Gerard Butler Needs A Matthew McConaughey-Style Makeover, Stat
It's been over five years since Gerard Butler donned his sparse Spartan war gear in 300, clearly demonstrating the joys of IMAX for fans of gory action, as well as those looking for a bloody but sexy treat. Over the years, he's racked up plenty of romantic comedies and sappy love dramas, some actioners, the odd children's movie, and even an Andrew Lloyd Webber musical. But after a one-two punch like last weekend's Playing for Keeps ($6.1 million) and October's Chasing Mavericks ($5.8 million to date), Gerard Butler's career is looking a little green around the gills.
Still, I have a soft spot for Butler, and I'm not saying this just because when he slow danced with Tom Hardy in RockNRolla, Hardy looked like a baby koala clutching a particularly delicious eucalyptus tree. Even though I dislike plenty of his movies and actively loathe The Ugly Truth, there's a legitimately charming dude under those poor career choices — and not the kind of gross chauvinism that passes for allure in most mainstream rom-coms. If you manage to ignore all the horny divorcées clustering around him in Keeps, you can see some sort of emotional warmth and genuine feeling trying to break through.
It's in there. I believe it. I believe in you, Gerard Butler.
While some folks think 2012 signals the end of the world, others think it indicates a major shift in consciousness. A transformation. An evolution. (And some people think it's just when the Mayans got tired of making their calendar, but I'll be over in the corner polishing my crystals if you need me.) If you need any proof that people are shedding their skins like snakes, you can look to Hollywood for evidence. The busiest actors this year are chameleons like Bryan Cranston and Jessica Chastain, and others who have spent years toiling away as the butt of jokes have had some watershed moments.
Actors like Seann William Scott, Channing Tatum, and Matthew McConaughey have spent years playing goofs, dummies, and eternal high schoolers. Although Scott has yet to see his lovely turn in Goon pay off career-wise, Tatum and McConaughey have seen their careers hit unprecedented highs. Tatum won over the skeptics — the ones who haven't been on his side since his first hip shake in Step Up — with his work ethic, sense of humor, and openness. He's one of the hardest-working actors in Hollywood, and he has no qualms about the fact that his bread and butter are the action movies and Nicholas Sparks-y romances. That self-acceptance is definitely what's led to his current success; if he were another bonehead with those V-shaped muscles and nothing else, he would be easily replaceable. The folks that wrote him off as that have received their sexy comeuppance, set to the tune of "Pony."
As for McConaughey, the loveable Texan gave us a taste of what 2012 had in store with 2011's The Lincoln Lawyer; his slick performance as the skeezy defender whose office was in the back of his chauffeured car should have tipped us off to what was coming. Even though we'd had a taste of his range in the past — he was in Amistad, for God's sake — it was still a delicious surprise to see him take on wildly different roles in quick succession.
2011's totally batsh*t insane Killer Joe is the kind of movie I would recommend to certain friends only after many disclaimers and trigger warnings, the kind of thing I found myself laughing at in shock. Although we'd seen a little of this dark side of his in Frailty, pairing up with William Friedkin was a genius move. Richard Linklater, who's been a stalwart friend and supporter since Dazed and Confused, cast him in what will probably be seen as his most prestigious role this award season, as the cowboy hat-wearin' DA Danny Buck in Bernie.
Then there's The Paperboy, which has its defenders (especially of his excellent eye patch). And, of course, Magic Mike, which totally took the piss out of his own persona and then twisted the knife when he weren't looking. Sure, his character Dallas could shake his banana hammock until it was ripped off, and he loved those bongos, but in the end, he had us all fooled, including Mike. Whether or not McConaughey has a shot at any awards this season is almost moot; the fact that he's even part of the discussion is sweet enough for his longtime fans, and he's got plenty of juicy, high-profile movies coming up.
Butler still has the fan base to make a splashy, maybe even a praiseworthy, comeback possible. I can personally assure you that there were a relatively impressive number of people at the 10 AM screening of Playing for Keeps I attended Friday morning (it was not screened for critics in New York City). That included two men wearing babies in Snuglis, a near fist-fight between a fancy lady on her cell phone, and another who was trying to eat a hamburger and rustling a lot of bags.
I believe if you follow my advice, Gerard Butler, you can burn your former self to the ground and rise above like a sexy Scottish phoenix! Just follow these 4 simple pieces of advice:
1. Hook up with a director. (Not like that.)
You need a champion, someone who believes in you and will tease out aspects of you we've never seen. Also, possibly someone off the wall like William Friedkin, who supported McC while the actor explored the disturbing possibilities of violence by fried chicken. Steven Soderbergh is also a possibility; he's not afraid to make weird little movies about people he finds fascinating, whether it's Sasha Grey, Gina Carano, or Tatum. Go hang out with Soderbergh before he retires, get him drunk, tell him some wacky anecdotes. Boom, you're in a new movie.
Better yet: Magic Mike 2.
2. Try something new.
One thing that's looking rather intriguing is Movie 43, a vignette-based comedy with an incredible ensemble of actors, from fancy folks like Richard Gere and Hugh Jackman to upstars like Emma Stone and Chloë Grace Moretz. playing a violent, testicle-threatening leprechaun who's being held hostage by Johnny Knoxville and Seann William Scott is definitely a new move for you. It looks and sounds totally scatological and possibly hilarious, or it could be a trainwreck. Either way, it's not a rom-com! Olympus Has Fallen also sounds promising. It's hard to go wrong when you're paired up with Morgan Freeman, as long as he isn't playing God again. Although I'm always skeptical of 3D IMAX hoodley-ho, it's a genius move to appear in Thunder Run with Matthew McConaughey. It's what we like to call positive association.
3. Do some TV.
Now that Liz Lemon has gotten married, your window of opportunity to play a wacky boyfriend on 30 Rock is closed. On the other hand, Mindy Kaling's character in The Mindy Project is obsessed with rom-coms, so how awesome would it be if you got a part playing yourself and Mindy would be like, "Holy crap! It's that guy from P.S. I Love You!"? Kaling is adorable, and that would rub off on you in the eyes of her viewing audience, who might otherwise associate you with, uh, The Ugly Truth. Alternately, The Good Wife. Everyone is on that show. EVERYONE! Or American Horror Story: Asylum. Chew some scenery!
4. Be picky, dammit.
I'm convinced that the reason why Will Smith wasn't in any movies for several years after starring in Gabriele Muccino's uproariously terrible Seven Pounds was that he was knee-deep in some sort of existential crisis. It was so bad that it's almost unfair to reveal what happens in Seven Pounds so you can experience the shock and dismay for yourself. If I were an actor and someone offered me a part in a Muccino movie, I'd call Will Smith first and ask him about his PTSD. Playing for Keeps wasn't that bad — it wasn't even as bad as, say, The Ugly Truth — but it was a close call, my friend.
Do you think Gerard Butler can crawl out of rom-com movie hell?