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Butler's on a Viking rampage

Gerard Butler is something of a ladies' man, if the rumours in the journalists' waiting room are true. You can see the attraction -- good looks, hunky physique and that cheeky, conspiratorial grin.

The Glasgow accent helps, suggesting that we're dealing with a real man. A real man who's happy to enjoy the spoils of the fame that came Butler's way with 2006's smash, 300.

The latest spoil would appear to be Jennifer Aniston, Butler's co-star in The Bounty Hunter. The couple have been seen together at the Golden Globes awards and Butler even jetted to Mexico to celebrate the star's 41st birthday. Naturally, our boy will neither confirm nor deny such rumours. Which, naturally, makes you believe those rumours even more.

But today, Butler would rather talk about his glittering career. After 10 years of knocking patiently on Hollywood's door (with near-misses such as Dracula 2000, Reign of Fire and The Phantom of the Opera), Butler wasted no time in capitalising on the success of 300, setting up his own production company and squeezing in as many movies as he can physically make. Last year, he gave us The Ugly Truth, Gamer and Law Abiding Citizen. We're three months into 2010, and he's already given us The Bounty Hunter, and now, How to Train your Dragon.

It's the latter -- an animated feature -- which proves to be by far the best of the so-so bunch. DreamWorks Animation have come up with their first truly magical movie. Based on Cressida Cowell's 2003 children's book, the first in her Hiccup the Sea Viking series, the plot centres on budding nutty inventor Hiccup Horrendous Haddock III (voiced by Jay Baruchel), a big disappointment to his father, Stoick The Vast (Butler), for not being man enough to join his Hairy Hooligans on their Viking rampages. As their island prepares for the mother of all battles with their dragon foe, Hiccup's latest invention brings down one of the winged beasts. And a beautiful, and highly beneficial, friendship is born.

When I met Butler in LA, he was beaming, having just seen the movie the night before. The after-party helped too, as the great and the good gathered at Lucques Restaurant on Melrose Avenue for some handshaking and backslapping. In among the celebs and plebs, Butler seemed in his element as all the women in the room formed a scrum and preceded to treat him like an odd-shaped ball.

PAUL BYRNE: These DreamWorks guys looked at Stoic the Vast, the big, gruff, short-tempered viking chief of The Hairy Hooligans, and thought, hey, it's Gerard Butler. Fair enough?

GERARD BUTLER: The way you describe him is funny, because I'm such a pussycat. But I've done things that are not a million miles away from this. Not animated, which was a bigger challenge for me, but when you've played Attila, or Beowulf, or Leonidas -- I think especially the Leonidas in 300 -- it made them think, okay, he could be a good Stoic the Vast.

PB: Stoic is a sensitive soul, deeply concerned about this son. Was this tough to convey, just using your voice?

GB: You can only do it with the voice, that's definitely a challenge. One, to create it when there's no one there, and two, to give it those different levels, and be the voice of this guy that's this size. And then bring all the other stuff into it.

As you say, there's a lot going on; he's a warrior, he's a chief, he's a leader to his people, he's a father to his son, he's frustrated, he's confused, he's angry, and you put all that in there, and you really only have your voice to express it with.

PB: There's a line Craig Ferguson's character, Gobbers, has in the movie: "He has a way with the beasts." Being the method actor that you are, have you ever ridden a dragon yourself?

GB: That's a lot of things you just said there . . .

PB: Yeah, I know, but I was worried that you wouldn't get my double-entendre without some context.

GB: Well, I've never been on top of a dragon, but I have had sex with one.

PB: Of course, you rarely work with dragons when it comes to romantic comedies?

GB: I've been truly blessed. Who wouldn't want to spend a few months with Jennifer Aniston, with Katherine Heigl or with Hilary Swank? Romantic comedies are always a lot of fun to make, because you get to be silly, and in love. And that's the best feeling in the world. Or so I'm told . . .

PB: The good looks, the sexiness, the talent, all stems from your Irish roots. Do you know exactly where they stretch back to in Ireland?

GB: Oh, a lot of my family came from Donegal. Pettigo, which is a tiny place. And then, from just outside Dublin, in . . . We filmed just outside of it with Reign of Fire, up in the Sally Gap . . . Wicklow!

PB: Ah, I'm from sunny Wicklow . . .

GB: Wonderful place though, and I'm proud to have some roots there. Lots of good-looking people there too. Had the time of my life . . .

How to Train your Dragon in 3D lands in cinemas on March 26