It always seems like Gerard Butler is either kicking bad-guy ass in high profile action flicks or stealing a woman’s heart in some cheery romantic comedy, but thankfully for the male demographic his newest role sees him rescuing the president after the White House is taken by terrorists in the upcoming film Olympus Has Fallen. Doing his best John McClane impression, Butler attempts to recreate Die Hard in a political setting, while both facing off and working with a star-studded cast.
At the recent New York City press day for Olympus Has Fallen, I had the privilege of sitting down with Gerard and hearing about his experiences on the film while he playfully jested with the few of us present. Whether it was trying to sneak up on us before entering the room or correcting one of my colleague’s grammar, Butler’s personality was jovial and uplifting, making this one of the funnier conversations I’ve been lucky enough to partake in.
Check it out below.
Butler started off by telling us what drew him to Olympus Has Fallen, pointing towards a real sense of heroics and personal strength he saw in his character:
Gerard Butler: I read the script, and I was immediately blown away by what a ballsy, audacious concept this was, about an attack being carried out on the White House from every direction, and the genius of moving through the inside and how once the White House is taken, the whole world comes to a stop in a way. What happens then? What’s that standoff situation? How do you make that as fascinating and compelling as possible? A president being held for ransom, demands that could change the planet, one man inside there who has to find information, find out a purpose, find out any way to defeat them, how to establish communications with the outside – that’s the dressing, the flesh. The bones, or the heart of the story is all about heroism and how there are heroes in every person in every situation, and how these impossible challenges bring out the hero in all of us.
I also felt it had a lot of themes. It had the political themes, but also had the more personal, intimate themes we could all universally connect with about sacrifice, courage, and about facing up to a challenge in life. What do the most difficult, impossible challenges bring out of us in our darkest hour, what do we do? I think that in a lot of ways you finish this movie with a lot of patriotism if you’re an American, but I think it’s a sense of community because these aren’t just attacks on America – these are attacks on the world. It could just as easily be the House of Parliament or anywhere, so we all connect with that and we make it an attack on ourselves, on our people – our good people, our innocent people, the people that are servicing our country. As you can see, as I’m talking way too much, it brought out a lot in me.
Butler was then asked about the militaristic and governmental details he learned on Olympus Has Fallen, being about a hypothetical attack on the White House and the government’s realistic response. We jested if he’d been put on any blacklists for knowing too much, but thankfully Gerard assured us this wasn’t the case:
Gerard Butler: No, I didn’t actually, but I might be now!
No, we didn’t, and that’s probably why we didn’t film in Washington and did down in Shreveport, Louisiana. We used that North/South divide.
Listen, on the one hand, we want to make this attack as visceral, plausible, and calculated as possible, in a way that an audience will sit there and say “Holy shit, this is really happening, or this could happen!” We used a lot of very important specialists in doing that who said “these are ways you can do it.” However, they didn’t tell us everything. There’s plenty more they would have up their sleeves in such a situation, and you also use a bit of poetic license. It’s a heightened reality – there’s certain things you do that maybe wouldn’t have happened, but you even pull that down and you make it look like it could. So when you’re watching this attack, it all makes perfect sense.
That was a thing we said, “How would you do it. How would this happen, and if that happened how would they do it, and if…so on and so on.” You make it as methodically planned out as possible. The more methodical and precise it would be – that’s what’s shocking. That’s what leaves you breathless and kind of ripped apart by the end as suddenly the White House has been taken down, it’s been seized by terrorists, and the president is now a hostage in an impenetrable underground bunker – and nobody can do shit after that. You can have an army of one million people but it doesn’t matter, you cannot do anything in that situation. That’s the genius of the plan, and then, then you have a movie.
Click below to continue reading…Next
Throughout Olympus Has Fallen, Gerard Butler spends a lot of time by himself – whether it’s talking into his headset with the government officials guiding him or stealthily sneaking through the White House. We asked Gerard how it was working in these scenarios, and surprisingly he liked it:
Gerard Butler: Oh it’s great for me! I don’t have to worry about [other actors] remembering their lines, or screwing up mine because they’re going “Wait a minute, you’re not supposed to say that!” I know, it’s fine, I say what I want [Laughing].
No, it’s mixed because it is great to create these scenes on your own. One of my favorite movies is I Am Legend, and some of the best stuff in the movie is when [Will Smith is alone], in fact it’s when everybody else got involved with the movie that I found I wasn’t as interested because watching Will Smith doin’ his stuff there was so fascinating, and so important.
