Gerard Butler was born on November 13, 1969, in Glasgow, Scotland. He is the youngest of three children of Margaret and Edward Butler, a bookmaker. Butler grew up in a devout Roman Catholic family. When he was 6 months old, his family relocated to Montreal, Canada, where his father tried a few business ventures but ultimately failed. A year and a half later, his parents divorced, and his mother moved Gerard and his two older siblings back to her hometown of Paisley, Scotland. He had no contact with his father between the ages of two and 16 years old when Edward Butler called to meet him at a Glasgow restaurant. After this meeting, Butler cried for hours, and recalled later: "That emotion showed me how much pain can sit in this body of yours; pain and sorrow that you don’t know you have until it is unleashed." After this, they became close. His father passed away when Gerard was in his early 20s.
Gerard was enthralled with movies and acting when he was a child, and his mother even took him to a few auditions. He became a member of the Scottish Youth Theatre and played one of Fagin's boys in the production of the popular musical Oliver! with the company.