Exclusive: ‘Law Abiding’ Gerard Butler Talks Revenge

By  · Published on October 26th, 2009

I always have you in mind, dear reader, which is why I’ve conducted which might be the dullest interview of Gerard Butler on record. Why’s it so dreadfully dull?

Because I didn’t ask him about his ab workout routine, who he’s dating, or what makes him such a rugged man’s man. I also didn’t tell him that you think he’s hot and want to play a little “The Butler Did It” over at his place.

For some reason, I also didn’t feel a great need to tell him “This is madness!” in an effort to get him to proclaim that the interview was Sparta.

Seriously, you people are animals when I ask for interview question suggestions.

But, with the release of Law Abiding Citizen, I was lucky enough to catch the former lawyer (and sometimes actor/producer) during a huge, exhaustive press blitz that he’s running ragged through right now. While I didn’t get to ask him his professional opinion on Donoghue vs. Stevenson (a watershed case in Scots tort law), I did get to talk to him about revenge flicks, messing with an audience’s mind and how his family helped make him into the man he is today.

You’ve been doing press all morning?

I’ve been doing press my only fucking life, it feels like.

[Laughs] You about ready to hang it up then?

Yeah, actually for America, I believe this is my last couple of interviews, and then I’m done, but it seems to have been going on for a long time.

Well, I’ll try to keep this as painless as possible.

Don’t worry. I’m in the role now, so I’m alright actually.

You’re completely press ready so you’re answers are slick and publicist-ready?

It’s interesting you say that because I say I’m in the role ‐ or I’m in the groove rather than the role ‐ but at the same time I feel that normally when I talk about a movie my answers get better and better.

Oh, good.

But I feel like in this, much as I love the movie, I feel like my answers have gotten worse and worse. [Laughs]

[Laughs] Oh, great. That’s fantastic for me, then.

So be prepared for some crap answers.

I’ll prep my audience for that. They’re not used to quality interviews anyway.

[Laughs] Okay.

[Laughs] First formal question, then: How does it feel to be producing?

I feel great. I think you take an extra bit of pride in the film. A huge amount of pride in the film. You feel a lot more pressure, more responsible for how it performs, but you also get double the pleasure because you’re in there as the actor so you’re hoping for a great performance, to be appreciated for that performance, but you’re also hoping for a great movie. It’s just, I feel like I’ve been involved at every level of this from the casting to even choosing the director to developing the script ‐ from deciding to bring the script on and work with it and turn it into a movie. It’s been a ‐ how would you say it? ‐ it’s been a roller coaster ride, and it’s been bumpy at times. It’s great to see it come out and do really well and be appreciated.

Still fulfilling despite the roller coaster?

Totally fulfilling. Totally fulfilling. I think there was a part of me that thought, “Well, I’m producing this. It’s obviously not going to be very good,” but I was totally shocked when I saw it. We did a test screening, and it scored through the roof. It actually scored higher than 300, and that was a big shocker to see that happen. So now I’m Mr. Over-Confident Producer.

That’ll make the next one even better.

I hope so. Let’s wait and see.

Were you a revenge or vigilante genre fan before diving into this?

Yeah, I’ve always liked a good ol’ thriller. I remember growing up, the Death Wish franchise. There’s just something to be said for a kick ass villain, but there’s even more to be said for a would-be villain where you actually understand exactly where they’re coming from. So you have a bit of the psychotic in you, but you also have a bit where you’re driven by a very understandable motivation in terms of payback, revenge.

You got to play around with ethics and got the audience to question their ethical stance. That must have been fun.

Exactly. I think that this film works on a lot of levels. It’s exciting, there’s a lot of suspense, it’s surprising, but at the same time it’s thought-provoking and it does draw you into a lot of questions about justice, about the legal system, about responsibility and accountability. How much one is entitled to stand up for themselves and fight back. Because it is, as an audience, even Jamie’s character the prosecutor says, “I’m with you. I get it.” And as an audience, it’s amazing the amount of support that’s given to my character despite the fact that he’s committing some pretty horrific acts. I thought that was really fascinating when I saw it with an audience ‐ how much of the movie they were still cheering me as the killings started involving more and more innocent people.

I was on your side the entire time.

I think that was an interesting thing to play with as well for my character. He so believes in what he’s doing now that this sociopathic element has developed in him over time. Perhaps there was a hint of it there as it lies dormant, and I think it exists in a lot of people that would have psychopathic or sociopathic tenancies. They don’t always come out. Perhaps it has to be triggered by an event. To think that, over time, Clyde Shelton’s whole purpose has been to exact revenge to teach people the effects of their actions, and therefore he’s taking a great deal of enjoyment out of this. Not so much in a macabre way, but just to feel vindicated. To feel that he now has a voice.

It’s sort of like being a producer. Planning something out for a long time and getting the joy of seeing that come to life. Seeing the response.

Maybe a film producer and a director at the same time where he can boss around all the actors and say, “I want you to go there. I want you to be there. I’m not gonna tell you what’s gonna happen. I’m gonna change the script on you,” and feeling in control of spinning his story to create a feeling and an ending which are all of his own doing and creation.

I like that you call it a story. I see the connection there the most. You’ve mentioned before that your family has been an influence growing up which helps you reach the emotional gamut now. Are there any childhood memories that come to mind specifically?

Yeah, I think that I came from a family of larger-than-life characters who were a joy to be around. They were a lot of jokers and storytellers, a lot of warmth. When people think of the warmth of Scottish people and that kind of Celtic fun they can have, there was a lot of that. And then the Irish blood as well. So there was a lot of that, but it was tough as well. There could be a serious amount of confrontation. Issues were not always talked out in a rational way. It could involve a lot of screaming matches.

Then my father turned up out of the blue, and that was definitely an emotional roller coaster that allowed me in a lot of ways to go deep and understand what I’m missing in my life. My father was probably the craziest and most fun and outlandish one of the lot of them. Then I realize where my own personality traits came from. And then there was just a lot of personal experience that I went through. Issues that were created by my culture and then by myself that probably gave me more depth than anything to draw on from experience of craziness and fun, but a lot of pain and anguish as well.

And what is Evil Twins working on now?

There’s a few different projects that we’ve been working on, but there’s one in particular ‐ it’s a movie called Slide about a former baseball player who goes back to try and patch things up with his child and estranged wife and ends up coaching the kid’s baseball team. He becomes the subject of fascination and longing by every bored house wife in the town. And it’s him trying to survive that while trying to patch things up with his kid. I think we’re going to have Gabriele Muccino direct the movie. Hopefully. We’re in talks with him, and he’s very much up for directing it so we’ll what happens there.

Movie stuff at VanityFair, Thrillist, IndieWire, Film School Rejects, and The Broken Projector [email protected] | Writing short stories at Adventitious.