Categories Career Movies

Swank finds another tough female role

The book: ‘You’re Not You’ by Michelle Wildgen The buyers: Hilary Swank and Molly Smith

The deal

Alcon Entertainment, on behalf of Hilary Swank and her producing partner, Molly Smith, options Michelle Wildgen’s “You’re Not You,” a highly praised novel about a woman dying from Lou Gehrig’s disease and a younger woman who takes care of her.

The players

Swank (“Boys Don’t Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby”) and Smith (“P.S. I Love You”) producing, along with Denise DiNovi and Alison Greenspan from DiNovi Pictures (“The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants”). Wildgen represented on film rights by Creative Artists Agency, on literary rights by Emilie Stewart and the Anne Edelstein Literary Agency. The book is published by Picador.

The back story

Swank has won two Oscars for convention-shattering roles, as a transsexual and as a female boxer. She’s taken on yet another challenge by optioning a novel for a film in which she plans to star as a once-vital woman who is dying of a terminal disease and is gradually losing her powers of speech. “It’s a heavy subject, there’s no doubt,” Smith said. “But Hilary loves strong female roles that ask her to do something she hasn’t done before, and this is a part she can sink her teeth into.”

“You’re Not You” is the first project for Swank and Smith’s new production company, which has a first-look deal with Alcon. But the initial push to adapt Wildgen’s book came from Greenspan. Her sister recommended the novel, noting that a key character — like their dad — had Lou Gehrig’s disease. “I thought this could be a special film, because there aren’t that many great parts for women, and this story has two,” Greenspan said. “They give each other valuable gifts before one dies and the other is launched into adulthood.” Looking ahead to a possible option, it also helped that the book was praised by O, the Oprah Magazine.

Greenspan showed the novel to her boss, DiNovi, who instantly envisioned Swank in the role and got the book to her. Hollywood is famous for great deals that never get on track, but this one had luck and timing on its side. “We were lucky to work with an actress who is serious about developing her own material and producing,” DiNovi said. “Some actors just talk about it, but Hilary puts in the time and work. It could have easily taken us six years to put this together. But it moved along quickly, and we’re thrilled.”