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I LIVED A BIT OF A WILD LIFE BEFORE I FOUND OUT WHERE I'D END UP

Category: Interviews
Article Date: December 5, 2003 | Publication: The Mirror | Author: Annie Leask
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GERALD BUTLER ON LIFE IN HOLLYWOOD

SCOTS actor Gerard Butler has a knack of annoying people - in print at least.

The tall, brooding 33-year-old, who played the male lead alongside Angelina Jolie in Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, was on a roll when the film was released in August.

After all, he got to play the sexy bad boy opposite one of Tinsel town's most eligible actresses - and he got to snog her, too.

However, appearances can be deceptive.

Just as the film was released, he made a spectacularly unwise crack about the acting abilities of his rather better-known co-star.

Despite the magazine he was quoted in issuing a "clarification" of his remarks, and the actor himself insisting that the writer was at fault for failing to recognise a joke, his comments were met with a sharp intake of breath from the film world.

Gerard appears to have weathered the storm and learned from it - although one recent interviewer claims he has a habit of letting his mouth run away with him.

At 6ft 4ins, he has quite an imposing presence and although he can still walk around unnoticed on home soil, in Hollywood it's a different matter.

He is constantly in demand and is currently working on Andrew Lloyd Webber's long-awaited musical extravaganza Phantom of The Opera.

It is one of the major movie events of the year - and he has landed the title role.

This feat seems all the more extraordinary the closer the facts are examined. It is a role just about all Hollywood's leading men are said to have wanted.

Names in the frame at one time or another have included: John Travolta, Antonio Banderas and Robert Redford.

Redford was rumoured to have been so keen to play the part that he personally approached Lloyd Webber, who apparently responded with: "Are you serious?"

Filming on Phantom began last month and the movie's director, Joel Schumacher, says of his new star: "Gerard is a fine actor, with a wonderful voice ,who has a tremendous passion for the role."

Gerard describes his opportunities in LA as "a dream start".

It was only three years ago that he first arrived in Los Angeles with hopes of work.

Since then he has landed big parts - including the title role in Attila The Hun, a big-budget American mini-series and the lead in the movie Dracula 2001.

He co-starred with Christian Bale in Reign of Fire and will soon be seen in the multi-million pound film version of Michael Crichton's novel, Timeline.

So what does he have that marks him out? He lives his life like one who has wasted too much time in a youth-obsessed ind- ustry and is determined to make every second count.

Of course, it wasn't always so. Gerard seems to have lived three lives. The first as the youngest of three.

He has an elder sister and brother - he was a diligent schoolboy who worked hard, respected authority and rose to become Head Boy at Paisley's St Mirin's and St Margaret's school.

His parents split when he was a toddler and his father did not come back into his life until he was 16.

Gerard belonged to the Scottish Youth Theatre and had appeared in a few productions, but the prevailing advice was for him to be a lawyer.

The dutiful son made his mother very proud when he studied law at Glasgow University and became president of the university's law society.

Though he says he was nominated for his "social skills" more than anything else.

He got to know his father and spent time with him in Toronto, recalling how he was "like a big kid really". At university, he seems to have begun his second life. He dabbled in drink and drugs and now admits: "I partied too much. I became a bit of a bum."

He still clung to the outward signs of respectability and joined a prestigious law firm, but couldn't stop his wild lifestyle affecting his work.

He acknowledges that his heart wasn't in it and the firm fired him weeks before he was due to qualify as a solicitor, after seven years study.

His mother was heartbroken.

"Things had spiralled out of control for me, I was just too wild," he confesses.

He spent time in London doing a series of "stupid jobs", including being a toy demonstrator and signing people up for new boilers.

He was 22 when his businessman father, whom he describes as "a bit of a drinker", died.

The excesses continued until a chance meeting with the acclaimed actor, writer and director, Stephen Berkoff, who gave him the start in his third life.

Berkoff liked the gangly Scot and gave him a part in his London theatre production of Coriolanus.

Gerard won other roles, including that of junkie Renton in a theatre production of Trainspotting and in 1997 he was cast as Billy Connolly's young brother in the film Mrs Brown, alongside Judi Dench.

This is the life he loves and he knows he has to work for it.

He hasn't touched alcohol or drugs for five-and-a-half years and has a steady girlfriend.

He keeps her out of the public eye for fear of jinxing the romance.

"I don't have a very good history of relationships," he confesses.

But it seems that following his childhood ambition is giving Gerard the kind of living most Scottish solicitors can only dream of.

Copyright 2003 MGN Ltd.

 


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