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In 2003, director Joel Schumacher was deciding on the principal casting for the film The Phantom of the Opera, a film adaptation of the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the same name, and thought of Butler, whom he had seen earlier in the film Dracula 2000, to play the title character.Butler, who had had no musical experience other than singing in a rock band while he was studying to be a lawyer, was surprised at the interest, but immediately began taking singing lessons with a vocal coach.At that time, he was her boyfriend and her assistant.She took him to an audition for Steven Berkoff's play of Coriolanus.That role earned him nominations for an Empire Award for Best Actor and a Saturn Award for Best Actor and a win for MTV Movie Award for Best Fight.
Although Attila and The Phantom of the Opera were important breaks, it was only in 2007 that Butler gained worldwide recognition for his portrayal of King Leonidas in Zack Snyder's fantasy war film 300.
He also attended Scottish Youth Theatre while a teenager.
Butler did not see his father again until he was 16 years old, when Edward Butler called to meet him at a Glasgow restaurant.
However, he continued to stay out late drinking and he frequently missed work because of this.
One week before he qualified as a lawyer, he was fired.
He played military leader Tullus Aufidius in the 2011 film Coriolanus, a modernized adaptation of Shakespeare's tragedy of the same name.