Gerard Butler stands out as a rare exception. Almost everything happening to movies today in the way the trends are going, almost have to be followed by, “except for Gerard Butler movies.” There are no action movies anymore, except for Gerard Butler movies. Everything is just superhero movies, except for Gerard Butler movies. They sure don’t make movies like that anymore, except for Gerard Butler movies And Butler seems pretty aware of this, even joking that Plane is his last movie ever (it is not) and that you’ll only find him on the streamers now (you will not).
Butler’s latest movie, Plane, is getting a lot of attention for its “to the point” title. In fact, it did briefly have a longer title, The Plane, until Butler nixed the “the,” returning it to Plane. Butler says anytime the title of his movie has changed, the movie has bombed. So now he has a strict rule about title changes. The thing is, Butler knows what he’s doing. More people should listen to Gerard Butler. (More on that in a second.)
In Plane, Butler plays Brodie Torrance, a great airline pilot who has been demoted to unappealing routes because of an altercation with an unruly passenger. Caught in a terrible storm, Brodie has to land his airliner on an uncharted island in which its residents are in the middle of a civil war. Things keep getting worse and worse for Brodie Torrance has he fights to keep his passengers alive.
Before this interview, I reread a 2018 interview I did with Butler, just to make sure I don’t ask anything similar. What struck me was how it started. Butler was telling me about how many times he had to shake hands that day. Then, in all seriousness, lamented how its no wonder why we have pandemics. Again, this was 2018. Anyway, we should all be listening to Gerard Butler.
Last time we met, in 2018, after we shook hands, you used hand sanitizer and were talking about how many hands you have to shake. I said I was on your side on this, then you said, “If somebody said how do we make sure that we have pandemics? What kind of greeting involved sharing?”
I said that? Oh my God. I’m so glad you told me that. That’s kind of weird.
It is weird. But you called it.
But now I suddenly feel responsible for COVID itself.
No, you were warning everyone.
Good warning. Nobody listened. You’ve got to get more people to read your interviews. We could have changed the planet.
That’s going to be the headline, “More people should listen to Gerard Butler.”
[Laughs] And you!
No, no, you were laying it all out. Then you had a story about a guy picking his nose.
Oh, I told you about the guy we were all with? There was a crowd of us, and I watched him pick his nose! And my friend is going, “Oh, that’s disgusting.” And then at the end, he comes up and shakes all our hands.
Now that guy, he’s probably somewhat responsible for what happened.
I think he’s the one. I wonder if he remembers. He’s like sitting back in London going, “That was me.”
I have to say, I had so much fun watching this. I have a feeling you know how fun this is.
Yeah. So to me, I’ve now been to a few screenings and I’ve heard of other screenings and there’s nothing better. By the way, I’ve had the opposite, where you go to a screening and it’s lethargic. And you can tell, “Okay, this movie’s not really working.” This movie really works.
People come out going, “That was fun. Oh, I was in the edge of my seat.” It’s moving. It’s at times heartbreaking. It’s funny, it’s scary. It’s a ride.
I have a statement to make about Brodie Torrance.
I’ve been thinking this through since I saw it … this man is a hero.
[Laughs] You’re good. That’s how I review movies, “It was good. He was a hero.” And then I read an actual review, and I’m like, “Oh my God, that’s brilliant.”
That’s my whole review, “This man is a hero.”
This man is a hero. Yeah, I guess he is, but what I love about him is that he makes mistakes. He’s not perfect. He has to make some judgment calls. His passions get the most of them sometimes. But, yeah, I feel like what I love about these movies is the audience can climb into that. He’s not a superhero. Because in that way, it’s still a fun hero, but you’re not a superhero.
Well, to that point, this movie is a throwback. It’s got the ’90s action movie vibe. They used to make movies like this all the time, but they don’t anymore.
Well, it’s funny because Robert Downey Jr. wrote me the nicest email after Olympus Has Fallen. This is the same vibe. He’s like, “We need more of these movies.” These are the movies, when I was in New York as a kid, and people would shout at the screen and throw things and be like, “No!,” and applaud and cheer. And I think that’s what this movie is, it’s a throwback to that, where literally you’re in the energy of the group and everybody’s either terrified or cheering you on.
Speaking of cheering moments, in Plane you literally fly a plane into a bad guy.
That was my moment! By the way, I created that, just to let you know.
Wait. You did?
I just want everybody to know that, that was my moment. Although I’m sure a lot of people will be like, “Are you kidding me, that’s ridiculous.”
No, it’s not. It’s incredible.
But it’s that great!
So you brought up that idea? You said, “We have to fly a plane into a bad guy?”
