This inspirational true story, ‘Machine Gun Preacher,’ is about Sam Childers, a former drug-dealing criminal who undergoes an astonishing transformation and finds an unexpected calling as the savior of hundreds of kidnapped and orphaned children. Gerard Butler (300) delivers a searing performance as Childers in Golden Globe-nominated director Marc Forster’s (Monster’s Ball,Finding Neverland) moving story of violence and redemption. Alongside Gerard Butler and Michelle Monaghan, the cast includes Kathy Baker, Michael Shannon, Madeline Carroll and Souleymane Sy Savane. ‘Machine Gun Preacher’ has been scheduled for release September 23rd in the US, and November 18th in the UK. Check out what Gerard Butler and Michelle Monaghan had to say about the film below.

I’ve heard that you were preparing for this role for a long time, what did that entail?

Gerard Butler: I had been preparing for almost eight months before the movie started, because we developed the script. I worked with Jason Keller and Marc Forster, we’d have these mammoth….nine or ten script sessions, where we just locked the doors, closed the curtains and just got stuck in to make this happen. I find it for me, my best performances are ones that I worked in the development as well, because by the time you’re filming you’ve spent so much time in the characters head. I spent a lot of time with Sam, travelled around his area, I was given so much source material from Sam, documentaries he did, interviews – I had them playing all the time….

Michelle Monaghan: Didn’t you carry his Bible around?

Gerard Butler: Yeah, he gave me his bible. There was a million things (laughs). I watched documentaries on fundamentalism, on preaching, on bikers, everything – all the different things that made Sam who he is. The biker faction, the preacher faction, the gang member, the political situations in Sudan, the kids themselves…..a bunch of things!

What it is like playing a real life person?

Michelle Monaghan: It’s tricky, you really want to honour them, but more importantly find out what makes them tick as people, to really understand their dynamic. I spent time with Sam and Lynn one weekend, for me it wasn’t a case of trying to mimic a performance or to be exactly like her, it was more that I wanted to understand emotionally who she was, then try to convey that in the most honest and true way. It’s definitely more to interpret than to mimic, the essence and complexity of Lynn.

There’s so much to this man and story…

Gerard Butler: There’s so much, and so much more (laughs). Sam Childers, he’s a married man, he has a family. But he’s in and out of jail, he can’t get his life together, he’s addicted to drugs, he’s in a biker gang, he’s a robber. He finally finds a calling, he goes through this kind of beautiful redemption and becomes a man of faith. He has that push to do more so he finds himself in Africa, where he sees some pretty untold horrors – it changes his whole life. He becomes a preacher, he builds an orphanage in Sudan, and actually a church back in Pennsylvania, at the same time trying to keep his family going, whilst also running this orphanage, which sucks him into the war, he starts fighting against the militia.

I’ve never been in a movie, or even I think witnessed a movie that has so much packed into it. In terms of emotion and just life experiences. It takes place in two continents, it takes place in two completely different cultures. We were almost shooting two different movies. When I first read the script I was like, ‘Are you kidding? This is so much, this is too much, this couldn’t have all happened?’ Then you speak to him and you realise this and much much more.

There are some truly heartbreaking scenes in this film, especially when you are holding that little boy, where do you go for a scene like that?

Gerard Butler: After that scene my makeup artist came up to me and grabbed me, he was crying, and hugged me – because he was there with me, he was my boy and he could see where I was going. I think I did that shot about fifteen times, screaming and crying, going to a place where……I don’t even know where I was going. I just sit, I listen to music for hours before, going to the most darkest and most horrific places I can imagine, then compound it and compound it and compound it. I get into it physically and emotionally – then bang, into that take, of holding this little boy, you try to be there in the moment, you let go of it all, it just came. That was a tough day, it took a lot to shake off, that was definitely one of the most intense moments of filming.