Gerard Butler’s Favorite Mistake: Embarrassment in Iceland

Gerard Butler
Gerard Butler: "I’m a dude with ADD." Perry Hagopian / Contour-Getty Images

I’m a dude with ADD. I get caught up in the moment. For instance, I once wore a kilt and exposed myself to the congregation at my sister’s wedding. My mum tried to motion for me to push my legs together, but I thought she was telling me to pray. I was away in another world. I wasn’t thinking. Meanwhile, 300 people were looking right up my jacksy.

But that’s not even the most embarrassing thing to happen to me. A lot of my life lessons have come out of sillier things. Another funny moment happened in 2005 when I was playing a Viking in the very low-budget indie movie Beowulf & Grendel. We filmed in this little Icelandic town called Höfn that was right on the edge of a glacier. The weather was awful. We had hurricanes, torrential rains, and 
it was freezing. I was in every scene and had to stand on top 
of these glaciers or be out in the Icelandic sea.

The tiny 10-bedroom hotel that we were staying at was on the outskirts of town. They had a restaurant that, as far as I was concerned, never seemed to be open. We were out filming from six in the morning till at least eight in the evening. And when I came home at the end of every shoot I was famished.

I thought, Here we are making movies—this is not the way it’s supposed to be. But I dealt with it. And a few days later, I heard there was a conference in the hotel. So I thought the restaurant might finally be open. We didn’t have a proper lunch that day. I hadn’t eaten in nine hours. When I got home I could have eaten a horse.

I saw a lady standing outside the restaurant and asked, “Is there any way we can get some food? Anything?!” She said it was closed. I begged: “Something! Just let me grab something. I swear to God I’m going to die here.”

Then out of the door comes this man in a suit and a tie. I run over to him thinking that he’s the manager of the hotel and say, “Please, listen, is there any way you can open this restaurant or just give me something? Can I just have a ham-and-cheese sandwich?”

He looks at me deadpan. Perturbed. He said he didn’t work there and left.

When I turned around, the producer of the movie was shocked, her head in her hands. In my desperation I had begged Iceland’s minister of agriculture for a ham-and-cheese sandwich.

If you’re ever going to a small country, any country, it’s probably good to get some intel on the local politicians. Knowing who is in the local mafia, or mob, or Yakuza can help avoid scenarios like mine. Now that I’m a big star, I just make sure that wherever I’m about to go they build a full-size hotel properly equipped with 24-hour restaurants, diners, and even casinos. Not really. If anything, it taught me some common sense.

Interview by Sujay Kumar.