Angel Has Fallen star Gerard Butler rises from ashes of injuries, fire
From surviving motorbike crashes to having his California home destroyed by fire, he has had a trying last two years
The last couple of years have been tough for Gerard Butler.
The Scottish actor sustained multiple injuries as production started on his new action thriller Angel Has Fallen.
He said at our interview at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills: "I came into this movie not in a good place. A bunch of stuff happened to me. Motorcycle crashes, broken bones in my feet, then my knees torn, problem with my hip, then I had a surgery that went wrong, became five surgeries.
"Then I ended up, literally, coming out of hospital, flying here and starting this action movie four days later. I should never have been making an action movie.
"But I feel I can still do most of the stuff. When I'm in it, that Scots warrior comes out, so I feel no pain. But the next morning, I wake up and go, 'Okay, I think my neck is messed up for the rest of my life.'"
Another calamity struck him last year. His Malibu home was partially destroyed in one of the California fires last November. He posted pictures on Twitter, praised the firefighters and pointed followers to the various GoFundMe pages that had been set up to help the victims.
On turning 50 in November, Butler said: "In truth, these last two years have been the hardest of my life, and I've had a life that's not always been easy. I feel like I'm just pulling out of it now. So it's coinciding nicely with that birthday, this next phase of my life. Because I feel like I sat in a fire for a couple of years that I couldn't get out of, and I'm not feeling like that anymore.
"And also, not needing to be led by my career anymore. I love to work, but I don't need to work. If I never work again, that's fine. And if I do, that's awesome."
Opening here tomorrow, Angel Has Fallen is the third in the Fallen franchise - after 2013's Olympus Has Fallen and 2016's London Has Fallen - in which Butler plays US Secret Service agent Mike Banning.
As the agent in charge of protecting the US president (Morgan Freeman), Banning is accused of betraying his country by conspiring to kill him, and has to go on the run.
Others in the cast include Jada Pinkett Smith as a federal agent, Piper Perabo as Banning's wife and Nick Nolte as Banning's estranged father. Butler was excited to return as Banning, whom he describes as an everyman superhero.
"Mike Banning is known for his badassery, but also his humanity, and now we get to see a lot more of where he comes from.
"He has great gallows humour. You feel like he's an audience member, but he just happens to have special abilities. He's not quite Marvel, but at the same time, he does a lot of stuff that we wish we could do."
When asked whether there will be more films, he said: "I don't know. I thought it was a 'one-ogy.' Yeah, I just coined a new term there. And then we went, 'Oh, let's make a 'two-ogy.'' So... we started to think, well, where can you go with the third one? (And now) is there another city falling? The Moon Falling?'"
When asked about having his trust betrayed like his character, he said: "I've lived a long life, so yeah, I've been burnt quite a few times by people. How you could enter into an agreement based on trust and then them just turn around and say, 'By the way, that's all bulls***.'
"That was a big learning lesson. I've had that on various occasions. But I'm a lot better at knowing who I can trust and who I can't. I'm not saying I always get it right, but I think I'm pretty good at it."
On fame, he thinks it is both more and less than he dreamed.
"When you're a boy imagining being in films and in Hollywood, you're not imagining social media, paparazzi, TMZ, and the way that people can try and crucify you with lies and indecencies. In other ways, it's more magical... I remind myself a lot, how the hell did I get here?
"On the one hand, I had such powerful belief, how could this not happen? Then on the other side, I would go, it's never gonna happen. You're insane. You're a kid from Scotland. Sean Connery's the one person from Scotland anyone's ever heard of."
The writer is the chair of the board of directors of the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a non-profit organisation of entertainment journalists that also organises the annual Golden Globe Awards.