Best Known For
Gerard Butler is best known for his role as King Leonidas of Sparta in 300.
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This is the life I wanted to live. I can do this. I know I can do this. But it's past now. It's gone. I'm 25. I missed that opportunity. A week later, they fire me."
Humiliated but determined to finally pursue his dream of acting, Butler moved to London, England, the next day and worked odd jobs while trying to get his career off the ground. While working as a casting assistant for the play Coriolanus, he ran into the play's director, Steven Berkoff, in a coffee shop and begged for a chance to read for the lead role. He says of the experience: "I gave it everything. Afterward, the casting director came up to me almost in tears. She said, 'You're the best he saw in two days!' Walking home was probably the happiest moment of my life, when there's an energy in you that can't be put down. I'd gone from handing out pages to getting the lead role." After a successful run in Coriolanus, Butler landed the lead in the exact same stage rendition of Trainspotting that had inspired him to try acting again, and he was really on his way as an actor.
Making the transition from the stage to the screen, in 1997 Butler starred with Judi Dench and Billy Connolly in Mrs. Brown and also scored a small part in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. During the film's shooting, he was picnicking with his mother near a river and heard screaming from a boy who was in trouble. He immediately dove into the river and saved the youth from drowning, winning a Certificate of Bravery from the Royal Humane Society as an example of his courage and caring.
After acting in a series of largely forgettable films, in 2003, Butler finally got his break with the role of the Phantom in Joel Schumacher's on-screen adaptation of the Broadway musical Phantom of the Opera. It was a demanding role that required the actor to sing most of his lines. Even though Butler had been the lead singer of a rock band during his time in law school, he was incredibly nervous about auditioning for the part: "I'd had maybe four singing lessons when I went to sing 'Music of the Night' for Andrew Lloyd Webber, which was perhaps the most nerve-wracking experience I ever went through. But I got the role. Some people thought I did a great job, but others thought it was sacrilegious."
Though Phantom did not hit blockbuster gold, it got Butler recognized in Hollywood, and four years later he landed the lead role, as King Leonidas, in 300, the testosterone-infused historical epic about a small legion of Spartan soldiers defeating the enormous Persian army. To look believable as a warrior king, Butler trained every day for four months in the most intense workout regimen of his life, giving him an incredible physique in time for the shoot: "You know that every bead of sweat falling off your head, every weight you've pumped—the history of that is all in your eyes," he said. "That was a great thing, to put on that cape and put on that helmet, and not have to think ...'I should have trained more.' Instead, I was standing there feeling like a lion."
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