It's the violence that makes this movieBy Kim Francis
December 02, 2009
Gerard Butler is proud of his latest film, Law Abiding Citizen. And, as Kim Francis finds out, it’s because of its gore
Remember those rippling muscles in 300? Gerard Butler might have spent most of that movie proudly displaying his toned torso and taut thighs but his modesty remained preserved. But in his new film Law Abiding Citizen he gets his entire kit off. And on the evidence displayed, he’s still in darn fine fettle.
It’s a shape the ladies seem to love, if the gossip columns are anything to go by, which continually link the sexy Scottish hunk with countless women.
A perennial bachelor, Gerard recently celebrated his 40th birthday and since then, he’s been dogged even more persistently by questions surrounding his love life and reporters quizzing him on whether he’s ever going to settle down.
He recently responded to one journalist who asked why he’s yet to tie the knot that any perceived fear of commitment may stem from the fact his father walked out on his mother when he was young.
He is quoted as saying, however, that it’s about time to marry. And with rumours abounding that he’s been dating his co-star in The Bounty, former Friend Jennifer Aniston, could it be that she’s his intended?
He doesn’t divulge but he does deny all knowledge of the tittle-tattle that follows him.
“I try to stay away from reading anything and when anybody sends me clips or articles or tells me what’s going on, I normally tell them to leave me alone and to not remind me,” he says.
“But it’s normally when I’m doing press that people say: ‘So, is it true about…?’ That’s when I catch up on all my rumours!”
Of course, officially we’re not here to talk about his love life, we’re here in this London hotel to discuss his latest film, the violent and bloody action thriller Law Abiding Citizen, which he also had a hand in producing.
However, after managing to nab only three hours sleep the night before, talking about his debut producing role – let alone his romantic life – is proving difficult and, on more than one occasion, he apologises for his poor show as an interviewee.
He frets that his publicist, sitting at the back of the room, is despairing. But he needn’t worry, he copes with (most of) the questions thrown at him, although he does lose his way at times.
So how did he find producing his first feature? It was a challenge but one that allowed him plenty of input into the final result, culminating in something resembling the type of film he envisioned when he took the project on.
Gerry explains: “One thing I’ve learned as an actor as well as a producer is to trust my own instinct. When I first started acting, I would sometimes have ideas about certain things, whether about a scene or a character or some dialogue. Often it wouldn’t be followed.
Then I’d watch the movie and think I was right.
“I noticed the more involved I became in developing stories that I could actually have a huge amount of input and could put some really good stuff in there. I had so much to do with how [this] story turned out. In actual fact, I think some of the mistakes that were made were the few areas where I didn’t stand up for myself.
“I wish I had believed in myself more and trusted my gut.
“Another thing I learned is that I can be more economical with the force that I have to use. You have a lot more sway than you realise and you don’t have to shoot your load too early.”
One wonders what it was about this project in particular that appealed to Gerry, as he prefers to be called, for his first foray into producing.
A former law student, the film’s emphasis on the US legal system was one element that caught his eye but it certainly wasn’t the main draw.
“It was just, first of all, a great story. [As much as it’s an indictment of the legal system] it’s [also] a climbing into the mind of a person so wronged, everything in his life has been changed in one moment. What must that be like and what lengths would you go to as a person to hit out and answer back. That was a far more compelling reason for me to do the movie,” he says.
In the film, Butler’s character is a man pushed to the limit, first by the murder of his wife and child, then by the US justice system which lets the killer walk away with a reduced sentence that sees him freed within 10 years.
The revenge he wreaks leads to some spectacularly violent scenes and landed the film an 18 certificate in this country.
Gerry says, however, that the level of violence was justified.
“You always think that when there’s a team of maybe five or six people – between the producers and the finance company and the lawyer and myself and my producing partner and the director – that somebody is going to be slightly less into the violent aspect but everybody here realised that this was what was going to make this movie; this was what was going to make it stand out because one, it packs a punch and two, it’s completely motivated,” he explains.
He continues: “And there’s a huge popcorn element in this movie. It gets to the point where it’s just pure entertainment. It hits a certain level and you go: ‘Okay, now I’ve just got to go and have fun with this’ and at that point we were pushing every bit of violence that we could.
“In actual fact, there were a couple of things we had to take out of the final cut.”
One of those things was a particularly gruesome scene involving Butler’s character and his cellmate.
While the scene remains, it had to be trimmed substantially in order for it not to be given an NC-17 certificate, which is the highest and most restricted rating for films in the US.
“We had guys working in the film industry for 30 years who were standing in front of the monitor with their hands over their mouths going: ‘Holy ******* ****! I’ve never seen anything like that!’ It was incredibly graphic, incredibly powerful,” says Gerry. “I wish we’d kept it in – it was great.”
His revelry in the movie’s violent scenes and his assertions that he doesn’t give the proverbial about not being able to answer questions due to a lack of sleep might highlight a veneer of machismo but there’s a softer side to Mr Butler that rears its head at odd moments during the interview. Specifically in his declaration of empathy for the film’s anti-hero (“I have a lot of love for him,” he says. “You see these kind of stories on the news every evening and it’s a very powerful feeling that it evokes.”) and also in his admission that playing such a bleak, dark character affected him emotionally.
“I noticed a lot of the time while I was filming that I wasn’t in a great space, or my stomach would be churning. When I finished, that was tough. That was literally about three weeks a month spent in a very funky place.
“I actually came back to Scotland afterwards and went away on my own … climbed a couple of hills and got a tent out, then went off to India.”
So, not such a big mass of male bravado after all. Doesn’t that vulnerability make you swoon all the more?