The Scottish actor shares his personal reflection on his movie roles and the new ad campaign.
Gerard Butler tries unsuccessfully to suppress his laughter as our group of four journalists walks into the interview room at the plush ME hotel in London. We had already heard from journalists who had spoken to the star earlier about how very friendly he was, but we felt quite uncomfortable, really.
Was he laughing at us?
“I’m sorry,” he says apologetically, still trying to contain his laughter. “Please, sit down.”
We reach to pull out the chairs arranged around the table and notice the boxes of Boss Bottled, the iconic Hugo Boss fragrance for men on each one. We gingerly remove them (unsure if we’re supposed to keep them) and take our seats.
Butler lets out a sheepish laugh.
“It was my idea to put the bottles on the chair. I wanted to put a pastry instead ... just to see your reactions, but they advised against it!” the cheeky Scottish actor explains. Does he play such pranks on set, I ask.
“Well, if it’s a serious day and I have to play up some serious emotion, then I don’t, but otherwise I like to keep the energy and emotion on the set light. When a leading man and the director get along, it makes it so much easier for the rest on the set. I try and make that my responsibility ... to make everyone feel good,” he says in his thick Scottish accent, his piercing blue eyes still gleaming mischievously.
Butler, 44, was in London for media interviews as the new face of Hugo Boss’ classic fragrance, Boss Bottled, for its new Man of Today global campaign, which celebrates the modern man.
Launched last month, the campaign celebrates the complexities of the modern day man who, according to the campaign “is passionate and real, has grit yet refinement, and is in touch with his emotions and driven by compassion”.
It is the actor’s first stint as a fragrance ambassador and though surprised to be chosen, Butler says he was intrigued by the concept behind the campaign.
“It was a great honour to be asked. Of course, when they first approached me, I thought they were nuts. But then I decided to listen to what they had to say and was impressed. It was trying to do something bigger than just launch a fragrance... to define masculinity and inspire men to think about where they are in the world today. I thought it was very subtle and very cool, and it moved me. Also, the team (behind the campaign) are great – loyal, excited, they have no pretences. They’re the sort of people I’d hang out with and their belief in this campaign is sincere. I appreciated that,” he shares.
Dressed in a pair of dark blue denim jeans and navy polo T-shirt that shows off his ripped physique, Butler is ruggedly sexy and it’s no surprise that he was chosen to define masculinity. However, physical attractiveness is not Butler’s main selling point (though that’s a given) – he is also gracious, approachable and, as his movie roles prove, multifaceted.
In his 20-year movie career, Butler has taken on various roles, from the first starring role in Joel Schumacher’s film adaptation of the musical The Phantom Of The Opera in 2004 (in which he played the tortured lead) to the hulking action hero in the historical war fantasy 300 in which he was the Spartan King, Leonidas, leading a 300-strong army to battle against the Persians. He was also a small-time crook in British crime film RocknRolla in which he displayed ace comedic capabilities and the romantic lead in the dramedy P.S. I Love You.
From the many different types of men he played, which of them meets his definition of masculinity, we wonder out loud.
“King Leonidas,” he says without any hesitation. “There is masculinity and then, there is macho ... which isn’t good. I think there are elements of King Leonidas’ masculinity – values that he represents which, even if you are a gay hairdresser, you can uphold. Do you live with integrity? Do you display courage in your actions? Do you act with honour? Can you face the responsibilities and challenges of life that come your way?
“But it’s not just about being stalwart and stubborn and tough. Sure, there is a lot of gravitas in that, but there is another side to masculinity too. I think it also means being in touch with your other side ... to be able to show sensitivity, compassion. These make a man more well-rounded and I think Gerry (from P.S. I Love You) displays that the best. He was charming and had a sense of humour, and knew not to take himself so seriously. And, he cared so much about other people, especially the woman he loved. And that’s it: part of being a modern man is that you give back. Not by joining a charity or anything like that, but giving back to the people in your life and the people you meet on the street,” Butler explains in great length.
Well-known for being approachable to his fans, it is clear that he isn’t just spouting off words to fit a brief. Being “nice” to his fans and giving them a moment or two for a photo, he says, is something he takes seriously as a celebrity.
“People get really excited to meet celebrities, and I appreciate that. Being in the business, it is not a responsibility I take lightly. I get really excited when I meet famous people too. I remember as a kid in Scotland I would get so excited, and these were just people who were famous in Scotland and not around he world.
“I remember vividly, meeting Scottish comedian Allan Roberts. He was brilliant but was only popular in Scotland ... to me though, he was the world. I saw him walking out of the theatre, and went up behind him, and touched his thick camel jacket. He didn’t realise it, of course, but I was just so thrilled. So when kids and women, especially older women, get excited to see me, I always stop for a photo and give them a hug.”
Trained as a lawyer at the University of Glasgow, he started acting in his mid-20s after a short training stint in a law firm ended with him being fired just a week before qualifying.
“I wasn’t happy doing what I was doing and everyone in the firm knew that. I wasn’t fulfilling my purpose. The man depicted in this campaign isn’t afraid of breaking the mould. I wasn’t brave enough. But when I finally did – when I moved to acting – I felt that I was doing the right thing. I’m not saying it’s been all fun and games. I’ve been through a lot but those challenges have allowed me to sit here, content and happy,” he says candidly.
Contentment, he says, is something he only recently acquired.
“I haven’t always been comfortable in my own skin. I’ve grown to be more comfortable as I become older. You know yourself better and become more sure of who you are.
“I ask myself whether I would rather be right or be happy. And more often than not, I find that I’d rather be happy. I don’t need to win every fight as I used to when I was younger.”
As he casually leans back on his chair, fielding questions about himself with ease, there’s no doubting what he says.
“I am who I am, and I do my best in life. I try to put force and dedication and passion in everything I do,” he concludes.
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