Swank plays Holly, a thirtysomething New Yorker whose charismatic Irish husband (Gerard Butler, wearing an excess of leather jewelry) dies young. Soon thereafter, Holly starts receiving a mysterious series of letters that her husband wrote to her before his death—letters encouraging her to find a new life and, presumably, a new love. Gina Gershon and Lisa Kudrow play her two wisecracking best friends, and Harry Connick Jr. is a potential suitor. “It’s romantic but comedic,” says Swank. “Someone who saw it said to me that it’s one of those movies where you laugh through your tears.”
The film is directed by Richard LaGravenese, who directed Swank in last year’s Freedom Writers, about an idealistic inner-city teacher. The two projects were shot back-to-back. “When we were doing Freedom Writers, Richard kept saying to me, ‘You gotta do something romantic and funny. There’s a whole side of you people haven’t seen,’” Swank says.
The million-dollar question: Will audiences actually go see Swank in a chick flick? She can take all the vitamins in the world, but as everybody knows, there’s no Longevity Pak for a Hollywood career. Although Swank is clearly one of the most talented actresses of her generation, and a winner of two best actress Oscars (which puts her in an elite club that also includes Elizabeth Taylor and Jodie Foster), Swank is now in the difficult position of trying to turn around a string of commercial disappointments. Since 2004’s Oscar-winning Million Dollar Baby, she has made The Black Dahlia (2006), the widely panned neo-noir from Brian De Palma in which she played a society temptress; Freedom Writers (2007), which got decent reviews but delivered dismally at the box office; and the much mocked supernatural horror flick The Reaping (2007), which The New York Times called a “schlock-o-rama.”
In fact, even including her two Oscar films (the first, of course, was 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry), Swank has had more duds than winners, and in nearly all genres, from the 18th-century costume drama The Affair of the Necklace to the sci-fi disaster film The Core.
The latest industry intrigue coming out of Warner Bros., the studio behind both The Reaping and P.S. I Love You, can only be adding to the pressure. As first reported by Nikki Finke in her blog Deadline Hollywood Daily this past October, the company’s president of production, Jeff Robinov, allegedly told three different producers that the company would no longer be doing movies with female leads. (This on the heels of a series of big-budget disappointments for the studio, including Foster’s The Brave One and Nicole Kidman’s The Invasion.) Although Robinov has flatly denied ever issuing such an edict, the gossip was discussed and dissected all over town.