The actor recalls the cigarette burn that left a mark while filming the Antoine Fuqua-directed action thriller.
In Gerard Butler’s latest action flick Olympus Has Fallen, the actor plays a former Secret Service agent who returns to the White House when the President (Aaron Eckhart) is taken hostage by a Korean terrorist group. The patriotic thriller — also starring Morgan Freeman, Angela Bassett, Melissa Leo and Dylan McDermott — is packed with fight sequences, and one particular stunt with McDermott resulted in actual injuries on both sides.
“He flicked [a cigarette into my neck â€“ which was part of the scene â€“ but because I was supposed to be sweaty and I had glycerin on, the top of the cigarette, the lit part, stuck to my neck. At first, I think everybody thought that I was just being a whiny baby, until the next day, it came up in a big scab,” Butler told The Hollywood Reporter before a special NYC screening of the film, presented by The Cinema Society.
“To be honest, I always thought the cigarette was a stupid idea but I let [McDermott do his thing, and then hopefully he felt a little bad afterwards. But the same evening, we were doing a fight sequence and I had to chop him, and I was supposed to miss. I chopped him in the neck, and he had to go to the doctor! We were even,” he added.
Director and longtime friend Antoine Fuqua insisted on adding an authenticity to film’s action sequences when he agreed to join the project. And so the Training Day helmer called on seasoned stunt coordinator Keith Woulard (Black Hawk Down, Iron Man 2), the same former Navy SEAL who consulted with Fuqua on 2003’s Tears of the Sun. Just as Butler trained extensively for the physical demands of his 2006 breakout movie 300, he worked with the SEALs throughout the 10-week shoot to adopt the habits of an ex-Secret Service agent like his character, Mike Banning.
â€œEvery time I had a break or even when I was talking to people, I’d be performing the moves so that it became secondhand, or I’d be loading my gun, unloading and loading it so I could do it on the move,â€ Butler recalled. â€œThere’s nothing worse than when you do a movie and you have to do a scene and you gotta move quick, and you have a short schedule, and you’re messing up. … When you move right, when you load your gun right, when you know how to hold it right, you know how to fight properly, you look like a badass. That’s what it’s all about!â€
Throughout the screening, Butler’s foul one-liners drew loud laughs and his fight sequences repeatedly brought applause from the audience, which included Star Jones, Harvey Weinstein and Jennifer Esposito. Tense scenes collected audible gasps; Victoria’s Secret model Lindsay Ellingson â€“ seated in the front row of the Tribeca Grand Hotel’s screening room â€“ mostly held her head down during the bloodier scenes.
With the line between violence on the big screen and tragedy on the news blurring more than ever before, the decision to portray a presidential hostage didn’t intimate Fuqua.
“Just like if it were a heist movie: how would you really take down a bank?â€ explained Fuqua of taking on the terrorism plot. “Hopefully, the good guys are looking at the movie as well going, we’re not gonna let that happen. So you catch-22: show the bad guys the plan, show the good guys on film so they could prevent it.”
He added: â€œYou kind of wish we would’ve saw something on 9/11 so we could’ve maybe thought about it.â€
Olympus Has Fallen opens in theaters March 22.