The Man With the Famous Battle-Cry Breathes New Fire in ‘How to Train Your Dragon’

Source: Author: Emmanuel Itier

Emmanuel Itier:  What attracted you to this part in the movie?

Gerard Butler: I normally make movies that are an R-rated comedy or something that’s very violent, and I have four nieces and I’m always like, “I did this movie, but you can’t see it,” so it was nice.  I love animated movies, and you always kind of think, “I wish I could be that voice. I wish I could jump in and do that,” so it was great because I love to jump into a world of fantasy and know I’m part of this world.

EI:  How difficult or how easy was it to find this accent?  Was it close to your own accent?

GB:  No, it was very different.  It was from a different part of Scotland.  It’s a village about four miles away from where I grew up, and a subtle difference.  It would be very difficult to pull off as an actor. It’s interesting that you say that because I’ve just been a huge pain in the ass to these guys because I basically listened to maybe the version you’ve seen and wanted to change my accent and the heaviness of the voice, so I went in and re-did some stuff because, in actual part, I did feel that it was very important how he sounded, how to express him as a person, how he related to his son, how he related to the rest of the villagers.  I didn’t necessarily love my first pass at it, but now I’m totally fine with it.

EI: What were you afraid of when you were a kid, and what are you afraid of now?

GB:  This sounds a little strange, but when I was a kid, there was a TV commercial that used to come on, and I guess it was for either drunk-driving or driving without a seat-belt, but I didn’t know what that meant.  It would just show you people driving, and an alien in a spacesuit would appear inside the car and the car would disappear. I was so scared to get in the car because I thought there was every possibility that an alien was going to appear in front of us in a spacesuit and zap us, and we would never be found again.  That is still my biggest fear today.

EI: Do you prepare your role the same way as a real character, human incarnated?  Do you do readings?  How complicated it is for you to do the voice-over?  Did you have to rehearse a lot?  Can you explain the method?

GB:  It was very difficult for me.  I felt that I had to turn up and read the lines that were in front of me, and sometimes that’s hard.  So that was a lot of preparation and I had to read those words, but it was good. I think I pulled it off. [Laughs]

EI:  What was harder to prepare for – this or 300 – physically?  [Laughs]

GB:  Physically, this.  I had to get a lot bigger for this.  [Laughs] I had a big beard in 300, but the beard in this was just ridiculous.  [Laughs] No, I would love to sit here and say, “Oh my God, the work we went through to prepare for this and the soul of the character…” but no, it wasn’t so hugely complicated.  We always had some great conversations when these guys came onboard.  We had an amazing conversation.  I remember where we discovered so much about the character and where it could go, and then there were always great conversations throughout.  So you do your work on the set and you prepare various possibilities and just get to know the character, but it’s a strange process because you got a few pages and you say, “I want a script,” even though we don’t have scripts.  So you come in and you do those few pages, and then later on you got a few more pages and you say, “But I want a script.”  They go, “We don’t have a script.”  So it’s always working like that.  It’s a piecemeal, but it makes it all the more exciting when you see it come together, and also you get a chance to smooth it all out.

EI:  What are your most and least Viking-like qualities?

GB:  Stubborn. It would be hard for me to move on.  Often, we’d move on to the next line and I knew they could hear me still practicing the old one, which is a subtle way of saying, “I’m not quite finished.”  So you go, “Okay, next line,” and I’d be [whispering]. So definitely very stubborn, and especially the revoicing thing that I’m talking about — that would be a Viking-like quality, but then the fact that I like to dress up as a woman and wear makeup would probably be my most unViking-like quality. [Laughs] I shouldn’t say that, should I?

EI:  It’s more of a private thing.

GB:  More of a private thing, yeah.

EI:  In this movie, there is this relationship between father and son and that acceptance that the son is different than the father actually pictured the son to be. Can you remember when and what was the experience that you had when you found you were accepted, or when you had a feeling your parents are really proud and they really expressed it and said so?

GB:  I think I’ve still to reach that moment.  I swing between feeling completely appreciated and respected, and then still that you’re this little kid and you have to remind your mother that, “Hey mom, you know what?  I’m at the age I could die any moment.  I’m not a kid anymore.  Stop treating me like a child.”  I can’t take it, but then again, in terms of who I am as a human being, I think I’ve always felt appreciated and loved. I actually trained as a lawyer, and I was very unhappy doing that and I was actually fired just before I qualified. I was never going to qualify, but I was fired before that and just saw that was never an issue.  I told my mom that day that day. I had to call her and I said, “I’m moving down to London and I’m going to be an actor.  What the hell?”  I knew how heartbroken and disappointed she was because she sent me a letter and she said, “You know what? As long as you’re happy, I will always be proud of you,” and I knew how hard that was for her to say because her son was going to be a lawyer.  That was a big deal.  I don’t come from a family of lawyers, so it’s a big deal that I was going to do that, and then a huge disappointment when I didn’t.  So I remember that was a time that I felt – despite the bickering – completely respected and appreciated and loved.

EI: Going back to the Vikings in Scandinavia, is there something specific that you like about it there? And what about Nordic women or men?  What do you think about it?  Is there something specific there?

GB: There is one. I’m Celtic, and I feel that my two favorite places on the planet are, I think, Scotland and Iceland.  There is a harshness there.  There is something very primal in the geology and the look of the place, and something inexplicable that affects me when I stand there.  You go over glaciers or you’re on a black sandy beach.  You’re standing on top of a volcano and there is steam coming out of the ground around you; there are hot springs; there is stuff that you never see anywhere else.  And they are very spiritual people. And the music — Sigur Ros — you understand everything about this music when you stand in that land.  One of my most profound moments I ever had was when we stopped in the middle of nowhere… I just been picked up at the airport and I was on my way to go to wherever we were filming, but it was the middle of the night and it was so dark, and the Northern Lights came on and they were all over the sky, and we stopped the cameras, we stood outside and we were playing Sigur Ros.  In one of those moments, it’s just where you go, “I’ll never forget this.”  It was so deep and profound inside me, and a lot of those moments happen in Iceland, I find, and then there’s the great people. I’ve made some fantastic friends.


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