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9/22 - Gerard Butler: There Are No Rules

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from October 2008 Issue of Men's Health (U.S. Edition) feature/cover story,

now available on-line here

previously posted 'excerpt' of Gerry's 4 rules is 'closed' but may be found here Beat Stress for Good

Gerard Butler's Tips for Success

There Are No Rules A decade ago, Gerard Butler traded a law career for an acting class. The decision changed his life. More important, it changed the man

By: James Davidson, Photographs by: Anthony Mandler

"What was I thinking?" says Gerard Butler.

The star of the upcoming Guy Ritchie romp RocknRolla is standing in the middle of a stone-cut medieval courtyard in Edinburgh, Scotland. It's raining. He's staring at the building in which he used to work as a lawyer, a lifetime ago, before acting took over his life. The 38-year-old looks momentarily like a character from one of his epic movies -- heroic and tragic, statuesque and pensive -- as raindrops envelop him.

"I know it was exactly what I needed to do. But at the same time, what the hell was I thinking?" His voice trails off.

Butler was a very smart kid. He was president of the University of Glasgow Law Society. After college, he landed a job at a prestigious law firm. He was one of a lucky few to escape the working-class Scottish city of Glasgow and make something of himself.

The thing is, he was miserable.

"I was drinking constantly. I hated my life." He stares down at his feet as his loud, deep Scottish brogue echoes off the nearby buildings.

Then one night, in 1995, Butler saw a stage production of Trainspotting at the Edinburgh International Festival and suddenly felt alive. He knew he couldn't be a lawyer anymore.

"A week later, I packed my bags and moved to London to become an actor. I had no connections, no experience, no training, and no prospects." He laughs.

The old adage "nothing ventured, nothing gained" is always spoken retrospectively, after some great gamble has paid off. And Butler's gamble clearly has. Having starred in such megaprojects as 300, The Phantom of the Opera, and Lara Croft Tomb Raider: The Cradle of Life, his acting career is the envy of all but a handful of megastars.

But imagine his situation 13 years ago. "Everybody was laughing at me. Everybody was thinking I'd just messed up my whole career."

What drives a man to take such an enormous risk? How do you know it's a good idea? And how do you pull it off?

Butler stops and puts his hands in his pockets. "What happens is that the universe conspires," he says. "Once you make a decision to do something, the universe starts to help you." He's paraphrasing a famous idea attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson.

And in Butler's case, it worked. After a year of studying, he landed a role in the exact same production of Trainspotting he'd seen the summer before.

Do the work

It helps to have talent, of course. And although Butler clearly does, he believes talent alone is rather meaningless. "There are a lot of people I think are really talented, and I can see that they're not going to make it because they don't work hard enough."

In other words, the universe conspires only when you really mean it. When you're willing to work for it.

Over time, contends Butler, talent and hard work become indistinguishable. You can work very hard to become better at something, to learn all the ins and outs, to acquire all the necessary skills. And if you're successful, people compliment you on your talent.

If there's a lesson to be drawn from Butler's great gamble, it's not that enormous risks should be taken impetuously, but that they must be taken when appropriate -- that is, when you're motivated to do the work required for the risk to pay off.

Digging a bit deeper into Butler's decision reveals another important force at work: the misery. "You have to understand that I was completely out of control. If I hadn't been so lost and insane, I'd still be a lawyer. Misery is a sign that something is wrong, that your life is in need of some big changes.

"I haven't had a drink in more than 10 years," he continues. "That's when everything changed for me. That's when I learned what had to be done to succeed and be happy in life." Accepting his desire to do this crazy thing ended his need to anesthetize himself from his life. What seemed crazy to others -- abandoning a responsible career to pursue an apparent pipe dream -- was in fact the sanest thing he could have done. It freed him.

"I knew moving to London was a huge risk. But I said to myself, I'm aiming for the stars. I'll worry about the details later."

Obey your principles

The irony is that Butler has become famous for playing characters, who also leap before they look.

One Two, the charming and streetwise mobster at the center of RocknRolla, is the kind of guy who has no trouble stealing millions of dollars in broad daylight. Now if he could only start his getaway car...

"When we did that scene where we were trying to steal the car, we had to improvise a lot, and each time we ran it, I pissed myself laughing." The scene, in which two car thieves are asking directions for how to start a car they've just stolen, has a sort of Pulp Fiction-meets-Snatch absurdity to it. It's the humanity of the movie, and the quirks and insecurities of the characters, that make it more than just a predictable action flick.

