Gerard Butler might be a Hollywood hotshot who can demand an estimated 15 million dollars a movie, but he’s far from your typical film star.
“I always try to remember that it’s just me, just little ol’ Gerry, I’m just a dude,” says the 43-year-old Scot, who’s in town promoting Playing For Keeps, a feel-good romp in which he plays a washed-up footballer.
“It’s not reinventing the wheel but it’s a funny, poignant little story,” says Butler.
He’s fresh from Oslo where, along with Sarah Jessica Parker, he hosted the Nobel Peace Prize Concert. “I did think I’d turn up, rehearse, and present the concert, and then suddenly we’re being thrown into interviews with the artists and [European Commission] President Barroso who’s the recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize,” he recalls.
Far from declaring it an all-out success, Butler admits he could have been better ‘prepped’.
It’s the sort of admission that’s typical of the self-deprecating actor.
A no-nonsense Scot, he prides himself on being able to cut through the hype, and denounces the type of actors who believe themselves to be superior.
“Honestly, there are plenty of things I’m not good at but I do think I’m a breath of fresh air for Hollywood,” he says.
“I’m not a guy who takes it all too seriously, who you’ll find stuck at the back of the VIP room surrounded by security at a party.”
To give Butler his dues, he’s not a bulking mass of testosterone.
He’s thoughtful and as at ease discussing his spiritual wellbeing as he is the perks of fame, all the while exuding a charisma that he’s unapologetically aware and proud of.
“I’m chatty but it’s my gig,” he says in his Scottish brogue.
“I’m friendly, I’m warm and I’m charming and there’s a flirtatious way that you can have about you. That can be with guys as well. It just means you’re big and you’re gregarious,” says Butler.
He’s really not so different from his Playing For Keeps alter ego George Dryer, a former Scottish football star who turns up in small-town America to try to rebuild his relationship with his son Lewis and ex, Stacie, played by Jessica Biel.
After getting roped into teaching the local little league football team, his attempts to finally ‘grow up’ are thwarted by the gaggle of attractive ‘soccer mums’, including Catherine Zeta-Jones and Uma Thurman and an overzealous soccer dad in the shape of a back-slapping Dennis Quaid.
“George is a guy who seems to bring chaos wherever he goes because women like him and men want to be him, but he’s not very centred and he doesn’t necessarily know how to handle all that,” explains Butler, who was also the film’s producer and championed the project from the start.
“It was originally a baseball movie and I was American but then I thought, ‘What am I thinking?’ What a chance to really allow for that fish out of water element!
“George is the guy who’s trying to start afresh but doing it in a place where he’s befuddled by everybody.”
Playing For Keeps is directed by Gabriele Muccino and, like his 2006 hit The Pursuit of Happyness starring Will Smith, centres on the strained father-son dynamic of which Butler could draw on his own experiences – his dad deserted the family for 14 years. He reappeared when Butler was 16 and the pair became close before his dad was diagnosed with terminal cancer six years later.