YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections


The sighs of it

Gerard Butler, swoon platoon idol of '300,' softens up for 'P.S.'

December 20, 2007|Cristy Lytal | Special to The Times

Scottish actor Gerard Butler has a personal army, and it numbers far more than 300. They call themselves Gerry's Tarts, enthuse about the actor on and raise money for his favorite charities. In anticipation of the Friday release of "P.S. I Love You," this highly mobilized female fan club has sent Butler a gift.

"I have to show you this," he says, leaping from his seat on the sofa and striding across his suite at the Beverly Hilton, where he is preparing for a grueling press junket. "I just got this today. This is my doll from [the 2003 sci-fi film] 'Timeline,' and a diary of what it's wearing, the diary of where it's been. It's been sent from city to city to different people, and they write and they take photos of the Gerry doll." In one photo, the doll is trying to get into Victoria's Secret. Butler roars with laughter at the sight.

"P.S." should unleash a new wave of adoration among the legions of estrogen-fueled fans who swooned over his chiseled abs in "300" and his sonorous vocals in "The Phantom of the Opera." In the very romantic comedy, based on the novel by Cecelia Ahern, Butler plays Gerry Kennedy, an Irishman who dies of a brain tumor but leaves a trail of love letters for his widow, Holly (Hilary Swank), to help her cope with the loss. In scenes depicting Kennedy before his death, Butler sings, plays guitar and performs a comical striptease in boxers and suspenders. The get-up is more than worthy of a doll of its own.

"The thing about Gerry [Butler] is he's just a hoot, and you never know what he's going to do," Swank says. "And you never know what's going to come out of his mouth next. He'll just go off on something. And he'll tell you a story about a dream he had, and he'll say, 'What do you think that means?' He's really fresh and brings that quality to everything he does."

This includes interviews. Before he begins answering questions, he barks, "Is there anybody through there in the other room?"

"Yes, there is," answers a member of his entourage.

"Could you guys not be there?" he replies.

"No, we're not. I can't hear a word."

"Well, how -- you just heard me there."

Once the walls no longer have ears, he explains, "I just was doing an interview, and there were about 15 people in the background. I'd just rather be speaking to the person I'm speaking to rather than dealing with an audience."

Butler speaks passionately about a range of topics: the way people joke at Scottish and Irish wakes, his interest in meditation and yoga, and how peeved he is to have to call football "soccer." ("Ours is way more like football than American football. We play with our feet. So get rid of the name. Give us it back!") He looks dapper and fresh in a black button-down and black jeans, even though he has slept only two hours each for the last two nights between studio meetings, filming and press. He exudes the quality that would inspire "300's" Spartans to follow him to their deaths on the battlefield, "The Phantom of the Opera's" Christine to feel love for him despite a gravely deformed face or "P.S.'s" Holly to lose herself in grief at his death. The man has charisma.

"Gerry has this incredible combination of a sexy, masculine Spartan and a wonderful, boyish, mischievous quality and, to me, a Cary Grant quality," says "P.S." writer-director Richard LaGravenese. "A friend of mine [director Ted Demme] had died prior to writing the script, and in a way, for me, Gerry was playing my friend. We talked about that quite a bit, because he and my friend had very much a similar spirit."

Butler's offbeat energy may have something to do with his Scottish upbringing and the late start he got in acting. He was born in Glasgow and raised by his divorced mother in Paisley, was more of a jock than a thespian and spent his time playing soccer, volleyball, badminton and golf. When he was 15, he attended the Scottish Youth Theatre, but when it came time to choose a career, he didn't see acting as a viable option. "It's hard enough if you're American," he says. "Then if you go to London, there's even less opportunity. And then you take yourself 500 miles up north and say you're from Glasgow, you're an old Scotsboy, it's like, what chance have you got of making it as an actor? So I did well in school and then went into law school. And yet I hadn't asked myself the question: Is this really, really, really, in this one life that I'm going to have, what I want to do? And it wasn't."

His subsequent soul-searching years included a few youthful brushes with the law and a battle with alcoholism, but he sorted it out before too long and landed a role opposite Judi Dench and Billy Connolly in "Mrs. Brown."

Los Angeles Times Articles