LOS ANGELES—In one interview, Gerard Butler went from giddily sharing the news that he’s “in a relationship” to emotionally recounting his harrowing surfing accident while filming “Chasing Mavericks” in December last year.
Gerard sat down to talk about his new romantic comedy, Gabriele Muccino’s “Playing for Keeps,” where he plays George Dryer, a former soccer star who returns home to start over and rebuild his relationship with his son, Lewis (Noah Lomax). But when George grudgingly becomes the coach of his kid’s soccer team, he has to contend with adoring soccer moms.
Asked about his own single life, Gerard announced: “Actually, I’ve been in a relationship for a few months now.” Pressed for the woman’s name, Gerard replied: “It’s not hard [for you] to find out … but I don’t feel comfortable talking about it.”
A quick Google search revealed photos of Gerard and lovely Romanian supermodel Madalina Ghenea, who reportedly used to date Leonardo DiCaprio.
“It’s very nice,” said Gerard of having a girlfriend. The man typifies the best Scottish traits—he is open, friendly and humorous during interviews.
“I realize it does hold challenges for me because I have been pushing ahead in my acting career, always willing to fly to a country to meet a director or head off tomorrow to another place for three months. I’ve worked a lot. I’ve made a lot of movies and started producing. I never gave a proper relationship the time …”
The 43-year-old star explained why relationships are a hurdle for him: “In some ways I’ve had a well-rounded, gifted life but I’m not the kind of guy who mixes things well. You have 16 parts to your psyche. One is maybe recreation, one is love, one is work … some people know how to spread them evenly. It’s hard for me …”
He claimed to be often oblivious to women hitting on him. “I had this conversation last night because a very pretty girl interviewed me yesterday,” he said. “I said to somebody, ‘I think she was hitting on me …’ Often, somebody will say, ‘Oh my God, did you see that person or did you see those girls … ?’ I don’t notice because often I’m in another planet. [Or] I assume people are just being friendly. Obviously, I have a reputation for being a player—I am not saying I’m an angel but a lot of that comes from being a nice, friendly guy. I’m as friendly with guys as I am with girls. That’s seen as flirtatious [but] it’s warm, embracing and charming.”
Becoming a dad is on his mind these days. Laughing, he said: “Having done so many action movies and beaten the crap out of myself, I do think it’s time to get going because if this is the kid that I want to teach to be a little action star … if I don’t do it in the next couple of years, I’m going to be teaching him from a wheelchair. I’m in my 40s now. I can’t plan where things are going but, especially when you do a movie like this, you meditate on and experience that relationship—that father-son or father-daughter relationship. I’d like to experience that.”
Playing dad to Noah in “Playing for Keeps” inspired him even more to become a parent. “This kid’s going to be a huge star,” he said, sounding like a dad already. “He’s the most delightful little person to hang out with. I’d go, I wish I could take him home. I wish he was my kid. He’s like my little buddy.”
He gushed about the prospects of parenthood: “The feeling of complete pride … to be responsible for him becoming a nice little person, then your buddy … It’s actually nice to imagine being a father, playing sports or going on adventures with your kids. Imagine going to India with them—going around temples and doing crazy stuff like that or mountain climbing.”
Also on his mind was the fleeting nature of fame. “I was in Cannes a couple of years ago with an actor,” he said. “He was very famous in his day; now, not so much. We couldn’t have a conversation because people were coming up to the two of us and asking to have photographs with me. Maybe they didn’t recognize him. I said to him, ‘It’s a nightmare.’ He said, ‘It doesn’t always happen, buddy. And I’ll tell you something—when it goes, you’ll be surprised that you kind of miss it.’”
Asked about his almost tragic surfing accident while shooting “Chasing Mavericks” in Northern California, Gerard obliged with a frank, emotional yet humor-tinged account. The actor candidly shared how his ego surfaced even as he was near-drowning: He thought of the next-day headlines about his death.
“I actually spent the night in a hospital. It was the closest that I ever came to death. It was horrific. I wasn’t even surfing anymore; I was already exhausted. We were trying to get out over the waves and this huge wave came in. It was 200 yards away but the other guys were screaming at me, ‘Paddle, paddle, paddle!’ And I was paddling and, as it got closer, I [feared] I was not going to make it out of the way.
“I went down and stayed down. I was out of breath. I was only one-third of the way through and it kept going. Then another wave came over. And I was still 15 feet down. I didn’t know which way was up or down. I realized my board was gone so there was nothing pulling me up. I was just spinning and it was so horrific.
The next wave
“Then I finally popped up and just as I did, the next wave was coming. This guy on a jet ski was trying to save me. This was a guy who got to me many times when I’d been in trouble. But he couldn’t even get [close]. So with a look [that said], ‘I can’t help you, buddy,’ he turned and left. I went down again for a long time.
“Then I came up and nobody was there. I was going, I can’t believe this is happening to me right now.’ I thought, I am about to become a big f***ing headline: ‘Gerry Butler died while filming a movie.’ Talk about ego. That was what went through my mind while I was underwater. It went past the ‘Oh, that was a little scary’ to ‘This is now a headline.’ Then [a safety patrolman on a jet ski] pulled me and I was being chased by a wave. He must have pulled for about a quarter of a mile to get clear of this wave. I was right at the rocks, which are known as the boneyard. As you can see, it brings up some memories.”
As he said those last three sentences, he was choked with emotion. Despite the close call, Gerard admitted that he continues to surf. “I haven’t been surfing as much as I would,” he said. “I’ll go on a proper surfing holiday because I love it.”
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