Gerard Butler is no stranger to action flicks. Heck… his appearance in 300 is what made him a star. But, after a detour through romantic comedies, he is back wielding a weapon in the thriller Olympus Has Fallen. Butler landed in Los Angeles this week to talk about the film from director Antoine Fuqua (Training Day) and takes us inside the fictional, but all too real, takeover of the White House.
Butler, who plays a Secret Service agent at the heart of winning back “America’s house,” was inspired to make the fight sequences as real as possible, especially given the fact that his director is a former Golden Gloves boxer! “To make an action movie with a guy who understands fighting and who understands character is incredible,” Butler said.
The actor also appreciated there isn’t a stroke of action in the entire film that doesn’t have purpose. “You can say so much with the fights, or you can say nothing. And we were always about this specific kind of intention behind this guy fighting. When you’ve got a guy like Antoine who completely understands that and yet understands character and performances, that’s why we have such a rich movie,” Butler said.
“It’s not just an action movie where we kick ass. It’s a thriller, but it’s an emotional ride as well with characters you get involved with.”
The Scottish superstar reported that fans of the action genre can expect scenes, teased in the Olympus Has Fallen trailer, that will be unlike those you have ever seen. “This take-down of the White House is one of the most unforgettable action sequences ever, but again, it has such a purpose behind it -- it’s all relevant,” Butler said.
He said the thought process was meticulous by Fuqua and for every question the story might produce, the director had answers… and then some. “How do they do it? What is the intelligence they use? We were focused, especially Antoine, on grounding it, making it ‘what would this really look like, smell like, taste like?’ So the audience is totally pulled into this, and in that respect, I think every gunshot and every explosion is mind-blowing.”
Butler knew he was on to something with Olympus Has Fallen from the moment he read the script, and also once he stepped on the set. But, it was the screening recently at Camp Pendleton in San Diego with U.S. Marines that let him know that Butler and the entire filmmaking team had achieved something truly special.
“It was a huge fear when we talked about showing it to the military, especially the Marines. I always thought, ‘How are they going to react to this?’” he wondered.
Those who serve our country could be a tough audience. How would they take to this film that showed a dark day where evil got through and our unmatched military might could not stop bloodshed? That fact is shown so effectively in this Olympus Has Fallen clip called Under Seige.
“This is a day where we focus on there being a big fail, which shows you that every other day it doesn’t go wrong was a big success. But at the same time, we were concerned about what they would say just for those reasons,” Butler said.
Because in the movie this is a sneak attack, it takes the Secret Service and military by surprise. But at the end of the day, Butler believed that the Marines would adore it because it is really about heroism.
“It’s like the movie’s tagline says, ‘In our darkest hour, our nation will rise and it will unite.’ That’s what they got out of it! So, I stayed even though I was more terrified than anybody, and I thought, ‘If it’s not going well, I’m going to leave before the end,’” Butler said and laughed.
“But they got exactly the heart and soul and the point of the movie. They got the humor in it -- there’s a lot of funny moments -- they got the inspiration in it. They got the intelligence of it. They enjoyed the action of it. They took it for exactly what it is. It’s provocative entertainment.”
Butler then played us a video on his phone of the screening when the credits started rolling. The cheers are deafening.
“That’s the Marines! And we’ve gotten the same reaction when we screened this in Washington to political journalists, to government officials, to Secret Service and they went crazy for it,” Butler proudly said. “I don’t think we expected that response, but everybody takes out of it what they need. If it’s just for the action or if it’s for the patriotism or whatever it is, the themes involved are so overpowering.”
In the end, Butler believes that the themes of Olympus Has Fallen are universal, regardless of gender, race or nationality. “What does the White House mean to you? What does the fragility of our freedom mean? What does it mean if the president is taken hostage? It means the same to all,” he said. “We’re all feeling it. I remember a woman came up, punching me, and said, ‘Damn, I love that movie!’”