Interviews Movies

Preparing for War – An Interview with Hunter Killer’s Gerard Butler

Deep beneath the icy surface of the Arctic Circle, the Cold War never really ended. Here, at extreme depths invisible to the world, U.S. and Russian submarines continue to play ultra-high-stakes rounds of hide-and-seek-through harrowingly narrow passages, as a constant reminder to one another of the unthinkable costs of sudden aggression. Peril has only mounted amid heightened tensions as a new generation of highly sophisticated nuclear attack subs prowl the murky depths, persistently trailing and shadowing one another as if a full-blown battle is about to break out. But what if these charged war games suddenly stopped being a game at all? What if, as chaos erupts on land, there is only one shot to pull the world back from the brink of WWIII and unthinkable nuclear conflict?

This is the relentlessly tense situation audiences are plunged into in Hunter Killer, aptly named for the sleek attack subs created to boldly approach the enemy without detection. It all begins as a Russian sub sinks in the Arctic Ocean. Soon after, the U.S. sub ghosting it also mysteriously vanishes. In the midst of investigating these unsettling events, military brass in Washington D.C. is sent scrambling when they discover that a rogue Russian admiral is attempting to carry out a bloodthirsty coup at a naval base in Russia. The only hope to halt a war of the superpowers lies in the efforts of two secret crews.

First, a clandestine Black Ops team of ex-SEALs must try to sneak into Russian territory to intercept the
kidnapping of the Russian President. Simultaneously, in the sea, Captain Joe Glass (Gerard Butler) and the young crew of the USS Arkansas are under orders to head towards the enemy. As a hunter-killer captain, Glass has mastered the rules of the cat-and-mouse game but will now have to courageously break them, as he realizes that this time the cat and the mouse may have to join forces.

Gerard Butler is no stranger to portraying badass men of action. From the Spartan ruler Leonidas in the epic 300 to Secret Service agent Mike Banning in Olympus Has Fallen to no-nonsense Los Angeles Sheriff Big Nick O’Brien in Den of Thieves, Butler’s intense physicality has often been on display.

The Koalition spoke with Gerard Bulter about his role in Hunter Killer.

When Butler first read this script a few years ago, he said “I loved it immediately. It’s a classic story with a heck of a lot of great action, a heck of an intricate plot and a whole cast of fantastic characters who are heroes from different walks of life. It felt like an exciting way to revive the submarine thriller for these times. And right now, this story couldn’t feel more relevant.”

Early on, action icon Gerard Butler eyed the unusual role of Captain Joe Glass—who is more about daring
strategy than physical derring-do—which further boosted the development. “What’s fascinating about Glass to me is that he has to make decisions that will affect the world for hundreds of years because we’re talking about the immediate possibility of sparking an all-out World War III. So he’s up against the highest stakes imaginable,” says Butler, “and the way things unfold for him is both really suspenseful and surprisingly believable in today’s geopolitical circumstances.”

To prepare to play Glass, Butler not only took that initial trip out on a working nuclear sub, but he also spent extensive time with a number of former U.S. Navy commanders to channel their inner cores. “The advisers I consulted with were indispensable,” he says. “These are people who drill and drill and drill so that when things hit the fan, they can make the right moves like it’s in their sleep. Everything has to be automatic because when you’ve got freezing cold water coming in, the carbon dioxide is building, there’s a fire going on, the place is full of smoke and you know your sub is about to go down, you need to be able to act in half a second. Learning about that was very, very enlightening. You see that it takes a certain kind of individual to be able to lead in this very hazardous narrow tube.”

Working with military consultants also keyed Butler into the often sharp, tangy and slang-filled language
spoken among the submarine crew. “At first, I would hear Navy guys talk without understanding them but by working alongside the consultants and constantly interacting with the guys, I became familiar with their
terminology,” Butler explains. “We found fun ways to incorporate some of this language in the film because it makes things that much more believable. In a real emergency situation, when you have everybody calling out commands in the proper form, it’s incredible to witness how intense it gets, even if you don’t completely understand their slang. The whole ship is chanting and moving together in this beautiful flow of energy. It’s a very powerful experience. We wanted to capture that and when we’d finish those scenes, everybody would have goosebumps.”

To hear more about Bulter’s experience including working with the late Michael Nyqvist, check out the full interview below.

Hunter Killer hits theaters everywhere on October 26th.

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