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I'd Like To Meet This Person: A Fireside Chat with Gerard Butler

Category: Interviews
Article Date: June 25, 2005 | Publication: Shukan Bunshun (Japan) | Author: Sawako Agawa
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I was able to play the Phantom and the Stranger because I had wasted my life with heavy drinking.

Butler, who played a Rock Style Phantom in POTO, a huge Long Run Hit in Japan, charmed many female fans with his tenor voice. He, in person, is like a lively little boy. Agawa was more charmed by that...

Agawa: Mr. Butler, your popularity increased abruptly with POTO, and when you came to Japan to promote DF, we heard that some 2,000 female fans came to greet you at the Narita Airport.
Butler: Since I didn't expect anyone there, at most three or four if any, I was completely surprised.
A: You probably had more fans there than when Tom Cruise or Richard Gere came here.
B: That's what I heard and I'm just as shocked as Richard Gere himself would. LOL
A: Weren't you happy about it?
B: But of course, I couldn't be happier. It was an unusual scene to see so many people there though. They were on the second floor as well, and some are screaming. But that made me realize that I have moved that many people with my work, and that I am lucky to have been able to play such a role as an actor.
A: Your roles in POTO and DF are completely different, but sure are great ones.
B: I have not seen any other movies like these two to which fans expressed such deep emotions in response at the premieres or the reviews. I'm really happy to have been able to touch people's heart and to convey some messages. Since I've experienced so many things in my own life, I have those to draw from within my self.
A: Is that so.
B: BTW, may I smoke?
A: Sure, go ahead please. Are you a heavy smoker?
B: Yes, I am.
A: Isn't it difficult for you to live in the States where smoking is frowned upon?
B: Oh, it's like a nightmare. LOL Yeah, I'm living in a nightmare. I tried all sorts of ways to quit smoking, and failed. But in the past, I used to drink a lot and did other bad things. Now I don't drink at all and quit other bad things too.
A: Good for you!
B: Out of all the things I do now, smoking is the worst. But I always need something that makes me feel degenerate and miserable in my life. Without that I cannot be happy.
A: Then you are wonderful other than your smoking habit, right?
B: Almost perfect! LOL In reality, not at all!
A: That's what makes you so charming though!
B: Do you know what the word, "Bad Ass" means? It means 'bad guy'. A friend said that a Bad Ass guy is the best at making a woman's heart beat faster. That seems to apply to many women. (Taking a drag off of his cigarette, and says) "This is 'Bad Ass.' When Colin Farrell does something like this, all the girls go 'swoon' and 'sigh'. LOL
A: I'm no longer a girl, but am now going 'swoon' and am sighing... LOL
B: Oh, you're a ... beautiful woman.
A: You got stuck at saying that, didn't you?
B: Ahahahaha.... (LOL)
A: Lately the number of the girls who'd been had by your 'Bad Ass' charm is increasing abruptly.
B: Let me say that I am NOT a Bad Ass guy. I just like to smoke. LOL
A: You are a sexy guy rather than a bad guy?
B: Me? Sexy? No, I'm a nice guy. LOL
A; You really were a NICE guy in DF. I am not buttering you up or anything, but I really like this movie. It's rather understated, but full of good spirit and gorgeous.
B: Thank you.
A: Frankie is a 9-year old boy who lost his hearing by his father's domestic violence, and is capable of speech but doesn't speak. His mom keeps hiding from his father, telling her son that his father is a sailor on the ACCRA.
B: His mother exchanges letters with Frankie pretending to be his father, but one day, the ACCRA comes to the port town where they live.
A: So the mother looks for a guy who can be a make-shift father in a hurry. And she finds the Stranger, the role you play. He's reticent but has a kind heart.
B: When I first read the script, I strongly identified with his psyche. His strong personality as well as his deep sorrow and loss. He also had been deeply wounded and have decided not to get involved in life. While he's in the worst mental state where he needs love, caring, understanding, and patience, he doesn't want to develop a deep tie with others, and gave up on doing so.
A: Then he met Frankie and starts changing as the boy starts changing as well as his mother.
B: That's what makes the beauty of this story more prominent.
A: It sure is a great story.
B: There are many common factors between the Phantom and the Stranger. Essentially, these two are both very lonely souls who kept crying for the interactions with others. And I have identified strongly with their lives full of difficulties.
AF is a British film but was filmed in your home town, Glasgow, Scotland, wasn't it?
B: It was filmed only 7 miles away from where I was born. When I was little, we used to drive there to the beach that's in the DF poster.
A: So did you used to throw rocks like you did in the movie?
B: Yes. The truth is that I asked the director if I could throw rocks at the end of the movie, because I'm good at it. Once I threw a rock which skipped 16 times.
A: Wow, Fabulous!
B: And each time, the stone skipped precisely and clearly. We threw rocks at the beach during the filming. I filmed POTO after I filmed this movie, so I was training to sing, and after each take, I also practiced singing (he starts singing ) 'Phantom of the opera I is here...'
A: You're very versatile.
B: I have done both of these simultaneously, While I throw rocks, I'd sing 'The Phantom of the Opera is here...' LOL
A: Is that what you do? LOL POTO has been performed all over the world. When you were asked to be in the movie version, did you have any apprehension or fear?
B: To sum up the flow of my reactions to this, it went like this. 'Am I to play the role of Phantom? It's somewhat scary.' Then, 'Should I decline? No way! I shouldn't be scared. I should just go for it and do it.' The tendency to just going for it without saying a word is very Scottish.
A: I heard that the director saw you in D2K and decided to give you the Phantom role.
B: He noticed me in D2K when he saw it in 2001, but the Phantom role came to me three years later.
A: Was the director looking for someone with the (Rock quality in his vocal style) to play out the enigmatic Phantom?
B: Yes. Joel has seen a few of my movies, and knew that I used to sing in a rock band when I was a rookie lawyer, and thought that I could fit into the image of this role he had in mind.
