TALKS TOMB RAIDER II
Copyright 2003 www.tombraiderchronicles.com
[ July 22nd 2003 ]
Butler is trying hard not to smoke. It's been
minutes since the Scottish-born actor's last cigarette,
and he's determined to forego another for a little
while longer. As he paces around the room, he
spies a cup of coffee, which seems to stoke his
nicotine urge. ''To hell with it,'' he says, lighting
a Marlboro and swigging his coffee. ''Restraint
was only going to last for so long.''
actor, who stars opposite Angelina Jolie in ''Lara
Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life,'' which
opens nationwide on Friday, says he has a long
list of demons to wrestle, and for the moment,
he's too tired to fight his cigarette habit. ''I
am a very extreme person,'' he explains during
a recent visit to New York. ''I think I'm very
impulsive and compulsive. That can be a wonderful
thing -- it helps in acting -- and it also can
mess with your head. I always seem to be battling
says he gave up alcohol several years ago because
a life of ''wild partying'' was taking a toll.
He even managed to wean himself off cigarettes
for a while, but two years ago, stress from an
accelerated work pace caused him to start up again.
''I'm working so hard right now,'' he says. ''It's
a very difficult time to try to quit.''
now, Butler will add ''grapple with stardom''
to his to-do list. The 6-foot-2-inch actor, whose
green eyes, rebel chic, and brazen charm will
probably bring him movie-idol status, has been
cast in the title role of ''The Phantom of the
Opera'' movie, scheduled to begin filming in the
fall. Names such as John Travolta and Antonio
Banderas had been bandied about for the part since
the musical opened on Broadway 15 years ago. But
''Phantom'' director Joel Schumacher told Butler
he was his first choice for the role, which Butler
was unaccustomed to hearing. ''I'm used to being
the outsider,'' he says. ''Suddenly I had Joel
Schumacher saying, `He's my Phantom.' I'm not
used to being the guy.''
of Butler's roles have been hard-won, as he has
had to prove to directors that despite being something
shy of a big-name star, he is the man for their
movie. This strategy won him the role of Terry
Sheridan, Lara Croft's bad-boy love interest in
the new ''Tomb Raider,'' according to the film's
director, Jan de Bont. ''We needed someone who
had a physical presence, because [Jolie] really
wipes every actor off the screen,'' de Bont explains.
''After endless screen tests, [Butler] was the
only one who clearly stood out.''
Dean Georgaris says he was concerned about who
would play the leading man, because it's difficult
to portray a dangerous, unpredictable scoundrel
who happens to be an immensely likable guy. But
after ''listening to the way [Jolie] and Gerry
Butler spoke together and watching them interact,''
he says, he knew Butler would do justice to the
character. ''I knew we could have him be playful
and it wouldn't be annoying, because Gerry is
the kind of person who can pull that off,'' Georgaris
says. Butler acknowledges that like his character,
he has a ''roguish quality and a cheeky manner''
that have sometimes gotten him into trouble. ''Terry
Sheridan has a dark side, and there are times
when I can't help being a bad boy,'' Butler says,
smiling coyly. ''Deep down I'm a good guy, but
I have a lot of flaws that sometimes take me to
the wrong places.''
he's getting better at navigating his psyche away
from some of those danger zones. ''I think I made
my early 20s a very choppy period for myself,''
he says. ''That was mixed with pursuing a career
I didn't believe in and suddenly thinking that
this one life that I had was going to be taken
up with doing something I hated with a passion,
and that terrified me.''
that period, Butler was working as a solicitor
trainee at an Edinburgh law firm after graduating
from the University of Glasgow, where he was president
of the school's law society. He left the law firm
one week before he was qualified to become a full-fledged
lawyer. ''To be honest, they fired me -- and it
takes a lot to get fired,'' he says. ''I had a
terrible disciplinary record and attendance record.
I thought I would live the life of a rock star
while working as a lawyer.''
Butler was a rock star of sorts, at least in his
local legal circles. He was the lead singer for
a band called Speed (originally Speed of Light,
he explains), made up of his lawyer buddies. Soon
after his legal career ended, he moved to London
to pursue acting, and in the mid-1990s, he landed
his first part there in a stage production of
''Coriolanus,'' directed by Steven Berkoff. Butler's
movie debut came in the 1997 film ''Mrs. Brown.''
Last year he had a major supporting role in the
futuristic science-fiction adventure film ''Reign
real knack, however, was for playing it dark and
ominous. He starred as Attila in the USA Network
miniseries of the same name, and he portrayed
Dracula in the movie ''Wes Craven Presents: Dracula
2000.'' His journey to the netherworld will continue
with the Phantom, a character whose loneliness
and desperation strikes a chord with him, he says.
''That character breaks my heart,'' Butler says,
suddenly looking soulful and sad as he speaks
about the masked phantom who haunts the Paris
Opera House. ''I have such warmth and compassion
for him. And I think he represents the fear that
so many of us have -- being alone and never having
the things that we have a right to have: a companion,
life, love. I think there's always a deep-down
fear in all of us that suddenly we'll become repugnant
to everybody else.''
has learned to quell his self-doubts and focus
on making himself happy. With ''Phantom'' about
to launch him into a new realm of fame, he understands
it's important to keep his priorities in order.
''There's definitely a lot of downside to fame,''
he says. ''I love the opportunity to be anonymous
and do my own thing. You don't have to worry about
attending great parties and being seen in the
best cars. I used to think that was important,
but it's not.''
Butler hopes to make time for someday is a family.
While working on ''Tomb Raider,'' he says, he
was struck by the tenderness of Jolie's relationship
with her young son, Maddox. Whenever she wasn't
filming, she gave her full attention and energy
to her child, which Butler says he finds remarkable.
''He dotes on Angelina and she dotes on him, and
it's a beautiful thing to see,'' he says.
realizes that he's probably more than a few steps
away from fatherhood. ''I'd love to have kids,
but I'd have to stay in a relationship that lasts
more than a week,'' he says. This would be a difficult
feat, he adds, because his filming schedule doesn't
allow him to stay in the same place for very long.
''I'll be on location and see a woman who I'm
interested in. I look, think about it, and then
say, `What's the point?' That's the downside of
working all the time.''
he's headed to St. Louis, where he's filming ''The
Game of Their Lives,'' the true story of an American
soccer team that won the 1950 World Cup. While
he's there, he says, dragging on a cigarette,
he might get an injection in his ear to help him
stop smoking. ''They say it works,'' he says,
looking unconvinced. ''I've tried everything else.''