THE EMERALD ISLE AND THE BIG APPLE
In bringing Ahern's novel to the screen, the filmmakers shifted the primary setting of the story from Ireland to Manhattan, but it was still important to them to pay homage to the roots of both the book and its author. "I wanted to put Ireland in there in a big way," LaGravenese states, "so the character of Gerry is still Irish, and I created the story that he and Holly first met in Ireland."
At Gerry's behest, Holly also returns to Ireland to visit his family home and retrace the first steps of their relationship. Gerry somehow knew that revisiting the past was the best way to point Holly to a new future, and, LaGravenese smiles, "it gave me a reason to go back and shoot in Ireland, which is one of my favorite places on earth."
Swank notes, "I think it is so important to see where they met and how their relationship began in this beautiful countryside--to see how young and hopeful they were and to get the carefree spirit that they had at the start. I think that's what Gerry was hoping she would find there again when he sends her back."
Principal photography began on location in Ireland, where there was a great deal of interest in the production due largely to the fact that the book was immensely popular and its author happens to be the daughter of the Prime Minister, Bertie Ahern. Photographers and spectators were out in full force, but, regardless, everyone welcomed Ahern's presence on the set. Smith attests, "While we were in Ireland, we were so happy that she spent a lot of time with us. She is delightful--just the most charming, elegant, sweet girl you'd ever want to meet."
The company spent two weeks in Ireland, filming mostly in Wicklow County, an area south of Dublin that is called "the garden of Ireland." The Wicklow National Park is a protected area where no building is allowed, so it provided an unobstructed panorama of rolling hills. Locations in Wicklow County included a small farm in a town called Enniskerry and the little village of Ballylocken.
One of the most important locations in Ireland was Whelan's, the Irish pub where, in a flashback, we see Gerry serenading Holly. "The scene at Whelan's was a mixture of joy and pain," Gerard Butler laughs. "I spent three weeks learning to play the guitar from scratch. I mean, I couldn't even hold it properly or strum it at first, and then trying to find the chords…I remember falling asleep on my feet one night in front of the mirror practicing the guitar. And suddenly I'm up in front of 150 people having to play a song like I'd been doing it for the longest time. But it was all so great in the end."
Flashing forward, Whelan's is also the spot where Holly and her friends first meet William and then watch him perform on the very stage where Gerry had once sung to Holly. LaGravenese worked with his creative team to reflect the time change not only in the practical elements of sets and costumes, but in more subtle ways. Production designer Shepherd Frankel explains, "For the flashback scene, we made the space feel much warmer because it was a very romantic moment between Holly and Gerry. But when she comes back 10 years later, it needed to seem colder without him. Richard and the DP, Terry Stacey, and I talked about how to reinforce that through the design and the way it was lit."
From Ireland, the production team traveled to New York, where much of the filming was accomplished at practical locations. A bar in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, became Patricia's pub. They also filmed at Brooklyn's Prospect Park near an airfield, where planes coming in over the trees often interrupted the filming of an important scene with Hilary Swank and Kathy Bates.
However, the noise of air traffic was minor compared to what the production faced while filming at the Irish Hunger Memorial, in lower Manhattan. The monument is located in the center of a busy business district and right next to Battery Park City, where construction is at an all-time high. "We had concrete mixers, tugboats, ferries, foghorns, planes, helicopters…I was waiting for paratroopers to come down!" jokes LaGravenese. "After a while, all you could do was laugh. It was just hilarious."
The company was also privileged to shoot a pivotal scene between Swank and Harry Connick, Jr. at the iconic Yankee Stadium, which Connick says, "was amazing. Just to be in Yankee Stadium would have been great, but to be there with Hilary on top of the dugout, with the empty stadium behind us and all the lights on--that is a memory I will keep forever."
Several of the film's interiors were built on a soundstage in Brooklyn, including Holly and Gerry's Lower East Side flat. Frankel reveals that he designed the apartment "to be almost like the third character in their relationship. They know it intimately, and the way it was laid out says a lot about who they are. There is not enough space in such a small apartment to store everything, so anything that's important or special to them is very visible. Holly's shoes, for instance, are prominently displayed."
