Aged 27, Gerard Butler had never acted and was bottoming out at the bottom of a bottle. Now he’s a fixture on Hollywood’s A-list, be it action, romcom, animation or Shakespeare. He’s also a leading man in the gossip columns. Time for the truth to out.
“Without a doubt the coolest, most exhilarating, most brilliant thing I have ever done was play for Celtic, in a match for their charity fund against Manchester United last summer”, says Gerard Butler. “There I was on the Celtic Park pitch, in the green-and-white hoops, playing with [former Celtic striker] Henrik Larsson and [current Celtic manager] Neil Lennon tackling the likes of Roy Keane, Teddy Sheringham and Dwight Yorke. It’s the highlight of my whole career so far.”
This from the man currently the most bankable British actor in Hollywood, who, for his forthcoming movie, Playing The Field, locks lips with Catherine Zeta-Jones, Jessica Biel and Uma Thurman, but then the 42 year-old Scot isn’t the man you think he is.
For starters, during that football match in Glasgow in August 2011, a star-studded testimonial match for former Celtic defender John Kennedy, Butler played the first two-thirds of the match, and absolutely looked the part alongside the former professionals and soccer-loving celebs. He exited the pitch to a standing ovation.
“Luckily, for the last movie I’d shot, Playing The Field, I played a soccer-player-turned-school-coach who gets involved with his players’ mums,” says Butler, looking match-fit in a suite at the Soho Hotel, London. “So I got in shape: played a lot of soccer, did a lot of surfing, hiking, running and cycling, and I was ready for the game, which was very handy indeed because I’ve supported Celtic all my life.”
Dressed in a black polo shirt, combat trousers and big, black army-style boots, his tousled curly, slightly greying hair is shoulder length and matches a scruffy beard. He is jovial, refreshingly open, totally self-effacing, and very, very funny. It’s not quite the uniform or the demeanour of an actor whose box-office hit-rate is currently higher than Oscar-winner Colin Firth and Daniel Craig, whose record beyond Bond is patchy at best. There are rumours of Butler, now based where the work is, in Los Angeles, commanding eight-figure salaries. Yet he remains down-to-earth despite Hollywood and all its foibles.
“Well, we Scots are very grounded, and have good manners, and if I start getting too big for my boots, there’s plenty of friends and family in Scotland who’ll sort me out,” he says, with a smile. “I love what I do and think I’m pretty good at it, so I have nothing to prove, I don’t have a chip on my shoulder and don’t need to put on any airs and graces. But all in all, I think it’s just part of being Scottish, because you can’t get carried away with any of that conceited ego rubbish up there because it don’t bloody work!”
At this he takes a swig of water and has a good chuckle, his shoulders bobbing like fishing floats.
“A good example for you. I saw an old pal of mine in Glasgow recently, and he’d had quite a skinful and had hardly a leg under him. So he gives me a hug and says, ‘You know Gerry, through all the success and the fame and the adulation, you’re still the same as you always were.’ So there was I was thinking, ‘Wow that was nice of him,’ and then he said, ‘Aye big man, you’re still a total dickhead!’ Brilliant! You don’t get much of that in LA."
Read the full story in February's issue of The Red Bulletin.