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ĎPhantomí star tackles romantic role in ĎDear Frankieí

Category: Interviews
Article Date: April 10, 2005 | Publication: Arizona Tribune | Author: JENIFER HUNT

Posted by: admin

A disorder I like to call "Compulsive Actor Lustitis" is sweeping the country. This affliction causes otherwise normal women to spend an inordinate amount of time devising crafty excuses for breaking romantic dinner plans with the men in their lives to pine over their current obsession on the big screen.

(Men, please donít take offense. After all, we pretend not to notice that you hesitate when asked if we are as attractive as Angelina Jolie.)

Earlier this year I witnessed CAL as groups of glassy-eyed women lined up again and again to watch Gerard Butler as the tragic Phantom in "The Phantom of the Opera."

Now ó just when women thought it was safe to go to the movies without a supply of Kleenex ó comes Butlerís latest romantic drama, "Dear Frankie," scheduled to open Friday in the Valley. Itís the story of a single mother (Emily Mortimer) who enlists a stranger (Butler) to impersonate the father she invented through letters for her deaf 9-year-old son, Frankie.

Gerard recently took a few minutes to talk about his own tragic love life, his suspicions that the Phantom was a virgin, and more.

Q: Acting-wise, how did you keep your character open to forming an attachment to Frankie when he had no intention of being more than a hired hand?

A: Well, thatís an interesting point because the Stranger is so not thinking about romance right now. When he is employed to take on this task (of posing as Frankieís father), itís a simple business arrangement and he hasnít any intention of becoming charmed or emotionally involved. And I think that when he does become involved with Lizzie, it is a relationship born out of two wounded souls.

Q: Do you feel that you have to have a strong physical chemistry with your leading lady to have the relationship feel legitimate to the audience, or can chemistry be faked?

A: Well, I think it helps, without a doubt, to have a strong chemistry with the other actor. And whether itís a sexual or friendly chemistry, some kind of connection to play on is important. I had always loved Emily as an actress, and the minute I heard she was in it I thought, "This is going to be a classy project." (Noise of multiple cell phones ringing wildly.) You know people have just dumped their stuff in my room, and now I have cell phones going off that donít belong to me. Itís driving me (expletive) crazy. Uh, what was I talking about?

Q: Um, you always loved Emily Mortimer as an actress.

A: Yes, the second we met we got on so well. She is the coolest actress I ever worked with, and the most easygoing, fun and down to earth. . . . Her brilliance made it a lot easier for me to play my role, especially the scene where we kiss.

Q: Iíve never seen such a dramatic kissing scene with such little actual contact.

A: Ah, itís captivating, isnít it?

Q: Yes, the kissing was clearly the best part of the movie. (Embarrassed, nervous cough.) Now, in most of your recent films you play a lonely outsider. Are you drawn to those roles or is there something in you that the casting directors are drawn to?

A: It is probably a bit of both. I do love to play characters that kind of stand on the outside, whether itís in some kind of psychologically disturbed way, wounded way or in (a) cool, sexy way.

Q: They are all romantic roles but you never actually get the girl.

A: I know ó itís like my life. I never really thought about that. I never do really get the girl in any of these movies. It was that way with ĎĎDracula 2000,íí and the same in ĎĎAttila.íí I did this wonderful miniseries called ĎĎThe Juryíí in the UK, and it was kind of the same in that as well.

Q: Thanks for segueing into some sex questions. The Phantom had a kinky side and went for younger girls. How much of Gerard Butler was in that portrayal and how much was acting?

A: Let me say that I think Christine had had everyone in that opera house! (laughter) She just hid it well. She was a big floozy, and thatís why the Phantom wanted her.

Q: He seemed to be a virgin, but maybe you can tell me . . .

A: I think the Phantom was a virgin, and he certainly knew that Christine could teach him a thing or two. Were you asking how much of me was in the Phantom?

Q: Yes, yes. A: The Phantom is somebody who is so filled with passion and who has an incredible darkness in him, and he is very wounded. At the end of the day he was doomed and tragic, and without a doubt I feel a huge amount of that within myself.

Q: Do you think he regretted letting Christine go?

A: Ah, itís heartbreaking! Itís one of the most heartbreaking moments in the history of movies or the stage. I think yes, he may have regretted his decision at times. But he had to do it. And itís also such a beautiful, tender moment when he understands that he is doomed to be alone and never have the human love, connection or sexual relationship that he wants. But Iím sure if the Phantom had stayed with Christine the story would never been anywhere near as popular.

Q: What projects are you working on now?

A: I am taking my time with my next choice, but there is definitely a passion project that I hope to start at the end of summer about the Scottish poet Robert Burns. Julia Stiles is going to do that.


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