In Butler's most famous role, as King Leonidas in the epic film 300, he played an enormous risk taker -- a king with an army of 300 soldiers who refuses to kneel before a massive invading force. Something in the movie struck a nerve with male audiences around the world. Besides achieving monumental box-office success, it has spawned hordes of fan clubs dedicated to the movie, its main character, and Butler himself.

"You come out of that movie so pumped up, so ready to die for your friends or your country or anything," says Butler. "Like, 'I will fight for my parking space! I will kill. This is my parking space!'

"You know, generals have to follow rules," he continues. "We all do, in life and in our jobs. But with these guys, it was like, 'We know what we stand for and nothing else matters. There are no rules, only principles.'"

And in a morally squishy world, where every principle can be whittled down and rationalized, it's a fresh statement:

I guess we have to die now, because our principles tell us that we do not kneel.

Find your energy

"This city is magical. Look at that castle." Butler points south to Edinburgh Castle, a massive monument of cut stone and parapets that overlooks the town.

"The houses stop at a certain point before the castle," he explains. "That was for security. The distance was the farthest somebody could fire an arrow. This was before the longbow, of course." He goes on to explain the history of the longbow, how it changed the nature of warfare, how men were bred to do nothing but fire the enormous weapons.

Of course, Gerard Butler knows a lot about medieval warfare. Of course he does.

As we walk, he points out the landmarks. He seems fascinated by them; talking about them infuses him with energy.

"I love everything about the Scottish people--their warmth, their humor, their potential for violence." Butler is one of a very select few Scottish actors recognized as an international star. It's a very short list that includes Ewan McGregor and Sean Connery. He takes great pride in this.

As we walk through town, he's feeling very...alive. He goes into shops to speak to shopkeepers. He buys things he doesn't need. He walks behind counters. He pretends to steal cell phones. He signs shirts. He cracks jokes. He sings. He swears mightily in his Scottish accent. He runs through traffic. He claps men good-naturedly on the back. He smiles impishly at women. He asks total strangers about their lives.

Butler was raised by a single mother in Glasgow, about an hour's train ride away. Between the ages of 2 and 16, he didn't see his father. If there is any lingering resentment over this, he hides it well, and instead speaks highly of his mom. "She sacrificed everything for me and my siblings. I went for a walk with her last night. We were looking at these houses in this nice neighborhood, and she pointed to one and said, 'Look at that person's garage. That's bigger than the house you grew up in.'" There is pride in his voice, pride borne of having overcome difficult odds.

"Nobody from Glasgow goes into acting," he continues. "You were seen as weird if you wanted to be an actor. But I didn't mind. It's just what I wanted to do."

As he says this, he is skidding down the slick, wet sidewalk on his heels, like a skier. He stops and turns toward me. "But it was an amazing place to grow up. Every day I was out playing with the other kids. There was a lot of fun, a lot of craziness, a lot of risk taking. We were always running over the railroad tracks and hanging off cliffs."

He turns away and starts skiing down the sidewalk again. It's not surprising that a man who so perfectly understands the transformative power of taking big risks also revels in the small ones.

He slides nearly 6 feet, and it looks for a moment like he's going to lose his balance. Then, at the last second, he rights himself.

"Ha! Did you see that?" he says, grinning. "Watch me do it again."

Beat stress for good

Pressure comes in many forms -- an approaching deadline, a crazy travel schedule, a job search in a tough economy. Taking big risks has taught Gerard Butler a few things about maintaining his calm. Borrow his 4-step plan.

Step 1: Let go of what you can't control

"I have a very complex process for taking the pressure off myself. It starts with me saying, 'I can only do what I can do.'" It's not just a matter of recognizing your limitations, says Butler. It's recognizing that you can't affect every outcome, and letting go of those that are out of your control.

Step 2: Don't hold back with the stuff you can control

The trick isn't to avoid work, but to avoid stress, says Butler. "When I'm working, that's on my mind all the time, the faith that has been granted to me by people, the money that has been spent. It seems the best thing I can do to honor it is to work my butt off."

Step 3: Make time for R&R -- rest and recreation

"I don't want to abuse my success, so I don't go out partying all the time. I try to get as much rest as I can." Nor does he sacrifice his workout. "When I'm working in a new place, I'm always thinking, Okay, where are the trails? Where can I go hiking and running?"

Step 4: Remember where you started

"I try to love where I am and what I'm doing. I see it as an honor to do what I do for a living," says Butler. It takes an incredible amount of work to achieve your goals; that should be a source of great pride during your most stressful times.

read the entire article on-line at Men's Health

Available for purchase on newstands, general merchandise and other sellers in the U.S. now.

