Gerard Butler feels darn lucky to be starring in the big-budget holiday movie Andrew Lloyd Webber's Phantom of the Opera. Since he's basically unknown — and not really a trained singer — the 35-year-old Scottish-born actor was thrilled that director Joel Silver allowed him a chance to prove himself, even though it meant months of voice and movement classes.

"I love this job," says Butler, who's actually very attractive underneath the Phantom's mask and all those layers of makeup. "I used to work in an area that I hated. Therefore, I relish the chance to work hard and to improve at something."

The hated occupation? Let's just say he appreciates a good, old-fashioned lawyer joke. "I trained as a lawyer," he sighs. "I studied law for five years and I was actually president of the Glasgow University Law Society. I trained at a top law firm in Scotland, and it made me so desperately unhappy. I felt I stepped into a life that I never wanted. It no longer felt like a life that I cared about. It was not a good place to be."

He wasn't all boring back in the day. Butler occasionally loosened his tie and took a walk on the wild side. "I was in a rock band then, so I could creatively get a lot of angst out," he recalls. "I was thrown out of three gigs. I was a pretty crazy dude in my time. I'm kind of dull now, but I still have all those experiences to draw on."

Butler tried to keep his cool demeanor while discretely watching the auditions for his Phantom leading lady, but he couldn't restrain himself completely. "I didn't want to be in anybody's face," he says, "so I was skulking about in the back until Emmy [Rossum, 16] came on the monitor. Then, I came up and grabbed Joel from behind and said, 'That's Christine, I know it.' She just embodied everything about Christine before she sang a note, and then she proceeded to sing like an angel. I thought at that moment, 'A star is born.'"