Gerard Butler bounced into the room at the Waldorf Astoria last week for an interview with Examiner Dorri Olds. It was in the morning and he gave the impression he’d had three double-espressos too many. His fiery energy is mighty entertaining, and he’s hot. Butler was eager to be interviewed and dove right into talking about his upcoming movie “Olympus Has Fallen” which opens this Friday.
Butler plays the hero amid a crowd of A-Listers including Angela Bassett, Dylan McDermott, Melissa Leo Aaron Eckhart, and Morgan Freeman. Butler plays Mike Banning, a fallen man who’d failed at his last mission to protect the president and his wife, but when the White House is terrorized by North Korean extremists he’s there to protect our national security. “Olympus Has Fallen” is directed by Antoine Fuqua, the man behind the hit “Training Day.” Fuqua said, “Gerry was always exploding. I told him, 'You’re like my little brother, calm down.' He’d call me in the middle of the night jumping with ideas and I’d tell him, 'Gerry, man, go to sleep.'”
During filming Butler suffered a painful neck burn after Dylan McDermott, as per the script, flicked his cigarette at him. Butler said, “That same evening, we were doing a fight sequence and I had to chop him, and I was supposed to miss. I chopped him in the neck, and he had to go to the doctor. Now we’re even.”
Getting this man to sit still is a challenge but it can be done.
Dorri Olds: What attracted you to this movie?
Gerard Butler: I wanted to act in this one, big time. I got ahold of the script and thought, ‘Wow, this has huge potential and it’s a believable thriller.’ It’s sophisticated, meaningful and heart-pounding great action. We have an embarrassment of riches in terms of the cast. We got phenomenal actors, Oscar winners and then there’s me. [Laughs]
Is the plot plausible?
Yes, it had to be made believable. It was Antoine who wanted to make sure audiences would think, ‘Wow, this could really happen.’ There’s this great stand off. Officials making crucial decisions under unbelievable pressure. You can only imagine what that’s like during a hostage situation where people are being executed and the terrorists demanding things to try to upend the U.S.
What else have you been working on?
For the past year and a half it’s been all about making this movie the best it could be. It really gets your blood going. During a preview screening one audience member said, “I’d heard the expression edge of your seat but now I get what that means.”
What were some of your favorite parts?
There were Secret Service agents and Navy Seals in the script and my character had been a Navy Seal where it’s all about attack. Secret Service is more about avoidance, reconnaissance, and finding information. I thought it was gripping and compelling when Mike fights his way into the White House and he’s left inside of this besieged building with 42 extremists that are well-trained commandos. He can’t just go in there shooting. He doesn’t have the equipment. He has to take stock of the situation and try to figure out what to do. It’s a mixture of stealth and brutality. He has to be in touch with the key advisors and let the government know what’s going on and work with them and formulate a plan to get them out of this mess. You also have to have humor in tight situations. You can’t beat that. You need that. Often we talked about this movie as an updated “Die Hard” in the White House.
How much of Mike Banning is you?
I think we have a lot of the same ideals. We’re both screwed up to the same extent. Haunted by the past. It brought up a lot of emotions. There are so many themes in this movie: payback, the personal element, innocent people are dying and you’re left appalled; and t’s time to go in there and take care of business but you have to handle a mess.
When all of these great actors came onboard did it validate your feeling that the script was strong?
When I first picked up the script I thought, ‘This is surprising.’ It was about our Olympus and this standoff situation. It takes you by surprise in a big way. If you can make it plausible and organic then you’ve got something great and that makes characters more interesting. When you bring in Morgan Freeman you know it’s going to be on the nth level.
Did you know Antoine Fuqua described you as exploding with energy?
Yeah, it was intense. You gotta get the fight sequences down and work with the producers and script but then you gotta do the eff’n role. This is turmoil to say the least. During the time making this movie people would tell me how insane I got. I remember once I was driving down the freeway over 100 miles per hour and was pulled over. Fortunately I was let off when I explained I was saving the world. [Laughs]
Click here to watch a revealing video from this interview
Rated R. 100 minutes. Release date in New York City is Friday, March 22, 2013.