A: W, what? You were a lawyer, and sang in a rock band?
B: During the day, I worked at a law firm as an intern, and sang rock music at the pub at night. Like this (pretending he's drank and singing rock). LOL
A: When I heard you sing in POTO, you reminded me of Rod Stewart.
B: Rod Stewart?! Wow! I love him! (Stands up and sings imitating Rod) We are sailing, we are sailing...
A: (Applauding) LOL, Very nice! So you only sang at the pubs?
B: Yes. But I once sang in front of 10, 000 people. Back then, I was still drinking heavily. So I pretended that I was Jim Morrison of the Doors, and got up on the stage with a few beers in my hands, started cussing though there were kids and women in the audience. I was still singing when the microphone chord was unplugged from the amp, and kept on cursing. So some policemen came up on the stage and dragged me off the stage. LOL
A: That's radical!
B: My lead guitar player friend was also mad at me and was yelling 'Arrest him'
A; So you were really acting it up! Did you want to be a pro singer?
B: No it was a hobby. But I've been dreaming of becoming an actor since I was eight or nine.
A: You were born in Glasgow. How did you get to be an actor?
B: When I was only a six-months old baby, the whole entire family moved to Canada, but since my father was not together, my mother could not get along well with him. She's from a big Irish Catholic family, and was really close to her family. So she came back to Scotland with the kids and left my father alone, and got remarried. The next fourteen years, I didn't hear from him and didn't even know if he was alive or what.
A: Is that right....
B: And one night, he just showed up. When I got home, my stepdad said, "Don't take off your jacket. Your father is here." Wen I said "What?" he just repeated "your father has come here."
A: So what did you do?
B: I just went back out immediately and went to a restaurant where he was supposed to be waiting, and looked for him by checking out all the male customers wondering "Is he my father?" Then I finally found him.
A: Wow, that sounds like a drama!!
B: I sat next to him and greeted him. Then as soon as I asked him "Why didn't you contact us?" I burst into tears. I couldn't stop crying for the next five hours. I kept crying like a mad man. I myself didn't know how emotional I was about him up until then. It was really weird.
A: You were internalizing your loneliness and all that feelings... Did you dream of being an actor before that?
B: I was on stage doing plays when I was about eleven or twelve. My mother used to give me rides in her car so I could go see all the casting directors in Glasgow.
A: So you were officially into it!
B: When I really strongly felt the desire to be an actor, actually, is when I saw a movie called,'The Krull' at the age of 15. I really got into that movie. It's not much to look at now though. LOL
A: What kind of movie was it?
B: It was like the early 80's version of 'The Lord Of The Rings." I dreamed that I lived in the world full of monsters, witches, and princes myself. I even dreamt that I was holding hands with a princess. It was a very vivid dream!
A: Sounds like you really got into your dream. LOL
B: When I woke up, I was sure about two things. One was that I was really in love with the princess. LOL The other thing was that I really wanted to be an actor. Though I thought it was impossible, my feeling got stronger and stronger, and I finally couldn't hold it inside myself and told my mother "I want to be an actor." She said, "Oh, that's good." Her response was so abrupt and brief, that I started crying saying, "No, no, no, I really WANT to be an actor." LOL
A: That's so cute!!!
B: (covering his face with both of his hands) Oh my god!
A: What happened?
B: Now I just started remembering a lot of things...
A: What did you do when your mother's response was so brief?
B: It's not that she rejected my dream, but she didn't realize how strong my desire was. But by seeing me cry, she understood my needs, and arranged for me to participate in the Scottish Youth Theatre. This was an intense five-week immersion camp course and we immersed ourselves in acting from morning till night.
A: You have such an understanding mother.
B: Since I did well in school, she thought I could be a doctor or a lawyer, and wasn't too hot on the idea of me becoming an actor. But she was very cooperative, and let me do my own thing.
A: But you became a lawyer, right? You could have made more money doing that. Why did you change your career?
B: The truth is different. First of all, I had to study law for five years in college. After that, I did a two-year internship at a law firm, but didn't make much money during that time. Another thing is that I didn't quit the law firm, but was fired. LOL
A: Is that right? For what reason?
B: My life style then with my heavy drinking made it obvious that I was not on a successful career track as a lawyer. After two years of internship, and one week before I was to be licensed to be a lawyer, I was called into the office about my absence without excuse, and was told, "This job is not for you. We know you're interested in something else. You should pursue your dream."
A: Was that a shock to you?
B: No, actually that was a beautiful experience. What's really incredible is that I saw the stage play 'Train Spotting' at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival, and was really moved by the performance of the main character. So I was just wondering, "I've always wanted to be an actor, and I know I can. Why did I choose to be in this profession (lawyer)?"
A: Great timing!
B: So the day after I was fired, I told myself, "My life is ruined. I should get on my motorcycle and go to London to become a star!" I was down, but felt refreshed and excited.
A: Were you feeling emancipated?
B: Yes. So I based myself in London, quit drinking, and worked for living. Within less than a year, I found a job as a professional actor, then heard about the audition for the stage play 'Train Spotting.'
A: That's the play that made you decide to be an actor.
B: I got the main character's role in that stage play. And it was going to be played at the Edinburgh Theatre Festival.
A: Wow, how uncanny!!
B: On the very same day, I also passed an audition for a cool TV commercial. The guy who was chosen for the role as my friend in this CM was the guy who played the main character in the play 'Train Spotting' I saw.
A: Oh, more coincidence!
B: So I was on the same stage playing the same role he had played exactly on the same date only a year earlier. Isn't that a scary coincidence or what?
A: Indeed it is.

