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Gerard Butler talks Hunter Killer

Gerard Butler
Written by Steven White

To celebrate its home entertainment release, Gerard Butler opens up about his latest blockbuster hit, Hunter Killer.

Hunter Killer is a seafaring explosive action thriller that’s perfect for a Saturday night in with a big bag of popcorn while the kids are tucked up in bed.

Its star, Gerard Butler, lets us in on everything from preparing for the movie to what he’s learnt from it.

How did you prepare for the role of being a commander in a submarine for months on end?

So I went out on a Virginia Class sub which is the new nuclear fast attack sub, which can do pretty much anything. They used to have subs for different reasons – now they’re capable of anything. I went out on one of them for a few days and spent time in every department but especially hanging out with the captain.

We also had a captain commander that was on the movie with us for months and I hung out with him all the time to find out the rules that you have to learn but also the challenges – the physical challenges, the mental challenges – what it really means to be under water all that time. I also spoke to a lot of the crew and you kind of start to get that sense of no escape, there’s nothing you can do, you have no connection with the outside world.

What makes your character a hero?

I love this character because he was much more contained. There was no necessary physicality and he was somebody who, in a much more subtle way, learnt the jobs of everybody on that ship better than anybody else. He’s coming from a place where he’s unconventional and can be seen as quite radical but he has a very specific moral compass, which makes him very unpopular because it’s a young crew who are emotional and sometimes overly patriotic.

A big part of the plot is their reaction to what they see happening when one of their subs goes down and my character has to think in a different way and make decisions which are actually making his own crew very vulnerable but you hope for a higher good. He has a lot of conviction in the decisions he makes and he might not be right, which really helps that feeling of claustrophobia and that tension and pressure that everybody’s feeling cooped up on the sub.

What do you hope audiences will take out of the film?

To me it’s almost more a film of good against evil. You see that even though there are certain rogue operators and there’s obviously a tension between these two countries and unfortunately as much as there’s a machinery that fights to maintain peace, there’s a machinery that, the second something kicks off, is pushing you towards this inevitable war and there are a lot of warmongers in there.

Donavon Marsh is a relatively young director. What was it like working with him?

Great, he’s very intelligent, incredibly hard working, he spends all day thinking about the scenes, thinking about the movie and I love that; a director who is passionate and dedicated and very easy to work with because he also knew his limitations. He’d never made a big movie before and he didn’t have any ego about that, so I worked very closely with him having more experience there. He was very intent on bringing this immersed feeling, really bringing an audience into the reality of what’s it’s like to be cooped up in a space with these challenges in front of you that seem all consuming and quite terrifying at times. I felt he really helped bring us into that world.

Is there anything you learnt about the navy that you’ll take away with you?

We worked with the US Navy and as much as you need to create a drama to keep it stimulating for an audience at the same time you don’t want to go too far because there were times when we had some crazy stuff in our script, we had men being taped up as a prank and then we thought no, that’s not the movie we’re trying to make. It’s so much about the plot and getting into this and showing the difference between inexperience and experience and good sailors and great sailors.

There’s a thing in the Navy called ‘forceful call back’ where they’re encouraged to question a captain because there are so many variables and so many things that can go wrong that when you make a kind of ballsy decision or a move there are people there to say I just want you to double check this is the right thing. We obviously took that to a new level to keep it fun and exciting but I think one of the things that I really took out of this was how unbelievably smart these guys are.

Hunter Killer is now available on digital download and on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD from 25th February.

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