John Butler: Coming out was the moment that changed my life
Lessons Learned: ‘My life has been an avalanche of privilege,’ say the Film-maker
From left: actor Alejandro Patino, filmmaker John Butler and actor Matt Bomer from the film ‘Papi Chulo’ pose for a portrait during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival. Photograph: Gareth Cattermole/Getty Images
What is the greatest challenge you have faced in your life?
My life has been an avalanche of privilege, but refusing to answer this question on that basis is the worst kind of false modesty. So I will say: overcoming self-doubt.
What is the best advice you have ever received?
“Never use a borrowed voice.” My school English teacher noticed me trying on different styles for size, shall we say, and put me on the path to figuring out who I was and what my own voice might be. This line is delivered by Andrew Scott’s teacher character in my film Handsome Devil, to Fionn O’Shea’s Ned character. In real life, Fionn’s grandfather was best friends with the school English teacher who said it to me. That’s Ireland for ya.
And the worst?
I am allergic to giving advice, and those who are most prone to giving it are the ones you should ignore, which is in itself a piece of advice. But “find a girl, settle down” was never going to work for me.
What moment changed your life?
Coming out. Once I did that, I could begin to see how to put one foot in front of the other.
Who do you admire most?
My parents, who teach me every day what love is, and who have buried me under the aforementioned avalanche of privilege.
What practical thing do you do to help your personal development?
I swim, which is meditative. It slows me down and makes me turn things over in my mind.
What is your biggest flaw?
I’m quite impetuous (swimming helps). I am dreadful with numbers.
What is your worst habit?
I’m compulsively early to meetings (that’s not a humble brag – it is objectively a bad habit). I’m grumpy. I am openly hostile to people who drag chairs across the floor in restaurants without lifting them.
What are you most proud of?
I lift the bloody chair.
What is your motto for life?
“Fries for the table”.
John Butler is a filmmaker whose latest film, Papi Chulo, is in cinemas now. His previous films are Handsome Devil (2016) and The Stag (2013), and he is also the author of the novel The Tenderloin (2011)