Geostorm star Gerard Butler a real-life hero too

Gerard Butler plays a scientist in disaster movie Geostorm.
Gerard Butler plays a scientist in disaster movie Geostorm.PHOTO: WARNER BROS

Actor Gerard Butler often plays the saviour in real life and on screen, such as in his latest film Geostorm, but is ill-prepared for disasters

Gerard Butler has saved the day in just about everything he has starred in, including the swords-and-sandals epic 300 (2006), the Olympus Has Fallen (2013) and London Has Fallen (2016) action franchise and now Geostorm, a new disaster movie.

In real life, the Scottish actor has also been a hero, saving a boy from drowning on one occasion and crawling under a burning car with a fire extinguisher on another.

Speaking to The Straits Times in Los Angeles last week to promote Geostorm, which opens in Singapore tomorrow, he confesses he has a bit of a daredevil streak as well as a knack for getting into sticky situations.

In 1997, when he was 28 and shooting his first major film role in the historical drama Mrs Brown, he saved a boy from drowning in a Scottish river, winning a bravery award for his efforts.

And Butler, 47, has felt emotionally connected to the young man ever since: When the latter was getting married a year and a half ago, the actor was asked by the best man to record a video speech for the wedding.

"I'm such a perfectionist that I did five speeches - funny ones, moving ones and they were quite dirty at points," he says.

"I said, 'I feel like I've been there at all the most important moments of your life: I was there the day you almost drowned and now I'm here for your wedding…'

"It was lovely and kind of (taking things) full circle, to do that for his wedding."

There have been other heroics, too.

"Another time, a guy pulled up next to me in a van and his van was in flames under the wheels. I don't know what I was thinking, but I go to a bus, get a fire extinguisher, climb under the van and put out the fire, which was right next to the gas tank.

"And I've jumped into a lot of fights - once, a guy was being kicked in the head by six people, I jumped in and pulled the people off. That's kind of who I am," says the star, who is dating interior designer and former model Morgan Brown, 40.

In Geostorm, he plays a scientist who builds a satellite system that rescues the world from catastrophic climate change and steps in again when the system mysteriously glitches and starts causing natural disasters.

But the actor - who instantly warms a room with his roguish charm and self-deprecating humour - admits he is ill-prepared for such disasters himself.

His homes in Los Angeles and Malibu are ill-equipped for earthquakes, wildfires and other acts of nature the county's residents are constantly reminded to prepare for.

"You know, for a guy who does roles which are maybe more on the heroic side or who, in this movie, is a brilliant mind, I'm really not like that at all," he says sheepishly.

"I'm more like, 'Wait a minute, why didn't I think of that? Why didn't I take care of that?' I don't have any kind of emergency kit (for disasters)."

He is always getting himself into scrapes as well.

He nearly drowned while shooting the surf drama Chasing Mavericks (2012) and, on Geostorm, he got an ill-advised alternative health treatment.

"I was wearing a spacesuit and it was really hurting hanging on those wires (lifting the suit in the air), so I asked a doctor to give me bee venom, which has anti-inflammatory compounds.

"He's supposed to just give me one, but he ends up giving me 10, and I had an allergic reaction and pretty much thought I was going to die. My arm swelled right up.

"So I'm playing this scientist saving the world, but in real life, I'm more often telling people a story (like this)," says the star, who next year reprises his role as a heroic Secret Service agent in Angel Has Fallen.

If the world does end in the sort of apocalyptic scenario envisioned in Geostorm, Butler has a thoughtful plan for how he will spend his final hours.

"I was going to go to my childish sense of humour and say I would go to a strip bar," he quips, but then says he would "try to speak to my loved ones, then I would go and try to find nature - whether that's an ocean or a hillside".

"Because you know when you're connected (to nature) like that, nothing matters at that point. If you can try to plug into that - where we came from and where we're going - then I think the end of everything would be a lot easier to handle."

•Geostorm opens in Singapore tomorrow.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 11, 2017, with the headline 'Hero who cannot save himself'. Print Edition | Subscribe