But it’s a challenge because to keep that interesting when you’re going through the White House, because my big thing during scripting was “I cannot just be walking around this White House, what am I doing? What am I looking for? What’s my next move? What am I trying to find? What information am I gathering? How can I get in touch with them? Let’s keep this more involved so you’re with him every step of the way.” I’m never making a move where I don’t know where I’m going or why I’m going. I’m always moving by stealth, trying to get to particular places or take somebody out. That’s the challenge, and that’s what makes it exciting, and yet at the same time it’s fun to act with people. It’s fun to actually be in the same scene with other people because you start to go a little bit crazy on your own.
We had to step in of course and ask: “Did you go a little crazy on your own? You had all these great actors like Morgan Freeman, Aaron Eckhart, and Melissa Leo, yet you’re not with them all the time.”
Gerard Butler: Yeah, it could be a little weird. It’s like life – I love to be on my own, I love to spend time on my own, but I go a little crazy when I do. I was on-set every day watching Morgan doing his scenes with Robert Forster, Angela Bassett, and real people who have been in those crisis rooms, all sitting there. Then I’m watching Aaron, Melissa, and Rick Yune in the bunker and I’m kind of like, “Shit, I want to be there!” Then you’re told, “You’re off there! Go to that empty corridor and I’ll be with you in a minute!” But then again, that’s all part of making a great movie.
But with such a taxing role to play and Gerard being only a mere human, we wondered how Butler shook his secret service mentality after the film wrapped, and more importantly how he shook off the role. Of course he opened with humor again:
Gerard Butler: Ah, you’re assuming I’m a human. Yes, as a human [Laughs].
Physically, it was a little tough because you take a beating. I dive into these roles, I don’t think long term, which you should because there’s been too many movies where I’ve picked up these silly injuries. So you go in and you’re diving around – I had a bruise all around my arm, it was all black, at one point it looked like a cadaver. I had a bruise up the back of my leg, all the way to my knee. I was hit in the eye by a bullet casing that ricocheted off a wall and hit me. Loads of cuts and bruises – but you do it. You do it because you’re in it. I’m not trying to sound like a badass, but when you’re doing it you’re just in the moment, full of adrenaline, but then when the movie finishes you kind of go “Awww, oww! Shit that hurt!” With time that goes away.
Emotionally, I always find I have a period of a week or two where I go on a bit of a downer, partly because of the character, partly because you don’t know what you’re doing. It’s like a divorce in a way, a divorce and a house move, a new city. You’ve got to remind everyone you’re back, you no longer know what you’re doing from 6AM on, you’re trying to make up your own day – it’s always a bit of a transition.
Going along with all the information Butler learned on-set, we asked what he specifically found interesting about the specialist’s knowledge:
Gerard Butler: There’s all the gadgets, there’s all the tactical awareness strategy, being creative, thinking on your feet – which again was something important to me going in there. What’s going to keep this fascinating, how do you improvise? Those guys can train until the cows come home, but it doesn’t matter. It very rarely goes the way you expect it to go. So, you’ve got to be ready to think in a split second and change your plan, or have backup plans. All of that I found fascinating, but what I connected to was their heart and soul, and their strength of character, their courage, their fearlessness. Even the darkness they have inside them in terms of that willingness to hurt those who would hurt them or the people they protect from harm. (SMALL SPOILER TO FOLLOW)
For instance, there’s an element of this that’s an inside job, and the way they talked about that, if one of their men was to turn on them, what would happen, and you see the passion in their eyes. One of those guys was telling me this, and he had a slash down his neck from a knife wound. One of the other guys was telling me this, and he had a bullet wound. Both of them were moments from death, so you know you’re listening to guys that have been there, and yet their salt of the Earth. They’re good, humble, real people who at the same time have a courage beyond anything I can even comprehend. I can comprehend it, but I’m not there. I like to pretend that I am, but that’s what I love. Their dedication to their country, to their friends, and just how loyal they are. That phrase “Are you willing to take a bullet,” those guys were so willing to take a bullet to do what they believed.
Such a great note to end it on.
I’d like to thank Gerard Butler to taking the time to participate in this interview, and you can catch him in Olympus Has Fallen when it hits theatres on March 22nd!Previous