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Posted Image Barbara! You are always working!

hugs,

Sue

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BARB - THANK YOU FOR THIS VERY VERY INSIGHTFUL ARTICLE -

WHICH I THINK IS THE BEST ONE YET IN DEFINING

EXACTLY WHO GB IS AND

HOW HE ARRIVED AT THIS POINT IN HIS LIFE !!!

MUCH INSIGHT CAN BE GAINED BY OTHERS AS WELL -

WE ALL MAKE OUR OWN DESTINY !!!

DLSPBS - PAT

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OMG! I love this interview! I love Gerry being so natural, so spontaneous! And there's a lot of Marek in him: his love for history, for the nature; as well as there was a lot of the Phantom in his teens: his grief and anger what maybe made him drinking so much.

He must be proud of himself! He has proven the saying: Where there's a will, there's a way.

Thanks for posting this interview, Barbara. It let us know more about the real and once- in a lifetime Gerry.

Hugs!

Bel

Edited by SOÑADORA

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I really enjoyed this piece.As I read it I could see Gerry explaining it all and I have to say it reminded me of my own childhood. We were six in the family we could play our own sports and yet we always asked other neighbor kids to play.

Or how we would go into the fields and down into the woods and just tempt fate on the dangerous hill sides that went steep into the streams below. I never feared those moments because those were my hills, my streams, my woods were I felt nothing but alive and connected that which was greater than I. Foolish I was!

The baby of the family and wanted nothing more than to run in the woods building forts with my brothers while my two older sisters played with make up and nail polish.

My favorite times were remembered when reading this.

Myself and my best friend who funny as it is was named Jery (her actual name was Jerylin but we knew her as Jery) We would fill the thermos with tomatoe soup and go walking in the dead of winter into those woods down by the roaring streams and sit down all bundled up on the icy water side drinking the soup and trying to sing or talk over the roaring waters.

Thank you for reminding me of those memories Gerry!

Kids will be kids the world over!

Edited by Avivid Mind

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He slides nearly 6 feet, and it looks for a moment like he's going to lose his balance. Then, at the last second, he rights himself.

"Ha! Did you see that?" he says, grinning. "Watch me do it again."

:lol: One more reason why I love him. He's like a big kid. Could he be any more adorable?

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He slides nearly 6 feet, and it looks for a moment like he's going to lose his balance. Then, at the last second, he rights himself.

"Ha! Did you see that?" he says, grinning. "Watch me do it again."

:lol: One more reason why I love him. He's like a big kid. Could he be any more adorable?
Nope, nope. I don't think he could be any more adorable. It's amazing how he can be like a little kid one minute, and then so profound the next. Oh Ger . . . :wuv:

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I was just reading AVIVIDMIND above and have to say, No, You're not foolish. I did the same thing as a kid in NC. We had this, what seemed to be, a huge stand of woods behind our house with hills and a stream. Our stream was not huge, but just after a summer rain it too would roar. My brother and I and the other neighborhood kids would ride trees in the wind storms. If you could get a good birch you could bring the top of the tree to the ground and fly over the top and touch the ground on the other side, and keep doing this until the wind died down. THAT nows seems crazy to me, but it sure was fun when someone would scream "wind's up." It rained almost every day in the summer and I listened to that creek "beguggle" me to sleep every night. I still go by there and stop, run my car windows down, and just listen to it after a good strong rain. It all seems so small now, but when you're 3 ft 5 inches, everything seems huge, I guess. I loved being a part of nature that way. I felt I knew each tree personally, like a live person. Every blade of grass on those hillsides seemed familiar then. The birds would sing and I would sing some song hoping they would pick it up and sing with me: I could never seem to get the words to their's. I learned their songs and could imagine which one it was when I wasn't near enough to see them, I could actually match the bird with it's particular sound, like I knew them personnally also. What a great time in life. I wish I could go back for a day or two, but now, of course, only in my memory.

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I'm always amazed about how he can be so profound about life, his hard days, and yet was able to retain the innocence of childhood, finding little joys in simple things, like sliding on a sidewalk in the rain. Gerry is a complex and wonderful human being and I think that with every little bit of his personality he let's us see, we can't help but respect him more and more. How I would love to have a one on one conversation with this man! He's fascinating.

About chilhood and growing up taking risks, running on railroad tracks, it sounds like my own experiences. I used to love to put a penny on the rail just before the train passed to see the shape it would take after being rolled over, or to imagine magical places in a little wooded area at the end of my street where my friends and I had built a "fort". I didn't have a brother or a sister to play with so I adopted the entire neighbourhood and my Mum always had the feeling she had 10 kids instead of one. LOL Those were the days!

Anyways, loved the article and it brought back some cherished memories. :) Thanks Gerry!

