Gerard Butler Needs A Matthew McConaughey-Style Makeover, Stat

Gerard Butler Playing For Keeps

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?

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  • S. A. Young says:

    You and I are of like minds Jenni Miller. I've been uttering similar words to whomever would listen for quite a while now. I can't give up on him either because I truly believe there's good stuff in there searching for a way out and Matthew McConaughey's career resurgence is JUST the example he should follow.
    BTW, I found a lot to like in Playing for Keeps, particularly Butler's performance. It was hardly the "worst movie of the year" nor even of Butler's career. But he is in serious need of an image makeover (that a long term relationship will not fix).

  • Plum says:

    Butler needs to stop tanning immediately. His blue-green eyes look like dingy gray socks because of his straw colored dye job. His natural dark hair made his eyes pop. His eyes have lost all intensity because of the sallow tan and bleached hair. And he has got to lay off the booze before his nose gets any fleshier. If Buter shaves that groady stubble, dyes his hair back to brown and starts taking care of his body he could be lovely again. But if he doesn't we'll always have Reign of Fire.

    • gardnlady1 says:

      His hair has been gray for years, and he has dyed it for years. He is out side a lot in his work. His eyes do not look like gray socks to me!!! He has not had a drink for over 13 years, according to what he tells everyone he meets, interviewers, talk show hosts, friends, etc. His body looks outstanding for a man of 43, as you can see if you see Playing for Keeps. You must know very little about him!!! LOL. His hair is short at the moment, and kept a kind of brownish, with some auburn, not long as in PFK. He is a good actor, he has had terrible parts, but critics seem to be harder on him than on others for some reason. I think he had such charismatic parts to start off with, that they feel let down. I would absolutely hate to see him in Magic Mike 2, which I thought was wooden and idiotic and boring (except when they were dancing of course...). I have hopes for Olympus Has Fallen coming out in April, and for Thunder Run starts filming next year. He has had only three rom coms, counting PFK, as PS I Love you, still very popular among young women, was not a rom com.

      He has had bad luck with distribution, that is for sure, even in movies where he does a fine job. I have no idea why he made The Ugly Truth, or The Bounty Hunter. I will watch The Ugly Truth, but Not the Bounty Hunter. He made some excellent films in Scotland, wish he could do it again. He is an interesting charismatic guy. Sorry but Channing Tatum bores me, and is not a charismatic actor.

      • Nancy Widmann says:

        I totally agree re Channing Tatum. I saw Dear John and was bored to tears. PS I Love You made me fall in love with Gerry. Even that movie didn't get a lot of recognition and it was great!

  • Milena K says:

    I am not a film expert, but I must agree with some Jenni Miller's ideas.
    Gerard definitely need a good director and he will shine. He is good, and he should be more choosy.
    In a tandem with a good director he may touch the stars again.
    Good luck, Gerard!
    ( And I like him in The Ugly Truth, by the way! )

  • Luana R. says:

    Finally, I read something realistic about Gerard Butler career. Whats wrong with Gerry? I love him, but he needs desperately to read your advices.

  • sozzy says:

    Watch Dear Frankie. It's romantic, but not a comedy. It's beautiful, he's beautiful, beautiful, beautiful!

  • Bunny says:

    Good scripts are not falling out of the sky. With what he and the other actors had to work with, Gerry was excellent in PFK. He will do just fine when he finds a really good script and director. MOST of his movies have done quite well financially in the past, even "The Ugly truth". Check out all his movies Box Office Mojo.


    I need to see Dear Frankie and I'm definitely going to watch PS I Love You again. Playing for Keeps was just an awful story line. I thought Gerry, Jessica and Noah did a great job with it. He needs to be pickier, I agree. He's a great actor and all around nice guy. He needs to finish first! And we need to petition him for People's Sexiest Man Alive !

  • PTOPhan says:

    I have adored Gerard Butler ever since he appeared in the movie version of "The Phantom of the Opera" in 2004. While his singing is not up to what I'd prefer in the role, his interpretation of the Phantom is the best among the seven actors I've seen play the part. In Dear Frankie, Chasing Mavericks, P.S. I Love You, Machine Gun Preacher, Coriolanus, Law-Abiding Citizen, and The Ugly Truth (which I thought was hilarious), Gerry again showed his acting chops. Since he became an A-lister, I have seen Gerry in only two clinkers, The Bounty Hunter and Gamer. As for P4K, I thought the movie sweet and enjoyable. Yes, it was predictable, but it had some real laugh out loud moments. I truly don't understand why so many bloggers and reviewers revile Gerry, both as a performer and as a human being -- he's intelligent (he studied law), unselfish (he's done charity work to rebuild Haiti and to help kids stricken with cancer), funny, and gracious to his fans. Could they be jealous of him (the males) or of the many women he attracts (the females)?

  • Michelle says:

    I hope so, he has something special or he'd be gone already.

  • I believe Gerry has done a lot of rom.cons especially for his fans, I have been a fan since 2004 (Phantom) and I have noticed that back then all everyone talked about was Gerry doing rom,cons.
    Really I feel he is a tremendous actor; Dear Frankie and his earlier work in the late 90's and up to P.S. Love you were some of his best performances. I believe everything you said in your article. His choices of movies lately have not been the best. MGP and Coriolanis and Law Abiding Citizen performances were excellent. I want nothing but the best for Gerry (as long as he keeps his hair fairly short.)

  • Gerard seems to be chasing for a box office hit rather than finding script that is creatively interesting. I think he should reconnect with Guy Ritchie. Gerard desperately needs a project that is going to challenge him. I think a UK indie film would be perfect for him.

  • KevyB says:

    I long ago put Gerard Butler in the same category as Bradley Cooper, Ben Affleck and Ryan Reynolds: Guys Who are Very Charismatic in Real Life, but Whose Charisma Disappears Onscreen. Once in a while it'll actually appear, like Cooper in Silver Linings Playbook, but that movie's not going to help Cooper. For someone to make it to the next level, the movie needs to showcase the actor's charm AND be seen by more than a handful of people. Butler is making movies that only do one of those two things, and the way Hollywood works now, chances for him to do find a movie that does both are infinitesimal. Unless Quentin Tarantino comes knocking...

  • Kara says:

    I actually thought he was really good in 'Machine Gun Preacher' than came out...last year? Granted, I don't think anyone saw that movie, but it proved that he's got more in him than the mediocre rom-coms he keeps picking. He should really be doing more dramatic roles.

  • I'm happy he was in PS I Love You, chasing mavericks and playing for keeps..bounty hunter is a hoot.. I'm a mom and I need movies I can take my 3 kids to and something that keeps me entertained. He's easy to look at and entertaining.
    My kids loved chasing mavericks and playing for keeps gives the hop their dad will get things right someday...

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