Afterwinning Oscars for captivating, drama-filled roles in Million Dollar Baby and the gender-bending Boys Don’t Cry. Hilary Swank enjoys life on the lighter side.
Now the actor has gone to the light side, making her first romantic comedy in a 15-year career.
Starring with Scottish hunk Gerard Butler, Swank plays shopaholic widow Holly Kennedy in the touchingly funny film P.S. I Love You.
“It’s really fun for me to be in a movie where I get to be romantic and funny, which was definitely a challenge for me,” the 33-year-old says from her home in Los Angeles.
“It was something new. Even though I started my career on comedy, I’ve done a lot of drama over the past few years — and I love comedy so it was definitely a fun departure. Everyone seems to have responded well to the movie.”
With a large array of sometimes interesting, sometimes boring and sometimes just damn offensive scripts rolling into Swank’s office, P.S. I Love You struck an immediate chord with the star.
Her passion for the film was ignited well before she shot crime drama Freedom Writers with director Richard LaGravenese this year.
After that film, Swank and LaGravenese worked together to ensure her next silver-screen offering would be P.S. I Love You.
Usually throwing herself into tough, non-feminine roles, one would expect Swank to be more tomboy than girl next door.
But the actor admits she is very much a girl’s girl.
“This movie was always one that was in the back of my head,” Swank says.
“When Warner Brothers kept asking me what I wanted to do, I kept saying P.S. I Love You. So after Richard and I had done Freedom Writers, which was such a good collaboration, we wanted to do something else together and he was always saying to me ‘You are such a funny, girly girl, I think you should do a comedy of some sort.”
Swank started her road to stardom after being discovered by producer Suzy Sachs.
At just nine, the naturally gifted athlete starred in her first play as Mowgli in The Jungle Book. In 1990 she moved to Los Angeles with her mother to start acting professionally.
With roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, then The Next Karate Kid in 1994, Swank started establishing herself. In 1999 she won her first Oscar for portraying Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry and now has an extensive resume that includes roles in The Black Dahlia, The Gift and Insomnia.
P.S. I Love You follows the relationship of soulmates Holly and Gerry. Everything in their lives is going to plan until tragedy strikes.
Gerry falls ill and passes away, leaving his 32-year-old wife a lost and lonely widow. After the funeral, the loss of her husband hits Holly so hard that she closes herself off from the world, confining herself to their marital apartment.
Eventually her mother, played by Kathy Bates, and best friends (Lisa Kudrow and Gina Gershon) force Holly to rediscover the outside world.
“I’d been searching for a great movie like this and they are very few and far between,” Swank says.
“It’s really hard to find a comedy with heart, real laughter, and comedy based in reality. Most comedies are written for men. I am not calling this a full-blown comedy because I know there are a lot of dramatic moments as well, but I guess that’s the challenge, finding the humour within the reality of the tragedy.”
It was Swank and Butler’s first time on camera together, but she says chemistry wasn’t difficult to find.
“Oh, he’s so wonderful. Gerry is obviously a talent, but people don’t know him very well yet because he’s fairly new to the business.
“But he’s just such a gem of a person, very funny and very charming. I’d work with him forever. I adore him.”
Swank laughs as she recalls a scene in which Butler does a striptease in the couple’s bedroom.
It appears harmless, but Swank was taken to hospital to get stitches after the metal clamp from Butler’s suspenders flew across the room and embedded in her forehead.
“We laughed so hard during the striptease scene,” she says.
“Gerry was so funny because he was so nervous and wanted it to be funny, but was afraid it wouldn’t be.
“But when that suspender swung across the room and hit my head it hurt so badly. I was laughing and crying at the same time because I couldn’t figure out what happened.”