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it is so interesting to hear other people stories of there child hoods. I too had a stand of woods near my house that all the neighborhood children congregated in. We'd all go down there, girls and boys, with our shovels and dig fox holes and play war. Everyday, after school, me and my best friend would climb the old oak tree in the center of the woods, and eat our sandwiches and talk. Sometimes I would go there alone and just listen to the rustling of the leaves and imagine that I was a pioneer girl looking out for the Indians.

On warm summer nights all the children in the neighborhood would gather together and play hide and go seek, all around the neighborhood, until well after dark. Those are great memories and great times.

Thank you for the article. It was really wonderful and gave us some great insight into that great man that we all love. I can just see him sliding down the sidewalk, in the rain, like that. One minute he's a boy and the next an accomplished actor and beautiful man.

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I am SO going to reward Rodale/Men's Health with MULTIPLE ... PURCHASES ... of this mag!! I want to prove that the sales from the March 07 issue wasn't a fluke!!!

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I've bought 10 so far!

1 for me,

5 for GALS,

4 to send as Thank You gifts!

:claphands:

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What I love about Gerry is his willingness to open himself up to people, to show them who he really is instead of hiding behind a mask. In the article, he comes across as someone at peace with his choices and with the world. I'll be 46 years old in December and I still haven't reached the level of acceptance of self that Gerry has.

I should make copies of his first tip about how to reduce stress, "Let go of things that you can't control," and post them all over my house! Living one's life in a state of constant worry - as I do - determined to "fix" things, isn't good for one's overall health - and that's something I need to drill into my head!

Thanks for the great article!

DR :wave:

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Loved this article too...felt like I was right there with him....I know it's a very small part , but I loved hearing him talk about the longbow......my nephew handcrafts longbow's...I so wish there was someway to get one to Gerry...I would have my nephew make a very special one for him....love it when gerry shares a little piece of himself with us.

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This was a wonderful, wonderful article and I am so glad I purchased this magazine. This is the first magazine I have bought in about 4 years. This gal is one who does not buy mags as I can't stand them. I buy about 2 magazines a decade. I enjoyed reading more into Gerry's personality as he allowed us to see. I appreciate how the author took time to write his observations of Gerry like the sliding on the wet sidewalk. But, the moment I read about Gerry's knowledge of Medieval history - I have fallen in love forever with this man. I am a medieval history buff. All that talk on longbows, etc......I was having heart-palpatations! LOVED this interview!!! Thank you Men's Health! And of course, Thank you Gerry for opening yourself up once again..... :hearts:

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He is so charming, sincere, kind, so natural. I love Gerard

I adore this interview.

Off topic: :welcome: Glad you're posting!!

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Lovely interview.My Gran Lives in Edinburgh and if she tells me next time she see's me she was talking to a Scottish Actor i would serously faint LOL.

Great interview, its on of those interviews you can almost feel the warmth from ( does that make sense lol.)

Personally, knowing Edinburgh lol i can almost imagine him walking along and talking.

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This article is what keeps me interested in Gerard Butler! He is real. He cares about the things in life that are important. He loves his mum & his family. He loves his country. He appreciates how far he has come. He understands that talent is needed but nothing replaces hard work. He will still be around as an actor after many other actors have been forgotten. He has had many things happen in his life that have shaped him into the man he is today. He carries his life with grace. I can't think of another actor that I admire more. I would love to meet him & talk to him for hours about his country, history, & many other things. He is extremely intelligent & also funny. What better way to spend time. He doesn't seem to be into the Hollywood scene except for what is required after making a movie. What a wonderful man!

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I should make copies of his first tip about how to reduce stress, "Let go of things that you can't control," and post them all over my house! Living one's life in a state of constant worry - as I do - determined to "fix" things, isn't good for one's overall health - and that's something I need to drill into my head!

Very well said and exactly what I need to do in my own life!

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This article is what keeps me interested in Gerard Butler! He is real. He cares about the things in life that are important. He loves his mum & his family. He loves his country. He appreciates how far he has come. He understands that talent is needed but nothing replaces hard work. He will still be around as an actor after many other actors have been forgotten. He has had many things happen in his life that have shaped him into the man he is today. He carries his life with grace. I can't think of another actor that I admire more. I would love to meet him & talk to him for hours about his country, history, & many other things. He is extremely intelligent & also funny. What better way to spend time. He doesn't seem to be into the Hollywood scene except for what is required after making a movie. What a wonderful man!

Ditto my esteem for Gerry just keeps growing, such a humble down to earth man, he is such an inspiration.

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I hadn't read this until today. But today I only read some of it. I thought I better not read more, because it feels like I'm going to melt more than what might be good for me ;)

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