Gerard Butler Discusses 'P.S. I Love You'

Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler star in PS I Love You. © Warner Bros Pictures

At the Los Angeles press junket for the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You Gerard Butler was asked by a male reporter if, after winning over the hearts of women worldwide in 300 and now starring – and stripping – in P.S. I Love You, he’d just give real guys a break. Butler’s response came accompanied by a hearty chuckle. “I should give myself a break as well because I’m only playing characters. I’m not, unfortunately, like either of them in real life.

Not quite as powerful as Leonidas and not quite as charming and sweet as ‘Gerry’. I’m only letting myself down as well.”

Gerard Butler plays a husband who, knowing he only has a short time left to live, writes a series of letters hoping to help his wife handle the grieving process after his death. Despite the fact he dies near the beginning of the film, Butler fans should be happy to note that his death early on in the film just means a large portion of his scenes are either flashbacks or with his wife Holly (Hilary Swank) imagining him still alive and kicking.

Playing a dead guy didn’t affect how he approached the character of Gerry. “If you sit and think about it, that might feel like a problem. But to me, I was just being Gerry. These were experiences that happened. They may be memories, but they’re just flashbacks so I was just playing it like I would have played it for real. Whether they’d been a part of the story without being a flashback or a memory, I wouldn’t have done it any different I don’t think.

Even the parts where I’m kind of in her mind and you think, ‘Am I in her mind or is he actually a ghost?’ Again, to me, it’s real to me. I’m not aware of that, and I think anything else would be not right for the story. When I’m there playing a song in her living room, I’m there playing a song in her living room.

It’s like just another day at the house except I’m talking in a way as if I’d always been there, except about being dead. I know that sounds weird, but in actuality that’s what works the best.”

With P. S. I Love You Butler leaves the action genre for a bit and returns to a more character-driven, intimate story, like he did with Dear Frankie. “It’s really nice to get back in touch with more human, more real, more subtle, genuine, emotional relationships,” admitted Butler. “What was cool about this was, one, I’m working with a two-time Oscar winner in Richard [LaGravenese] who’s such an incredibly talented writer. But two, I was having a chance to do all of that but also be funny. I always wanted a chance to be funny in something again. I’ve been offered a few comedies over the years and not taken them because it would have been me just doing it for the sake of doing a comedy. They weren’t quite good enough. Whereas this, his writing is so phenomenal that it’s been a long time since this happened where I’ve literally picked it up and gone, ‘I can’t believe I’m getting the chance to say that. This is just awesome.’ When you get a role like that and you’re dying to do these scenes because you just think they’re hilarious or silly or irreverent or beautiful, it’s great.

This is my favorite part of my job.”

Butler’s not totally unlike the film’s Gerry. “I saw a lot of my better parts in him and then I could also see a lot of my downfalls in him in so much as things that he has that I didn’t think I had,” said Butler. “But like a purity that goes further, that ability to be kind of instinctively profound and easy with life, and that applies to his relationships, to his friends, that I feel that I have sometimes but not as much as I would like. Like, I worry over things too much or I let other things get in the way. You felt with Gerry he was just one of these guys that his priorities just naturally fell into the right way. He knew how to make everybody feel great, and it just came with a lot of ease. I have those moments, but not as much as I would like.”

Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays an old friend and former bandmate of Butler’s in the film and credits the plentiful supply of Guinness with helping him get over having to sing, play the guitar and do an Irish accent in the romantic comedy.

Butler has his own Guinness connection. “Believe it or not I was actually the Guinness man in Ireland when I first started out,” revealed Butler. “I did a Guinness commercial for Ireland and I played identical twins in it. That was really cool. I had a lot of fun. I filmed in Dublin and I filmed in LA. So now I’m playing an Irishman and I’m talking about Guinness, so maybe there was some sense of destiny to Gerry Kennedy. But yeah, it’s difficult to take the Guinness out of Ireland or Ireland out of the Guinness. It’s like taking the bagpipes out of Scotland, I suppose.”

He sang in Phantom of the Opera so that part of getting into character wasn’t too difficult for the Scottish actor. “You know, I used to sing in a rock band for fun – not professionally. But those kinds of songs for me, I’ve always kind of loved to sing. I hadn’t actually sung for a while but the pressure was off, as opposed to the Phantom where it’s a very different style of singing. It took a lot more training. There was a lot more pressure. In this, it wasn’t about Gerry being a great singer. It was about being a singer singing for fun. It was karaoke, so I actually had a great time. I loved the songs that I got to sing so it was nice to be able to sing in that environment.”

In real life, Butler’s karaoke choices are the classics. “I love karaoke and I’m very good at the cheesy ones, like New York, New York or I Did It My Way. I can see people when I do it going, ‘Oh no, he’s not doing My Way again!,’ with their heads in their hands.

But I love it. I only really have three or four karaoke songs that I know. I always get nervous because a couple times I sang karaoke thinking I knew songs, and then when I started singing and the words came out I realized I didn’t know [them]. I could see the words but I didn’t know when they came. There’s nothing worse than doing that in front of a big crowd. Never again. Never again. I’ve had a couple of disasters.”

