Hilary Swank earned an Academy Award for her performance in Boys Don’t Cry and another one for her portrayal of a boxer in Million Dollar Baby. With the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You, Swank shows off her softer side. Swanks stars as Holly Kennedy, a widow who receives a series of letters from her dead husband (Gerard Butler) that help her with handling the grieving process and with getting on with life.
Swank says she wasn’t searching out a ‘girlie’ role when she came across P.S. I Love You. “But I certainly jumped at the opportunity to do something romantic and something comedic,” said Swank. “I love doing drama, obviously. I love it, and most of my movies are dramatic. It was wonderful to find something that was so rich in drama and comedy, really. It was really a comedy that's based in reality, I guess you could say, so it was a wonderful challenge and a really fun time too.”
The cast and crew traveled to the Emerald Isle to film portions of P.S. I Love You. “I love, love to travel and I'd never been to Ireland. It's a place that I really wanted to go and experience so we were there almost three weeks, but I didn't get to see much,” said Swank. “We were working about 18 hour days, six days a week. Richard [LaGravenese] doesn't write short scenes, so on my Sundays I was really inside learning my lines for the following week. I did have nice, long drives to set and I got to experience the countryside in such a magnificent way. There is really no other countryside like Ireland. ...And the people are so kind, so kind and relaxed and laid back. And the Guinness is better there.”
Being a part of a romantic comedy like P.S. I Love You had other perks. Swank gets to lock lips with three very handsome actors – Gerard Butler, Harry Connick Jr and Jeffrey Dean Morgan – in the movie. “That's not a bad day at the office, is it?,” laughed Swank, adding, “All of these actors are just so wonderful and so talented and all so different. The whole cast was so rich. It's like the golden age of cinema where you have all these rich characters all around you. You know those movies where all the characters were really fleshed out and everyone had a really important role? It's like this movie. It was like one of those old feel-good movies that you don't have anymore, or very few and far between rather. This holiday season, there are so many dark movies out there, it makes me feel good to be in a movie that has some light. It's rare. My mom's always like, ‘Are you going to ever live to see the credits?’ So here I am living to see the credits and getting to laugh along the way.”
As for the film’s theme, Swank believes it’ll really connect with audiences. “I have talked to people who have lost someone to death, but I think the interesting thing is we've all experienced love and losing love, whether it be death or a break up. Breaking up can feel like death sometimes, too, because you have this person in your life for so long and they're not there anymore. So I find that it resonates in a lot of people's hearts for sure.”
In addition to playing the romantic lead, audiences will also get a chance to see Swank doing something else she doesn’t normally do in films – sing. In fact, one scene in P.S. I Love You even shows Swank doing her best Judy Garland imitation. “Oh, I will tell you, it was so much fun doing that scene. I love Judy Garland and I've been a fan of hers for so long. Richard had said, ‘You know, you're only going to lip sync. It's written lip sync because nobody can sing Judy Garland. You just can't do it. It should be illegal.’ So we were doing the scene, The Man Who Got Away, and I watched the movie and I watched her mannerisms in that scene and how she puts her hand across the piano. So Rich and I were looking for ways to recreate that and we thought, ‘Oh, let's do that over the dresser,’ and the turn and do all this stuff."
"I was lip syncing the whole time and we did about eight takes. He said, ‘Okay, I think we got it.’ I just didn't feel that I had it. I just didn't feel in my bones. You know when you finish a scene whether you feel like you've given your all or not. I said, ‘I want to do it again. I really feel like I need to sing it. I feel like I need to let that out. She's not a good singer. It's not like she's supposed to do Judy Garland well.’ He said, ‘Well, my only problem with that is when you see actors in movies in their homes or singing in the shower or something. I just don't believe them. I think they're inhibited and I think that they hold back. You can try it.’"
"I thought, ‘Wow, what a challenge, but I've got to try this.’ It's one of the things I love as an actor are those challenges to do something that I've never done before, and something that completely scares me. So I did the take and I finished and I didn't quite feel it. I was like, ‘I don't think I let go enough.’ He walked back in and he kind of looked at me like, ‘See what I mean?’ And I thought, ‘No, no, no, I need to go again.’"
"I thought about what he said and I just sat there on the bed and I thought, ‘There's not 150 crew members here right now. Millions of people aren't going to be watching this. You're Holly Kennedy, you're in this room, you're going through this grieving process and you need to let go. This is part of what the character is going through and you have to be able to make a fool of yourself.’ That's the fun part and challenging part of my job, so just try to let go. He said ‘action’ and the scene unfolds and he says ‘cut’ and the next thing I know, I drop back in the room and I'd traveled somewhere else. Richard gave me that gift. This was our second movie that we did. So, he walked back into the room and he looked at me and he just smiled."
"That's the scene that's now in the movie of me really singing, but the beauty of that, and why I share that story with you, is because it's why I love my job. It's those moments that you leave and you feel so fulfilled, but it takes a director like Clint [Eastwood] or Richard or someone really special to give you that place to fall down and to challenge you and pick you back up and say, ‘Okay, let's try again.’ Sometimes it's in the mistakes where you find the beauty.”