become a very big name.

The musical movie starts filming in Pinewood Studios in September, but before that Lara Croft mania will again grip the world when the second movie staring Angelina Jolie in the lead role is released.

Gerard plays Lara's ex-boyfriend Terry Sheridan and their sizzling chemistry in the film and surprising twist at the end will make the Scot a star.

So what was it like kissing one of the world's most famous pair of lips?

Laughing, Gerard said: "It was fun. The director just told us to go for it because the kiss is the moment in the movie where we abandon ourselves to each other. Before that, it is reserved, because we don't trust each other."

But, before anyone tries to link Angelina with Gerard he quickly adds: "There was a lot of chemistry for the movie - but off- screen we are just friends.

"She's very real and charming and fun and open."

But he admits he was terrified at meeting her.

"At first, when I went to do my screen test, I was standing there and thinking that Angelina Jolie is about to walk through that door and I'm just going to die of fright."

AS Terry, Gerard is made out to be the male equivalent of Lara and in the movie the pair push each other to the limits as they dive off buildings and hang off cliffs.

He added: "It's like he turned to the dark side.

"You never get the feeling that he's evil; it's more that he just can't help himself.

"He realises he only has this one life and if that means screwing over his friends, well, so be it. But then Lara shows up and she needs him for this mission to save the planet."

It's been an interesting career path for Gerard, who studied to be a lawyer and has had no formal acting training at all.

His own life is as interesting as one of his films. Born in Glasgow, he moved to Montreal with his parents when he was six months old.

Months later his parents divorced, and his mother took the children back to Scotland. He saw his father once more when he was four and then not again until he was 16. In the meantime, Butler grew up in his mother's home town of Paisley and joined the Scottish Youth Theatre.

But, under pressure from his family he chose law, not acting and studied it for five years.

He still managed a degree with honours, but took a sabbatical and lived in Los Angeles getting a part as an extra in Whitney Houston's The Bodyguard.

He returned to Scotland after his father's death and began a two-year traineeship in Edinburgh.

He said: "When I went to start working I had no interest, belief, or commitment to anything I was doing. I was really desperately unhappy, to be honest, but they knew that."

The firm fired him and he moved to London where he impressed heavyweight thesp Steven Berkoff enough for the director to play a part in stage play Coriolanus.

From there it's been a smooth journey. He played Renton in a stage version of Trainspotting and in 1997 made his big- screen debut as Billy Connolly's brother Archie in Mrs Brown.But it was Wes Craven's Dracula 2000 and American television movie Attila that made Hollywood sit up and take notice.

He won a part in dragon epic Reign of Fire and was rumoured to be a contender for the next Bond - ironic since he'd had a small talking part in Tomorrow Never Dies.

Since then Gerard seems to have been working hell for leather.

He starred in ITV1's television drama The Jury as recovering alcoholic Johnnie Donne last year and completed Lara Croft and Timeline - a sci- fi time travel film adapted from a book by Jurassic Park's Michael Crichton which reunites him with The Big Yin.

BUT it's Phantom everyone's talking about and Gerard is convinced it still won't make him a famous face.

He said: "I wear a mask. I'm not going to be recognised for the Phantom, you know, so I think maybe I subconsciously take these jobs so I tend not to look as I do as a normal person."

Despite his age there were many fans who thought the most famous Phantom Michael Crawford should have played the part - so can the Scot sing? He admits: "Yeah, I can sing. I had to go and sing for Andrew Lloyd Webber and I had to sing for the musical director but I'm not a trained singer."

Gerard is currently filming The Game Of Their Lives in St Louis and next week continues shooting it in Brazil. The film is about the American football team who, in 1950, beat England in the World Cup in Brazil.

Gerard plays the real-life American goalie Frank Borghi.

The Scot admits it's a dream role. Like most Scots boys he wanted to be a football star (although living in America has made him call it soccer).

He said: "I played from when I was four to when I was 21. When I was younger I really wanted to be a soccer player, but the funny thing is I'm playing the goalkeeper in this movie and I never wanted to be a goalkeeper - but that's what I was best at.

"It was where I was playing with my boys' club team and our goal keeper refused to go in, because it was a cup semi- final.

"It was the strangest thing. He just sat there saying: `I'm not going in' and I volunteered. It went to extra time and I saved two penalties.

"That was it. I became the goal keeper to the end of the season and I hated it. Now I'm the keeper again."

Gerard has become very close with Frank, who visits the set everyday. The Scot said: "He's my best friend now and I just had dinner with him and his children and his grand kids and his wife."

With the success in America of Bend It Like Beckham, The Game of Their Lives could be another success for Gerard and bury the dire memories of other football films such as 1981's Escape to Victory.

And what about James Bond? Pierce Brosnan is looking to do one more but surely they'll be looking for a new Bond to release a film in 2007 - it has Bond's number in it after all?

Gerard says: "Who knows? I like seeing my name on the list, but who knows?"

Thanks to Lara and the Phantom the odds on Gerard just got better.

COPYRIGHT 2003 Scottish Daily Record & Sunday


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