Absolutely. Yeah, and it was something I had to pitched to everybody. I sometimes think I prefer that, prefer it to the performance. I love developing scripts. I love being able to put into big ideas, the small ideas, and think of them from an actor’s point of view. What are those magical moments? What are the challenges that we can put in? What are the surprising bonding moments, twists, and turns? But then the bigger moments, always, I’m all about that. You know, realize you can take it anywhere. I can take this anywhere! You make it as crazy or as weird, but then the challenge is, always, but how in that moment do you make it believable? Even if the audience is, oh, that’s crazy, but if they’re in it, they’re with you.
When did you, or somebody else, decide to drop the “The” in the title from The Plane to just Plane? Because that title is getting a lot of attention.
Okay… I’m taking responsibility for that, too. Because some people said it was a working title and I never look at a movie like that. I’m very superstitious because any movie that I’ve made that they changed the title on us has always failed. There’s been three now, haven’t done well. And I’ve sat there listening to them…
What’s an example?
[Laughs] I’m not going to give you an example right now.
I don’t want to crap on any of my movies or hurt any people’s feelings. But there are three in particular. And that was part of my argument on the phone. To be honest, it was Plane, but then on the script and on the call sheet, it suddenly became The Plane. And that was part of what people were arguing against. And I said, “Guys, it was never The Plane. It was Plane.”
And then I think some people love it, some people hate it. I love the simplicity of the title. [Butler turns around, smiles, and points at a giant picture of a plane.]
Yeah, there it is.
It’s like Flight. It’s like Airplane!, Airport, Volcano, Twister.
I just watched Airport for the first time this week…
I’m all in on this genre right now.
Absolutely, man. They’re fun. There are reasons that they’ve survived. There are reasons that audiences come out. It’s like you say, it’s a throwback to the ’90s movies where you’re just like, “Come on!” One other thing I got to say about the movie is it has a lot of elements in it. It’s a drama, it’s an action movie, there’s survival elements, it’s a disaster movie.
Why do you seem to be one of the very few actors who are immune to the way movies seem to be going down the road they’re going these days? Even Greenland, which came out in the worst of circumstances, late 2020, that movie made money. You seem immune to all of this.
Yeah, that movie killed it. Yeah, I don’t know. I don’t know if I got lucky? Because it’s true. It’s like we’re all in some ways warriors going through a field and you see people fall by the way, and you also see a certain movie fall by the wayside. And I feel like I’m making a last stand for this kind of movie. It’s not the only kind of movie I make, but I love them. And by the way, they’re not for everybody, but they’re for so many people. And when you’re walking down the street and people go off, “Oh my God, I love this, I love this,” you see how enjoyable it is.
And when they do make them, it’s a lot of the streamers. And they’re just not as fun to watch. It’s fun to be with other people when you fly a plane into a bad guy.
I couldn’t agree more. There’s nothing better. And I think that’s what people are realizing as they come back after COVID, how much they actually missed that cinematic experience. And I think some people were taken it for granted until it disappeared…
Well, that’s why I asked the question. Because things did change. You seem immune to this. I look around, you’re one of the last people standing who can get an action movie that’s not Marvel or Avatar made. It did have an impact. You have to be a little bit worried about it…
Yeah, I’m not. Listen…
Not this movie specifically, but just the way things are going.
Yes. Yeah. That is a concern, but I’m not big enough in myself to change the way things are going. You just got to adapt to the times. [Laughs jokingly] What I’m saying is you’re only going to see me from now on on Netflix, Amazon, and Apple TV. This is the last movie I’m ever making. No, I have another one coming out, Kandahar.
I’m assuming you’re going to take credit for this too, but was this the movie you’re finally like, “This character is going to be Scottish”?
No, by the way. No. Actually, I’m not taking credit for that. I hadn’t done a movie in Scottish for years. I think it was like 10 years, I hadn’t been able to do a Scottish accent. And now I’ve done two or three in a row. And there’s definitely something, a relief, when I can do it in my own. I don’t have to worry about the accent. At first I didn’t want to. Sometimes I go, “No, it should be American.” And then I’m like, “You know what? Actually, this could be super cool for this guy to be.” There’s a lot of elements that feel very Scottish in him. He has that passion.
He’s very stubborn and he’s strong and he’s tough, but this is not his arena. You sometimes question, is he actually going to help people or is he going to get everybody killed? He has the right intentions and he’s really trying his best. He’s trying to be a leader. There’s a lot of pressure on him, but sometimes they’re so screwed in this situation that it feels, whichever way he goes, people are going to die.
‘Plane’ opens in theaters on January 13th. You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.