In a very candid new interview, the star reflects on his recent heartbreak and the devastating moment that almost made him quit acting.
Having reached the milestone of 50, as well as surviving his motorbike accident and several surgeries, it’s understandable that Butler might be reflecting on his mortality.
“I thought, ‘Am I only going to leave my movies behind?’ My movies are not for everybody, but the people who like them get moved and inspired by them, will hopefully come out of watching them thinking, ‘I want to be like that guy,’ the way I did as a child growing up watching movies.
“But at the same time, there comes a point where you go, ‘Is that it? Is there something more that’s part of my journey?’
“The things I’ve been through, not as an actor but as a person, make me think about a different kind of impact I could leave behind. So it’s started me on a full-blown quest, which I’m in the middle of right now.”
As Butler searches for deeper meaning, he also reprises his role as Mike Banning in the new entry into the Fallen franchise, Angel Has Fallen. The third film in the trilogy follows the previous films, Olympus Has Fallen (2013), and London Has Fallen (2016), which have grossed a combined $US523 million ($A727,000) worldwide.
In this instalment, Banning’s Secret Service agent is being framed for an attempt to assassinate the president by a rogue private military unit, and must race against time to clear his name while uncovering the real threat.
How does Butler relate to any of these over-the-top scenarios?
“Well, I’ve been through a lot. I’ve been in some crazy situations in my life that are not unlike the Fallen series. I was in New York for 9/11, I was in London for the (July) 7 bombings, and I was in New York for Hurricane Sandy,” he said.
“Also, my house burned down here in the Malibu fires, and aside from that there have been many, many more situations.”
Butler is speaking via Zoom from his Los Angeles home. The conversation naturally turns to COVID-19. “It’s scary,” he nods. “I know a couple who recently passed away.
“If there’s something to be said about is this pandemic, it’s perhaps that it makes us realise how lucky we’ve been in some respects, in that we haven’t had other pandemics which could even have been worse, could have been more contagious, could have been more deadly,” he says. “We haven’t had any wars here. Things could always be worse.”
But through it all, Butler employs a ‘glass half-full’ philosophy.
“If you look at it in a positive way, I know that a lot of the tragedies or challenging times that I’ve been through, whether in the bigger picture or more personally, have given me more of a warrior spirit and more experience in how to deal with those situations and look to the future, stay positive and take care of what I can in that moment,” he said.
“I’m an optimist, although generally in life, I do have a tendency to cling to worst-case scenarios but that’s more personal. That’s more about my negative self-beliefs. But in life, I’m more of an optimist in the bigger picture.”
Given this optimism, he says if there is one small positive to be found amid the COVID-19 pandemic it’s that “it makes you realise, I’m the same boat as the people in Moscow, Beijing, Glasgow, and Iceland, we’re all in the same boat”.
“And that’s when you realise we are just one little species; we’re all the same family,” Butler added.