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Gerard Butler, film raider

Category: Interviews
Article Date: July 29, 2003 | Publication: USA Today | Author: Karen Thomas
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For Lara Croft, Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, Gerard Butler did some pretty scary stuff: racing off-road motorcycles, rappelling head-first down a cliff, tussling with Lady Croft (Angelina Jolie) in her PJs. But his hairiest movie-making moment happened in the proper London living room of Andrew Lloyd Webber. Butler, who will play the lead in a new movie version of The Phantom of the Opera, was asked to sing The Music of the Night.

"Suddenly my leg developed a life of its own and tried to run away," Butler says. "I saw (the music director) doing gasps, and then I realized he was signaling me, 'Hey, take a breath!' "

The little-known Scottish actor is on a global roll. His role as Croft's adventurous sidekick and ex-lover in the Lara Croft sequel, which made $21.8 million over the weekend, establishes him as leading-man material.

In landing the plum role as The Phantom in Joel Schumacher's film, set to start filming in September, he reportedly beat out heavyweights John Travolta, Antonio Banderas and original stage star Michael Crawford.

Butler, 33, won't speculate on that except to say, "From the day I met Joel, he said, 'You're my guy.' "

His singing obviously passed muster, not bad for a guy whose professional training was a little rock 'n' roll band called Speed back in his party days in Scotland. That Butler made it to Hollywood at all is pretty amazing. He started off as a lawyer. A very bad lawyer.

"I was out of control and the least likely lawyer," says the graduate of Glasgow University. During junior lawyer training, he often was late and usually hung over after partying.

"When they called me in (to be fired), I just remember feeling so sad for the problems I caused them," Butler says. "And my family ... I had to tell them, 'I'm not going to be a lawyer, I just got fired.' It was the worst day of my life, yet it was the best thing that ever happened to me."

Butler immediately headed to London. Within weeks, he landed the lead in the 1996 stage adaptation of Trainspotting. The next year, he segued onto the big screen with small roles in Mrs. Brown and Tomorrow Never Dies. By 2000, he had the lead role in Wes Craven Presents: Dracula 2000.

During those early weeks in London, his mum wrote him a note saying she didn't care if he was a lawyer or an actor. He recalls the memory fondly, just days after escorting her to the L.A. premiere of Tomb Raider. "For me to walk down the red carpet with her, I can't tell you how special that was for me. I'll never forget the look on her face."

The youngest of three children, Butler was a toddler when his father left the family, which had relocated to Canada. His mother, Margaret, returned with her children to Paisley, Scotland, and eventually remarried. Butler was 16 the next time he heard from his dad, who was living in Toronto, and they reconciled. His father died in 1992.

With a hectic film schedule that keeps him globe-hopping (this week he heads to Rio de Janeiro for The Game of Their Lives), Butler says he keeps renting apartments where he never sleeps. His mother's highland home is "like paradise" he says. "I love London, and I love L.A., but I love more than anything to get back home."

Despite his roguish good looks, Butler says landing a girlfriend is just about impossible with his grueling schedule. "The way I've been working, it's a non-event."

 


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