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Gerard Butler is a lot more than that hottie from Tomb Raider 2

Category: Interviews
Article Date: January 6, 2005 | Publication: Strut Magazine | Author: Vicki Hogarth

Posted by: admin

Strut's Vicki Hogarth explains why he deserves your respect.

He's a master of disguise, mask or no mask.

Despite the fact that Joel Schumacher dubbed him 'the Scottish Colin Ferrel', you probably don't even know the guy's name. Which is a shame, considering he's the one who managed to look even sexier than Angelina Jolie as she handcuffed him to a bar in Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. Not to mention his brilliant work in the title roles of Attila, Wes Craven's Dracula, and now Schumacher's version of Phantom of the Opera.

"I've gone through periods of being recognized a lot more, maybe when something just came out," Gerard Butler explains on the phone from Iceland, where he's busy filming the Old English epic Beowlf & Grendel. "But if I was to look at it - I have a particular style of beard right now for Beowulf and I'm wearing a wig, so my hair is all kind of messy. I look nothing like how I looked in Tomb Raider, Attila or Dracula. I always look different in everything I do. And even from week to week in my own life, I seem to always look different."

Considering he wears a mask that covers half his face in Phantom of the Opera it doesn't seem like things will be changing any time soon. And that's just fine with him. "It's good because I manage to keep doing work and getting recognized within the industry, and people will hopefully go to see a movie because they know I'm in it. But it doesn't affect my ability to walk down the street. I generally do that unbothered."

He can be anyone you want him to be

Meg Ryan may have made a career out of playing America's sweetheart, and you can bet your RRSPs that Vin Diesel's next film will be categorized as "action" but Butler prefers not to slot himself into any dramatic box. "Whenever I finish a job, I feel like doing something completely different. I just love the idea of going into a role where I think 'I don't know if I can do this.'" Butler embodies the idea of actor-as-chameleon: someone who can summon any character type into his being and still manage to transform drastically for his next role, which, of course, demands hard work. For Tomb Raider, he hit the gym. For Phantom, he got a singing coach (considering his only musical experience prior to filming was front man in a rock band). And for his upcoming role as American goalkeeper Frank Borghi in 2005's The Game Of Their Lives, the actor enlisted a dialect coach to help him learn the American accent - and a soccer trainer.

"It was quite a horrifying experience, trying to pass yourself off as a half-decent soccer player in front of some of the toughest fans in the world," Butler admits. Especially since the filming took place primarily in a stadium in Brazil, where the nearly 4,000 extras weren't buying it.

"Sometimes they didn't quite get that we were there making a movie. At certain times we'd mess up plays deliberately because that's what happens in the story, but they just saw it as bad soccer."

He messed with the law for years.

It's not so much that the 35-year old actor has stayed under the radar; it's just that he hasn't been acting for that long. "I was literally a week away from qualifying as a lawyer after studying it for 5 years - having been president of the university law society and training with a top law firm in Scotland," Butler exlains. "I'd gone way off the rails. I was completely disillusioned as to where my life was taking me and ended up being fired, which they said was to my benefit. I said to myself, "Well, you know what? I've messed up everything, so I may as well aim for the stars."

And the next day I packed my bags and moved out to London. I did some odd jobs to survive and then entered an audition for a theatre job, which I got. Then I got another theatre job, an agent and then a movie. In that brief period of my life, everything changed." He hasn't needed to take on any odd jobs since.

He's a sucker for indie flicks.

"I was out in the sea up to my neck with a dry suit on, but the dry suit didn't work," Butler says, describing a scene he filmed for Beowulf. "I thought I was going to freeze to death. When I took it off, I poured out my body weight in water. I've had a few miserable experiences in this movie, but I think often the stuff that you suffer in terms of location and weather is the stuff that just looks amazing. At least I hope so; otherwise I'm retiring after this."

You won't find many A-list Hollywood actors willing to go to Iceland for three months to shoot a film based on an Old English poem, but Butler couldn't say no to the role because the script was, as he describes it, "weirdly and poetically beautiful".

So what if the relatively low budget meant less access to special effects and stunt doubles? The same goes for his next movie, Burns, which is based on the life of the 18th century Scottish poet, Robert Burns. Set to play the title role, Butler raves about the script, which he insists accomplishes a rather difficult thing. While Burns might be obscure subject matter to most North American audiences, true Scots will be watching closely to see if Butler can pull it off.

"f*** 'em," Butler says self-assuredly. "It's like this: It's a story that everybody in Scotland would love to be told. If they're then going to give me a hard time for trying to tell it, I don't have any time for that."

- Winter 2004


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