According to charismatic 300 star Gerard Butler he has the gritty reality of life in his native Scotland to thank for his current success. "The reason so many Scottish actors have done so well is that we have a lot of passion and sensitivity - and insanity, as well," he says. "We have a lot more going on, to be honest, than what your average American experiences in his life, and therefore we have more to say in cinematic terms."
Born in Glasgow on November 13, 1969, Gerard set off with his family for a new life in Canada at the age of six months. His parents struggled to establish themselves in their adopted country, however, and soon separated. When Gerard was 18 months old, his mother took him and his two older siblings back to Glasgow, where, after a stint living with his grandparents, they were able to get back on their feet.
As a youngster the star grew up in a strict Catholic household where a good education was considered paramount to success. An outstanding student he set his sights on becoming a lawyer and eventually gained a place at Glasgow University law school. He went on to land a job with one of the city\'s leading law firms, only to discover he had clearly made a mistake in his choice of career. "I hated it. I hated every minute of it," he later admitted. "It just wasn\'t me. I never felt fulfilled. I partied a lot and abused the privileges of my firm."
Life changed for the better, however, when the head of the firm asked the young solicitor for one good reason why he shouldn\'t fire him. Unable to come up with an adequate response, Gerard promptly tendered his resignation and bid farewell to the law.
Attending an Edinburgh Festival production of Trainspotting that same evening he was so moved by the performance he packed his bags and headed to London to try his luck at acting. A year later he was back at the Festival, this time on stage in a new production of Trainspotting in the role made famous by Ewan McGregor.
Setting his sights on breaking into film the budding actor was rewarded early on with a high-profile cameo in 1997\'s Oscar-nominated picture Mrs Brown, in which he starred alongside legendary actress Dame Judy Dench. And over the next three years he worked steadily on both the small and big screens in the UK, including a small part in the James Bond movie Tomorrow Never Dies.
Then, in 2000, came the two roles which would launch him as an international lead. He conquered stateside audiences as the leader of the Hun in the US television series Attila and played Bram Stoker\'s most notorious character in an updated version of the classic tale in Dracula 2000.
It was the latter role which caught the eye of Phantom Of The Opera producer Joel Schumacher when he was looking for a lead man for the celluloid adaptation of the smash-hit Broadway musical. The filmmaker stumbled upon the movie when, of the 15 features playing at the cinema that evening, it happened to be the only one he hadn\'t seen. "As soon as Gerry popped out of the coffin, I thought he had such great presence," says Joel.
Despite having been a singer in various rock bands during his wilder days in Glasgow, the young Scotsman still had to prove he had the vocal range required for the part. So after wrapping up Lara Croft Tomb Raider: Cradle Of Life, he contacted a voice coach and started work to bring his voice up to scratch.
His efforts were rewarded. Although Hollywood heavyweights Antonio Banderas and John Travolta had also been tipped for the lead, a successful audition with composer Andrew Lloyd Webber netted him the coveted role.
Since then the Scottish actor has enjoyed critical plaudits for his portrayal of the angst-ridden Phantom. Gerard credits the compelling performance on his ability to relate to the character\'s hardships and pain. "I didn\'t see my father for 14 years, and he turned up one day and I didn\'t even know he was alive. So, there were a lot of powerful things to draw on. You know, through my own self-abuse I went to some pretty dark spaces, so that when I read this script, I could believe they were synonymous with the feelings of the Phantom."
In 2006, Gerard landed another prominent, but entirely different, role as muscular Spartan King Leonides in Frank Miller\'s film 300. Powerful and masculine, the character won the actor legions of female fans while the action-packed content appealed to male viewers.
Now recognised in Hollywood as a multi-faceted leading man who could tackle a variety of roles, Gerard starred in US thriller Butterfly On A Wheel alongside Pierce Brosnan before once again showing his softer side in PS, I Love You with Hilary Swank in 2007.
Guy Ritchie\'s RocknRolla, gave the hunky star the chance to return to Britain and realign himself with fans of action in 2008. He played street-smart Scottish gangster One Two alongside a strong cast that included Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton and Mark Strong.
His 2009 turn in romcom The Ugly Truth, a battle of the sexes comedy with Katherine Heigl, has further cemented Gerard\'s ability to successfully take on a wide spectrum of different role in all genres of film.