Most interviews in Cannes take place in hotel suites along the Croisette. Not so with Gerard Butler, who recently received guests on a luxury yacht moored off the Old Port.
Despite torrential rain making the experience less glamorous than expected, Empire boarded the vessel (which has a strict shoes-off policy), had some complimentary gazpacho and then got down to the serious business of grilling Butler for info on his upcoming movies. And there are a lot of them.
First up is Antoine Fuqua’s White House invasion movie, which according to IMDb is called Olympus Has Fallen, according to a Cannes promo poster is called White House Taken, and according to Butler himself is still untitled.
“That’s not yet confirmed,” he says. “But the story is really fun. North Korean terrorists come down the Mall in a bloody cargo plane and also attack the White House from the inside. It’s insane, but you buy it, you go with it. It’s action-packed all the way through — a traditional, classic, unapologetic, big action movie. It’s Die Hard in the White House.”
Gary Oldman, who of course launched his own assault on the Prez in Air Force One, will be Butler’s co-star in the Joel Silver-produced Motor City, which is set to start shooting at the end of September.
“That’s more like French Connection: down, dirty and extremely violent,” Butler says. “It’s me going head to head with Gary. I don’t know him well, but I met him many years ago, when I was first starting out, and he was very, very kind to me.”
A succession of stars, from Dominic Cooper to Jake Gyllenhaal, have reportedly passed on Motor City, but Butler is convinced it’s a winner. He says of the screenplay: “It starts with me running across the roof of a skyscraper, carrying a dead body over my shoulder, and I drop it off the building so it lands on a car. The next minute I’m down on the ground, go up to another car, stick my shotgun into the window without even looking and fire it, killing the passenger instantly. And then all hell really breaks loose! It’s one of the coolest openings to a movie I’ve ever read. I went, ‘Okay, I like that – when do we start?’”
“It’s about the initial attack on Baghdad, as US troops went in with a column of tanks called the Thunder Run — and it’s going to be done like Avatar,” Butler says. “My face and body will be recorded with little cameras and everything else will be CGI, painted in in the background. I’ve never read a script with more action, more explosions, more violence. If you didn’t do it like this, it would cost $300 million. I saw a three-minute test-piece and it blew my balls off.”
As for why he’s lined up three action flicks in a row, Butler explains: “I haven’t actually done any badass stuff since Gamer in 2007. People think I’m this action guy, because of 300, but I went off and made a Shakespeare movie (Coriolanus) and Machine Gun Preacher. And nobody saw them, so I thought, ‘Screw this – I’m going to go make some big fuck off movies!”