After bringing action and terror to Washington, D.C., and London, Gerard Butler knew he could have kept moving his Fallen franchise around the globe, but he wanted more than that for the third installment.
Despite the success of Olympus Has Fallen and London Has Fallen, the 49-year-old star felt the need to “freshen up” the series. “We could have just made Tokyo Has Fallen and people would have had a blast, but what else would we have been saying?” Butler tells EW. “I’m not just going to turn up; we had to take this in a new direction.”
After scrapping two different scripts, Butler and director Ric Roman Waugh (Shot Caller) eventually found inspiration in The Fugitive, The Bourne Identity, and Taken, landing on a “more grounded, gritty” version. This time around, Secret Service agent Mike Banning has been framed for an assassination attempt on President Allan Trumbull (Morgan Freeman), sending him on the run to prove his innocence. “It’s the same man in the same position, but it’s a much deeper, darker journey,” Butler says. “There’s still huge set pieces and we made sure not to disappoint the fans of the first two, but you’re really inside this character, watching him try to get his sh— together.”
Considering the box office results of Olympus and London, there’s an inherent risk in changing things up, but it’s easier to do so when you feel like you’re playing with house money. Back in 2013, Olympus was released only a few months ahead of White House Down, which had a bigger budget, more hype, and bigger stars. Butler says they always viewed themselves as “the little movie that could,” and he takes great pride in building up an original franchise and hero.
“If you have some IP and it’s based on something and you have a big studio behind it, you expect that [success],” he says. “It feels exciting when you create something yourself and it becomes a franchise, rather than jumping into some big studio project. Nowadays, there are so many superhero movies, and Mike is a regular guy with regular challenges, but he’s also incredibly loyal, courageous, and heroic. I think that people really buy into that, and it’s always great to foster a new hero and go on a journey with him.”
While Butler has had plenty of fun over the last seven years, it’s also been a painful ride due to the rigorous stunts and action. “Mike’s gone through a lot, and I’ve gone through a lot,” he says with a laugh. “I went through this movie pretty beaten up, so it wasn’t hard for me to portray that character, because it felt I was kind of living it. I don’t know how many more of these I have left.”
That being said, Butler is more than willing to run it back should audiences be receptive to this different iteration. But regardless, he’s more than satisfied with the experience. “I feel like we’ve been brave in taking this new direction,” he says. “If it pays off, then maybe we make a fourth. If it doesn’t, then hey, I had a blast.”
Angel Has Fallen, which also stars Jada Pinkett Smith and Piper Perabo, hits theaters Aug. 23.