Gerard Butler is well aware that he tends to get cast as macho guys who usually have at least one bare-chested scene in a movie. But the Scottish actor (who had his breakthrough role as a Spartan warrior in the 2007 film “300”) clearly doesn’t have a problem with being the lead muscle guy in his films, since he doesn’t seem to be in any rush to play nerdy or intellectual types. However, Butler relishes bringing a more vivid personality to his characters that other actors might portray as two-dimensional and plastic.
In real life, Butler is a lot more laid-back and good-humored than the characters he tends to play on screen. But in his action flick “Gamer,” Butler’s John Tillman character can’t afford to be light-hearted and goofy. Tillman lives in a violent and hedonistic world where people can control other human beings through video games â€” and he’s one of those being controlled. A teenage gamer named Simon (played by Logan Lerman) has made Tillman (a.k.a. Kable) a gun-toting, homicidal star through the video game “Slayers” â€” but it comes at a price, as Kable has to live apart from his wife, Angie (played by Amber Valletta), and daughter Delia (played by Brighid Fleming).
Meanwhile, the gamer technology is under the control of power-hungry billionaire Ken Castle (played by Michael C. Hall), whose ultimate goal is world domination. Kable wants to reunite with his family, but he soon realizes that he has to take down the billionaire puppet master to save himself and others. When Butler sat down to chat about “Gamer” while he was making the film, he talked about why he decided to take on such a dark-themed project, why doing action-oriented physical roles isn’t getting old for him and why he likes working with “crazy-ass” directors.
“Gamer” was written and directed by Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, who also wrote and directed the “Crank” movies. Was that the main attraction to do “Gamer”?
It has all the hallmarks of Neveldine and Taylor’s sick and yet genius minds. They really have this innate natural ability to create these concepts without over-creating, over-thinking them â€” creating great characters and yet keeping this element of freshness and youth and progressive thinking, and yet their sickness and their pervertedness is, you know, it has a lot of stuff in there. What’s best about their work is it feels effortless. You kind of feel like they just sat down, wrote the script in a couple of hours, and it just made perfect sense. They’re just very talented.
[b How would you describe the physicality you needed to have for “Gamer”[/b ?
I never want it to be the same size as “300,” because that’s a different thing. We’re moving into a kind of mythical cult warrior there. So that was a different experience, but I almost wanted to get into an almost different kind of physicality. Not as big, but more sinewy and that feeling that you’re inside, you’re so strong and you’re tough. That’s Kable and that’s the kind of life he’s lived. He has that kind of sinewy and muscley like that [he looks at his left arm and flexes it , and you see all the veins. Once the veins start to come out, you know you’re getting somewhere. And you get that from just pumping constantly, and it cuts everything up.
[b What’s the directing style of Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor?[/b
Nobody has worked harder than our directors. They’re there giving everything in every moment and doing crazy, crazy stuff. Mark’s on his roller blades holding on to the side of a van zooming down the street. I think I’m being crazy! He’s on roller blades and then smashing into a car. And he’s like, “That was great! Let’s go again!” Between [“300 director” Zack Snyder and Mark Neveldine and Brian Taylor, I’ve worked with some crazy-ass directors. I love it. It’s hard but I wouldn’t have it any other way.
[b How would you describe the look and feel of “Gamer”?[/b
The whole look and feel â€” even the idea of the story â€” it’s never really been done before. You just have to see two seconds of the film and you go, “Wow! What is this? This is really cool.” And it’s nonstop. It’s artistically beautiful â€” not the same as “300,” because it’s there to begin with. “300” was more green screen; a lot of the [look of “300” happened afterwards [in post-production . Here [in Gamer” â€” and this is one of the exciting things about this â€” with “300” I was “Wow! I didn’t see that when I was there [filming the movie . I just saw a blue screen.”
Whereas here [in “Gamer” , you’re in those environments. You’re in the big train station or you’re in the prison or you’re up there in the mine 7,000 feet up. You’re in these incredible locations that really help you buy into the feel of being in the future and being in this messed-up world.
[b How did your role in “300” prepare you for the role of Kable in “Gamer”?[/b
I have a lot of confidence in my ability to perform action, to understand it, to tell a story with it, to make it cooler, to simplify it, to make it less stunty at times â€” just to do all of that: how to pace myself, when to use myself, when not.
[b What audiences can expect when they see “Gamer”?[/b
This is a rush! It is insane when you put that stuff together, and yet it’s all completely within the bounds of reality, in terms of our story. That’s what I love: when action comes out of character and plot. It’s not just gratuitous.