Page 2: On Hilary Swank's Injury and His Career

Page 2

Gerard Butler’s co-star, two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank, managed to survive a boxing movie without injury however she wasn’t so lucky on the set of P.S. I Love You. During the filming of Butler’s striptease, Swank was struck in the face with one of Butler’s suspenders and required stitches. Butler, of course, felt horrible about the accident. “It was maybe my worst day as an actor. I can laugh now because she laughs at it, and quite enjoys telling people the story,” said Butler.

“But at the time, I mean, it was an accident but still the suspender was on my boxer shorts. It got stuck behind me and I’d been doing this scene for a day and a half, stripping, moving, dancing, and then pretending that it hits me in the eye. And it got stuck behind me and flew over my head, and hit her in the head.”

“Within 5 minutes she’d been taken to the hospital. The whole set, everyone was talking, ‘That’s a wrap,’ and they’re all gone. And I’m sitting on the bed on my own. And I have to say, I busted my balls in that scene. There’s times as an actor where you go, ‘Okay, I know I’ve given a lot for this.’ And you’re making a fool of yourself, you’re dancing about in front of a bunch of guys, it’s appreciated when you keep that up that you’ve given a lot. And at the end of that all I had as thanks was that I scarred Hilary Swank and that a production had shut down for five days [laughing].

It was kind of like, ‘This isn’t right. I don’t feel I deserve that.’ But she was so cool about it immediately, literally when it happened. She knew that it wasn’t pretty and I said, ‘I’m so sorry.’ She said, ‘Don’t even go there. Don’t even go there because this [isn’t] your fault,’ which I thought said a lot about Hilary, the kind of person she is.”

The huge box office success of 300 helped propel Gerard Butler into a different level of stardom, although his diehard fans (he could quite possibly be the most popular actor on the internet, based on the incredible number of fansites dedicated to his life and career) didn’t need that action epic to know Butler’s one to watch. Asked how his life’s changed over the past few years with a couple of starring roles in big studio films under his belt, Butler replied, “My bones creak a little bit more. I mean, it’s changed. I can’t avoid the fact that, in terms of success with my career, that’s changed a lot. In terms of the work that I’m now doing, the interest, even awareness, it’s all increased hugely. That’s been fantastic, but it’s brought a whole new set of pressures. That is also kind of learning, how would you say, to pace myself because I’m now presented with even better work and better directors and more exciting opportunities and it’s hard to resist that. So I’ve now done three films back to back and I’ve said no to a hundred times that many, so it’s kind of tough.”

“But in terms of anything other than that, celebrity status or stardom, that’s always just a matter of degree anyway.

You can still get around that. I think a lot of people really play on that a little too much and it’s not really my thing. I’m very blessed to do what I do, and I work really hard at it. In fact, I think I work too hard at it [laughing]. I think that I should calm it down a little and take some time off, but it’s a good feeling when you can feel there’s a real strong foundation and the ball is rolling on its own, and you don’t have to hype yourself around and do anything other than the jobs, which is really what I [like]. I can’t lie. If I could just stick to the acting and not have to do press, I’d be more than happy, because I’m an actor. I find it hard to do both. Like, I’m in the middle of a film right now and already struggling to get through that film. It’s great, I love it, but it’s hard work.

And then suddenly you have to come and do 250 interviews about a film… I’ll finish here and go straight back and start working at 5 on Tuesday morning.”

As for choosing roles, Butler doesn’t have a grand plan but he does have specific things he looks for in scripts. “I think you have some general guidelines, but you can’t apply some hard and strict rules about that. At the end of the day it’s what excites you the most, for whatever reason that may be, because the script is so well-written or brilliant or imaginative, or the character is really cool or different or moving. But also being careful not to climb back into the same hole you’ve just been in, so I’m always trying to change it up a little bit.”

The actor was rumored to be attached to the Untouchables prequel and had been announced as taking over the role of Snake Plissken in the remake of Escape from New York, something the original Snake - Kurt Russell - wasn't too pleased to hear. Commenting on those two projects, Butler said, “Untouchables was something where I’d never done anything like that before so. I don’t know what’s going on with that right now. Snake Plissken, that I’d say the changes are not quite going the way that I wanted to see them go so I’m not involved in that one anymore. This often happens. You get involved in projects on the understanding that, at the end of the day for a million different reasons, they might not happen. You know, you hope they will. A lot of the projects I have over the years become involved in are because other actors who were involved in them dropped out, so I guess that’s the way they worked.”

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Murray, Rebecca. "Gerard Butler Discusses 'P.S. I Love You'." ThoughtCo, Mar. 2, 2017, Murray, Rebecca. (2017, March 2). Gerard Butler Discusses 'P.S. I Love You'. Retrieved from Murray, Rebecca. "Gerard Butler Discusses 'P.S. I Love You'." ThoughtCo. (accessed December 11, 2017).