Gerard Butler on being haunted by bush fire disaster that burned down his home

December 26, 2020 | Interviews

The ­Paisley-born star, 51, had his own real-life brush with disaster when his home was destroyed in the Woolsey Fire in California

Gerard Butler is a Scots superstar who has brought in billions to ­Hollywood’s box office with a string of disaster movies.

From Olympus Has Fallen to Geostorm and his new movie Greenland, the actor always has work on the go.

But two years ago the Paisley-born star, 51, had his own real-life brush with disaster when his home was destroyed in the Woolsey Fire in California.

At the time, Gerard posted a clip of his Malibu neighbourhood. In a new interview, he admitted he is a long way from rebuilding.

He said: “Having experienced a wildfire and having seen my ­property burned, I understand how devastating it is.

“It’s been two years but I’m still dealing with it now. I haven’t even started to rebuild yet. It takes a long time and a lot of work.

“You have to get clearances because of the toxicity and before they can clear the rubble you need permits for that.

“The foundations are gone so you’ve got to dig out the foundations and then they’ve got to take the topsoil off.

“My heart goes out to anyone affected by these fires because I know what it means to go through something like that.”

The actor has faced natural disaster in 2017 film Geostorm and is now the lead in Greenland, which sees Earth trying to face up to a comet that will cause mass ­destruction. He plays a father who has been pre-selected for a shelter.

Gerard said: “This film is about the fragility of humanity and of us all as individuals when faced with what we are having to deal with right now – the pandemic, ­wildfires, racial disparity.

“Hopefully Greenland serves as a reminder of where we are right now and what is really important.”

Although the filming was finished before the pandemic, the lockdown shut the movie down and the special effects had to be finished remotely.

Gerard said: “I like how it’s ­relevant to now and how none of us knew what we are going through with the pandemic.

“It’s weird because it seems like every movie I make ends up being about a subject that actually happens after we shoot it. This movie couldn’t be more relevant to where we are at now.”

Given his key roles in action-packed movies, from his 2006 breakout film 300 to Olympus Has Fallen, London Has Fallen and Angel Has Fallen, there’s no surprise he feels he could look after himself in a sticky

situation. He said: “You do learn a lot making certain types of movies. Without a doubt the action stuff increases your confidence in your ability to handle yourself in certain situations.”

Laughing, he added: “But, of course, coming from Scotland, that’s never a big issue.”

And while his new character John takes his estranged family with him on a journey to the bunker in ­Greenland, if there was a comet hurtling towards Earth, Gerard knows just who he would take.

He said: “My mother, first of all. Otherwise she would kill me! It would have to be my family and close friends.”

He spent lockdown in Malibu but split with Morgan Brown, his ­girlfriend of six years, during the pandemic.

The break-up, the loss of his home and a motorbike crash in 2017 which caused five foot fractures has made Gerard take stock of his life.

He said: “Natural disasters bring out the best and the worst in us. I do think that in this pandemic everybody is a hero just for getting through it.

“We’ve all been tested to the extreme but, as this movie shows us, there is always hope, no matter how bad things get.”

Greenland isn’t the first Hollywood film about earth-threatening ­asteroids.

There is 1958’s The Day the Sky Exploded, ­Meteor in 1979 starring Sean Connery and rival action movies Armageddon and Deep Impact in 1998.

And it wasn’t just the films that mean Gerard didn’t have to do much research for the new film.

He said: “Believe it or not, I ­actually knew quite a lot about comets and asteroids because I’m a space freak.

“I knew enough to point director Ric Roman Waugh towards a couple of documentaries that I’d seen of actual impacts and what that would entail and what that would be like for people.

“We did some extra research about the roles of first responders and what parts of society would break down but that was more in my role as producer, developing the script with Ric.”

He is proud of part of Greenland which shows the sacrifice of the army and medics who try to help people, knowing by doing so they won’t survive the comet.

The film, which will be streaming on Amazon Prime at the start of next year, stars Gotham and ­Deadpool actress Morena Baccarin as John’s estranged wife Allison. Together they race against time to get from the US to a bunker in Greenland with their diabetic son.

Gerard said: “This movie touched me very deeply in terms of ­considering the future of humanity itself and who we are.

“Here we are in a time when those things are being considered by all of us.”

Gerard also co-produced ­Greenland, which he relished, but he has no plans to give up acting.

He said: “I have had to say ‘no’ to movies that I have really wanted to do for one reason or another. Sometimes you end up being glad, other times you’re like, ‘What did I do?’

“I get attached to projects. I see myself on set making the movie, playing that character. I see the movie coming out, then I go from all of that headspace to… gone! Those decisions are always tough.”

One decision was ­spending $24million (£18million) on an airport scene which sees six C-130 planes blown up for real. He was in the thick of the action and had to get it right first time.

He said: “There’s a lot of pressure in those moments. It was a lot of practical special effects and I had to run with all these flashing lights and this machine that blows smoke, then dive on to mats.

“It was all about trying to get the timing right. It was tough, but so much fun. I love that stuff.”

Gerard has two films in the ­pipeline, one of which is teaming up for a third time in a row with Ric, who helmed last year’s Angel Has Fallen and Greenland.

He said: “I’m about to shoot a black comedy/thriller in Atlanta.

“After that I’m making another movie with Ric which is a huge, epic action/thriller based in the Middle East about an undercover CIA agent whose identity has been revealed and everyone is after him.”

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