The latest action movie from Hollywood hunk Gerard Butler is Hunter Killer, a submarine thriller about soldiers from both sides of an international conflict banding together to prevent Russian militants from taking over and starting World War III. The film boasts an all-star cast including Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Toby Stephens, and the late Michael Nyqvist, to whom the film is dedicated.
At a press junket for the nautically-themed action adventure, star and producer Gerard Butler spoke to us about working with the armed forces to get into character, wanting to return to a Navy role after playing a bit part in 1997's Tomorrow Never Dies, and the lessons he learned from Michael Nyqvist, as both a human being and as an actor. He also shares some juicy hype about his upcoming high-profile sequels, Den of Thieves 2 and Angel Has Fallen.
This movie knocked my socks off. It's a macho action movie about compassion and cooperation, which is not what I was expecting! Tell me what drew you to this project, and to the book.
By the way, I love how you put that, because that's exactly what it is. In some ways, it's all the things that people love about movies, the excitement and the brawn and the might, but then it's about intuition, and it's about intellect, and it's about soul. And it really takes you by surprise in that way, and it's about trust. So it becomes a much deeper experience, at the same time, on this incredible thrill-ride. That's what drew me to it, was all of those different parts.
Tell me about working with the late, great Michael Nyqvist.
It was one of the best experiences I've ever had with an actor. I love working with Scandinavian actors, because they're so cool. There's no ego. They just get on with it, and yet they're so playful, and you see them trying things, and they take risks. I loved my relationship with him in the movie, with Captain Andropov, and also, how he was. How he inspired the other actors. Because, when you're in front of a young cast, and it's their first job, and they were brilliant, this young cast, but they see an older actor who looks pissed off, and bored and complaining, then that's very disheartening. He was the opposite of that. I was so proud to... It was really an honor to work with him.
Do you feel like you learned anything, specifically, from him?
Yeah, from that! Those things that I'm talking about. Because, even me, I try to set an example, I try and, ya know... I have to fight for the right movie, but at the same time, you want people to be on a pleasant set, and for young actors and a young crew to go, "Yeah, I dig this industry!" And I learned that from him, but also just the way he interacted, and the way he tried things, he gave so much as an actor, too.
You've played a lot of tough guys, a lot of military-specific tough guys. And, aside from a very early role, which my brother asked me to ask you about, in Tomorrow Never Dies-
-This is kind of your first big role as a Navy man!
This is my first big role as a Navy man! In Tomorrow Never Dies, I had four lines in this Bond movie. And then, the naval advisor stood to the side and said, "He's a quartermaster, he wouldn't say that." So they cut two of my lines. And I'm like... And one of them was, "Torpedo bearing. Range, six thousand!" And I thought, to say that in a movie, and it was taken from me... So, from that day, I thought, I'm gonna make another movie where I get to say this kind of thing, ya know? And in this movie, I got to say that and a whole lot more. So, it's one of the great things about being successful: you get to kind of live out a lot of your dreams.
Tell me about working with the Navy as opposed to other branches of the military.
Listen, I love all branches of the military because they all bring such passion and excitement and dedication, and you know they've been through it, but I found these guys so humble. Because they're The Silent Service. When you go in that sub, and I did for three days, you see how much learning, how much education, and the dangers that they live with every day, how hard they work, how dedicated, the drilling, the drilling, the drilling! The way they're constantly working their minds, even when they're not working. Ya know, trigonometry, cribbage, things that keep your mind active. And we don't see that, because it all happens nine hundred feet under the ocean. So, I felt like there is a huge amount of humility in that. And a lot of the work they do and the risks they take, it's unspoken and it's unheard of. This movie is a great way, as well as to take the audience on a ride, to let them see what these people do on a daily basis and what they're capable of.
It must take a different kind of acting from your usual action hero stuff, being on the bridge of this sub. It's an action movie where your action is on the bridge, barking these orders with such gravitas. Can you tell me a little about getting into the character for that?
A lot of it is really, you have the bones of the character, and then you just put his clothes on. A lot of that just happens by osmosis. I spent a long time with this script. I worked on it a lot for many years. I then spent a long time with the director, with the Navy, on submarines with naval commanders. The more time you spend, the more, suddenly, you feel comfortable in that uniform. So, when you're making those decisions, you're kind of going through the processes that he's going through, the questioning, or the self doubt, or the having to try to maneuver your men into the right attitude: how much do I tell them? How much do I hold back? When do they need a speech? When do I have to be tough? When do I have to shut my mouth and let them work it out for themselves? You kind of have fun with it.
Great! Last question: you have a couple of high-profile sequels in development: Den of Thieves and Angel has Fallen – which I'm so excited for. Is there anything you can share about these future projects?
Den of Thieves 2, my very good friend is (writer/director) Christian Gudegast. And he's working on such a fun idea. 'Cause nobody... He thinks in such crazy ways. He's such a DUDE! I love the way he creates stories, and the truth to them. The other person who also does that is (director) Ric Waugh. And, with Angel, I've seen a cut of it now, and it's a very different movie. It's much more gritty, the character is much more vulnerable and emotional, and it takes the audience on a more truthful ride. Almost like, the fun you had with the first two, imagine you were paying the price. Physically, what I'm going through, the trauma, the aftermath, and then having to deal with a horrific situation, because he's falsely accused of trying to bring down the president, and goes on the run, but he's hurt, and he's struggling. And so it's a much kind of grittier, down-in-your-face movie.
- Hunter Killer (2018) release date: Oct 26, 2018