B: Can I tell you another story? In another movie, I was in cast with an actress named Lysette Anthony, and when I asked her about her background, she said,"I was modeling and was chosen for a heroin princess role in a movie." When I asked the name of the movie, she said "The Krull."
A: So was she the princess you were holding hands with in your dream?
B: Yes! So I told her I love her. LOL She asked me if I was the prince.
A: Your life is full of these coincidences... What happened to your father?
B: We became friends. When we reunited and started communicating, he was ill and told me, "I'll die soon. So let's go on a Caribbean cruise ship. It'll be our farewell cruise." He was on a crutch then but still could walk, so we went on the Caribbean cruise together.
A: How old were you then?
B: 22. The night before we left for the cruise, I was in Toronto where my father lived, and went to a party and had too much to drink. I was jumping from one column to another at the end of the terrace on top of a 46-story building.
A: You're not a Spiderman. You could have fallen off.
B: The next day, we flew to Barbados and got on a ship and started drinking again. When I got the tab, I saw that I had 16 Long Island Ice Tea and 16 Heinekens.
A: What?! Wow...
B: Right after that I went out on the deserted main deck and started throwing the deck chairs into the ocean. LOL Then I was hanging from the anchor which was 150 feet above the ocean, singing "We are sailing..."
LOL I can laugh at it now, but I was really crazy then. Absolutely crazy. This story is only one of a thousand episodes I have. Ahaha (LOL)
A: That's nothing to laugh about... Phew...
B: It's a Scottish thing to climb up the tall objects when you're drunk. Scots love to climb onto the tall buildings, towers, and water supply towers. LOL
A: Trouble makers, aren't they? LOL
B: After that, I went to see my father in Canada a several times. He was a pleasant, nutty, uncommon individual with a strong personality. He was a great story teller, and embellished the truth a bit, so you couldn't always tell whether he was lying or not. LOL
A: What did he do for living?
B: He did many things, but none lucrative. Once, he was in an umbrella business and wore this cap that's shaped like an umbrella and walked around in the town of Toronto. He was wearing it even when we went to lunch, and I had to ask him to take it off. LOL
A: Why did you decide to quit drinking when you became an actor?
B: Because I was drinking way too much. I had the same drinking problem as my father. I sometime wonder if I wasted many years of my life because of my drinking. I had many painful experiences. Sometimes I couldn't believe I was still alive.
A; Is that so...
B: But I don't regret it. Because of my drinking problem, I had to change my career and was able to become an actor. If it wasn't for that, I may still be a lawyer. I was able to apply my experience of the loneliness and pain I felt when I was drinking in developing the character for the roles in POTO and DF. With what stayed with me and the scars from those experiences, I was able to deeply identify with their problem ridden lives.
A: That's why your performance truly moved so many people. So nothing in life is wasteful, isn't that right Stranger?

Acknowledgement
After the interview, he heard about his next itinerary, and happily announced,"Yeah, I get to go have a massage after this!", but he still shook hands or hugged with every staff member at the interview. He looked more like a boy who was just let out from his homework but is greeting the house guests before he goes out to play.

He started singing loudly when we talked about his singing, then stood up and gestured his rock throwing motions simulating the sound of the rocks hitting the water, when we talked about it. When he thought of something funny, he laughed so hard that the tears rolled out of his eyes. Looking at him like this in person, I wondered where that mysterious Phantom image came from, but this 'ButlerAss' guy's BAD, adorable, and sexy charm completely melted me. Especially when he talked about his longing for his father and his whole hearted love for his mother, his eyes were exactly those of the Stranger's in DF.

 


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