Demented fantasy action move 300 is remembered for precisely two things: ridiculously jacked men fighting relentlessly while wearing very little, and Gerard Butler’s King Leonidas kicking an emissary of the advancing warlord Xerxes into a well after the man demands submission, declaring “This! Is! Sparta!” in his distinctively broad West of Scotland accent.
The actor recently had a chance to reference his notorious role upon a visit to the historic Greek city as part of the Torch Relay ahead of the Olympic Games to begin in July in Tokyo. The rest of the planned relay has now been cancelled on account of the risk of spreading the Coronavirus due to the crowds the event draws, with the viability of the Games themselves going ahead being currently uncertain, but assembled fans were left with a memorable moment as Butler spoke of the settlement’s synonymy with courage and heroism.
300 was released in 2006, when director Zack Snyder was merely the guy who had helmed the decent remake of Dawn of the Dead and Gerard Butler was that beefy Scottish dude you might have remembered from Dracula 2000, Reign of Fire or Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life. The film itself is now considered, when thought of at all, as a throwaway tale riddled with historical inaccuracies and misrepresentations, and an early example of the CGI overkill that was to become a hallmark of Snyder’s directorial style.
The moment of Butler’s speech was decidedly cheesy and given the choice of the 300 star as torch bearer was most likely planned out well in advance, but to invoke the last stand of a hero of antiquity, by an actor who once played him, beneath a statue depicting him in the city he once ruled, it was nevertheless a stirring moment acknowledging the eternal place in history Sparta holds, and how its culture has remained relevant right to the modern day.