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Interview with Gerard Butler

From "Dear Frankie"

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Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler in Dear Frankie

Emily Mortimer and Gerard Butler in "Dear Frankie"

© Miramax Films
This movie was scheduled to come out late last year. Why did it get pushed back to 2005? Had it been released in 2004, it would have been on my Top 10 movies of last year.
I know! For many reasons, but I think they decided they wanted to bring it out after “The Phantom,” figuring that would help. There was certainly a beautiful buzz going on last year and now it feels like, as you say, we’re having to kind of get that momentum going again.

This is one of the few movies I’ve sat through where the audience at the end has been left wanting at least another ½ hour with these characters. Is there any chance you’d revisit these characters?
Oh, I doubt it. Never been discussed. I would have no problem with doing it. Now generally I don’t like doing remakes but I think that’s more in the cynical world of Hollywood where normally remakes are purely for commercial reasons. I think that actually it would be quite fascinating to discover those characters again because so much is left unresolved and still an issue with the audience. (Laughing) They come out and say, “What happened to them?” And, “What do you think happened after this?” And that’s great to see. But it would be nice to open up some of those issues but then still create yet more unresolved problems.

Your "Dear Frankie" co-star, Jack McElhone, is just a kid. Do you find it easy to work with young actors?
Hmm, yeah… I mean, you have certain problems and certain issues just by the nature of them being kids, as you would have had if you would have worked with me when I was a kid. I’m sure far more so, you know? Jack [McElhone] has so much energy and so many things going on in his life, that at times you had to remind him that he was making a movie. He did work really hard and is fantastic in the movie, but sometimes you felt he would rather be off playing football or video games (laughing). And yet he always turned in a stellar performance and did his homework and was there. So there are times, yeah, that it could get to you. But more often than not, I find the process more of an inspiration than anything.

Did you do anything special to bond as a cast?
No, we just really hung out. We had like a two week rehearsal process and we spent a lot of time together. We kicked the ball about together. We talked a lot and had fun. Our real bonding was actually kicking the shit out of each other. We had this thing where literally we would attack me from behind. He’d kick me in the ass, punch me in the stomach, and then I kind of started doing it to him (laughing). So we would fight a lot but… There was a lot of fighting, you know? I was amazed what a great bonding experience that was. But he’s such a great little kid. It’s kind of easy to bond with him and have fun with him. He has the most incredible imagination and he’s so much fun to hang out with. It was lovely.

This movie could have been overly sentimental. It could have turned into just one of those romantic movies but it never does. How tough was it to walk that line, to make a truly emotionally touching movie without getting sappy?
It was something that we really had to play through in rehearsals, and we really had to focus on. I think that Shona [Auerbach] really was careful in her choice of actors for the roles. And we always had to remember that at every moment. It was like, “No, don’t choose those moments. Don’t understand the power that you have in those moments.”

I think the pressure was especially on little Jack [McElhone] to play that character as not some cute little boy who you feel so sorry for because he’s deaf. He was a spunky kid. His deafness is just a fact of life. We didn’t focus on it. You dealt with him more as just a normal human being who had issues at school, who had issues with his mom and his father and his friends at school, etc. Just living his life, you know? And one of those other issues was that he was deaf. But that wasn’t the whole point of the movie. And I guess those things were seriously considered and thought about.

That’s what I love about this. If you just tell the story of what the story’s about, then it sparks curiosity but I think it also arouses suspicion, as you say, that it could be overly sentimental. But it so isn’t. And I think it was all about doing the inner work and then underplaying everything. And so I know for me, that’s what I was constantly thinking was just, “Bring it down. Give it truth. Give it realism.” Because if you can do that and an audience can relate to you as a human being who’s not purely good or purely bad, but he just is who he is, then that’s what sucks you in. In a way, that’s what sucks you in to this beautiful little fairy tale.

Page 3: On Indie Films, "Phantom of the Opera," and His Fans

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