9 Milestones in the Evolution of Gerard Butler

This weekend, Gerard Butler revisits the very Shakespeare play that launched his acting career: Coriolanus. This time around, Butler plays Tullus Aufidius, the rival of the title character in Ralph Fiennes's big screen adaptation. So just how did a Scottish actor who started with Shakespeare boomerang back to the very same play a decade later after achieving Hollywood stardom?

You can always trace a direct line through a few important roles to illustrate what led to an actor's current success. As such, let's look at nine pivotal performances that track the evolution of Gerard Butler.

Mrs. Brown (1997)

Shortly after finishing college, a 23-year-old Butler moved to Los Angeles for a short period during which he found work as an extra in 1992's The Bodyguard. Ultimately, after a detour in law school, Butler moved to London to launch his acting career with performances in stage adaptations of Coriolanus and Trainspotting before making his big-screen debut in the British drama Mrs. Brown opposite Billy Connolly and Judi Dench. As folklore goes (on the film's IMDB trivia page), Butler suffered hypothermia after running naked into the freezing ocean for one scene.

Dracula 2000 (2000)

After a don't-blink-or-you'll-miss-it role in Tomorrow Never Dies (as Leading Seaman of the HMS Devonshire) and his first horror project (Tale of the Mummy), Butler scored his first leading man role as Count Dracula in the campy, Wes Craven-produced cult classic Dracula 2000. Although the film was not received well by critics (who maybe just didn't get the humor of a permed Count Dracula or vampires being beheaded with garden shears -- both are acquired tastes), it proved that Butler could support a just-profitable film that spawned two direct-to-video sequels. Take that, Tom Cruise!

Lara Croft Tomb Raider - The Cradle of Life (2003)

Following a starring role in the well-watched (but ultimately forgettable) television miniseries Attila, Butler scored his first blockbuster love interest opportunity opposite Angelina Jolie in the Lara Craft Tomb Raider sequel The Cradle of Life. Here, Butler proved himself capable of the kinds of action stunts that would help him in his breakthrough box office project four years later. Although critics could not claim that the film was anything more than entertaining, Cradle of Life was a serviceable final Lara Croft film chapter for fans.

The Phantom of the Opera (2004)

After starring in Richard Donner's sci-fi film Timeline, Butler was summoned by Joel Schumacher to audition for the role of the Phantom in his adaptation of Andrew Lloyd Webber's 1986 musical. (Schumacher had been impressed by the Scot's performance in Dracula 2000, just like you undoubtedly were after seeing the above clip.) After only four voice lessons, Butler sang "The Music of the Night" for Lloyd Webber and secured the first musical role of his career. Critics gave the screen adaptation mixed reviews and saved their praise for Butler's co-star Emmy Rossum. The film ultimately went on to earn over $150 million worldwide at the box office.

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  • olive says:

    Playing the Field looks like a another bad Rom-Com on Butler's resume. He needs a better agent because his picks lately are terrible.