Gerard Butler would be dead if he wasn't an actor.

The Scottish 'Machine Gun Preacher' star - who is now teetotal - was a troublemaker in his early twenties and claims the challenges of acting helped him to grow up after he was fired from his law training scheme thanks to his hellraising.

He explained: "I'd gone from a 16 year old who couldn't wait to grasp life to a 22 year old who didn't care if he died in his sleep.

"I know what it's like to feel crazy, lost, aggressive, fearful and to be screaming out at the world that you have no use or no purpose and the best thing to do is to go down screaming and take as many people with you as possible and get really f***ed up along the way.

"If I hadn't found acting, it seems very easy to say that I'd be dead but yes I'd be dead. But to find that I could act, make a living out of it and challenge myself, tell stories, affect people. When I grew up, I loved watching movies and coming out wanting to take the world on, wanting to fall in love, wanting to be as cool as Spencer Tracy or Steve McQueen. And to think that I can now have that impact on people is a Beautiful Thing."

Although he loves acting, Gerard, 42, admitted he is looking forward to the day when he has more in his life than just work.

He told Seven magazine: "Work's great, but I want to get to that stage where I'm happiest when I'm not working so that I can work less. In the last few months I've been riding a Harley through the southern states, learning to fly helicopters. I've been playing football and learning to surf."