Actor Gerard Butler is best remembered for his glistening six-pack abs in 300. In his latest film the actor portrays Sam Childers, a gang biker who finds faith and dedicates life to rescuing children in war zones of South Sudan. YOLANDE D'MELLO chats with the actor about meeting the real life hero
Director Marc Forster's latest film Machine Gun Preacher is an action biopic on the life of Sam Childers, a biking preacher and defender of Sudanese orphans. It tells the story of Childers and his army of efforts to save the children of South Sudan in collaboration with the Sudan People's Liberation Army against atrocities of rebel groups in the state.
Actor Gerard Butler during the shoot of Machine Gun Preacher
in South Sudan
You play the character of Sam Childers.
I had a fair idea about Sam, but meeting him in person was a totally different experience. I spent a lot of time with Sam, I went with him to church and even recorded 40 hours of his voice that helped me get his accent right. I also met his family and studied his relationships with them.
Is there a certain pressure in portraying a real person?
It's not about doing a biopic, it's about this particular person's life. When I read the script I was like, 'are you kidding me, this isn't just one life. Sam's lived so many lives. That was the challenge; it felt like we were shooting two films, on two different continents and I was playing two different characters. Doing justice to somebody's life is such a daunting challenge. It's anything but easy.
Was this your first glimpse of South Sudan?
I had heard a lot about the issues but didn't realise how contemporary they were and how much damage had been done, it was inhuman. The kids are forced to kill, sometimes even their own families. It really saddens me to know what kids go through in a lot of places around the world.
Are you a spiritual man? Were you concerned about the spirituality aspect in the plot?
I owe my career to positive thinking. I realised that my career was going brilliantly and yet I wasn't happy. I went into extreme analysis and realised that what I was missing was spirituality. I have spent so much of my life thinking about how I'm doing, how I'm being perceived, etc. I needed to rid myself of that ego. That's when I went for a meditation training session with Deepak Chopra. Soon, things began to turn around. The universe rewarded that energy by matching it.
You have carved a niche for yourself as an action film star. In which category does this film fall?
I would love to do all kinds of films -- action, romance, comedy, anything that challenges me and helps me evolve. This film can be categorised as drama, but from the perspective of an actor, 300 or Rock n Rolla or PS: I love you, work because they are great stories. The greatest perk of being an actor is that it gives you variety of characters that you can play, why would I ever want to limit myself to just one role or one kind of story.
Machine Gun Preacher releases on December 9.