Similarly, costume designer Cindy Evans, who had just worked with both LaGravenese and Swank on "Freedom Writers," spent a lot of time with the director and star deciding how best to dress Swank to reflect Holly's personality. LaGravenese offers, "We wanted to create a character in Holly who was very creative but whose creativity had been somewhat repressed. She didn't have an outlet for it, perhaps because she was fearful of where her future was heading."
The director concludes, "This is a love story, but it's also a journey of self-discovery. It's a story about friendship and family and about how love can be so strong that it stretches across life and death."
DIRECTOR RICHARD LAGRAVENESE
recently directed the true-life drama "Freedom Writers," starring Hilary Swank as inspirational teacher Erin Gruwell. LaGravenese also wrote the screenplay for the film, which was based on the bestselling book by Gruwell and her students. LaGravenese was also one of the 20 international filmmakers who participated in creating the acclaimed film project "Paris je t'aime," a compilation of 20 short films about Paris, which premiered at the 2006 Cannes Film Festival. LaGravenese's segment, "Pigalle," starred Fanny Ardent and Bob Hoskins.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, LaGravenese is a graduate of New York University's Tisch School of the Arts, Experimental Theatre Wing. He first garnered acclaim for his screenplay for "The Fisher King," directed by Terry Gilliam and starring Robin Williams, Jeff Bridges and Mercedes Ruehl, who won an Oscar® for her role. LaGravenese was honored with an Academy Award® nomination, as well as BAFTA and Writers Guild of America Award nominations for Best Original Screenplay.
His subsequent screenwriting credits include "The Ref," directed by Ted Demme and starring Denis Leary, which LaGravenese also produced; Alfonso Cuaron's "A Little Princess"; "Unstrung Heroes," directed by Diane Keaton; Clint Eastwood's "The Bridges of Madison County," based on the bestselling novel and starring Eastwood and Meryl Streep; Barbra Streisand's "The Mirror Has Two Faces"; "The Horse Whisperer," directed by and starring Robert Redford; and Jonathan Demme's "Beloved."
LaGravenese made his directorial debut, from his own original screenplay, for the critically praised "Living Out Loud," starring Holly Hunter, Danny DeVito and Queen Latifah.
In 2003, LaGravenese partnered with Ted Demme to direct and produce the documentary, "A Decade Under the Influence," which explored the groundbreaking films and filmmakers of the 1970s. The film earned an Emmy Award nomination for Outstanding Nonfiction Special and won a National Board of Review Award.
SCREENWRITER STEVEN ROGERS
previously co-wrote the screenplay, based on his own story, for the romantic comedy hit "Kate & Leopold," starring Meg Ryan and Hugh Jackman under the direction of James Mangold. His earlier film credits include the drama "Stepmom," directed by Chris Columbus and starring Susan Sarandon, Julia Roberts and Ed Harris; and Forest Whitaker's "Hope Floats," starring Sandra Bullock and Harry Connick, Jr. For the small screen, Rogers wrote the screenplay for the HBO movie "Earthly Possessions," based on the novel by Anne Tyler.
Rogers' upcoming films include the drama "Flora Plum," to be directed by Jodie Foster, and the independent feature "Road Signs," to be directed by Tate Taylor
AUTHOR CECELIA AHERN
earned a degree in Journalism and Media Communications before embarking on her writing career. At the age of 21, she wrote her first novel, PS, I Love You, which was sold to over forty countries. The book became one of the biggest-selling debut novels of 2004, reaching number one in Ireland and on the UK Sunday Times bestseller list and being selected for the Richard and Judy Summer Read campaign. It was also a bestseller throughout Europe and the USA, staying on the bestseller list in Germany for more than 52 weeks.
In November 2004, her second book, Where Rainbows End (aka Love, Rosie / Rosie Dunne), also reached number one in Ireland and the UK, remaining at the top of the Irish bestsellers list for 12 weeks and becoming a bestseller internationally. One year later, in November 2005, Ahern's third book, If You Could See Me Now, was published and also became an international bestseller. It has been optioned by producer Simon Brooks' SB Films (London) to be made into a movie next year.
In 2005, Ahern was nominated for Best Newcomer at the British Book Awards for PS, I Love You. She won the 2005 Irish Post Award for Literature and a 2005 Corine Award for Where Rainbows End, which was voted on by German readers. In 2006, she was long-listed for the IMPAC Award for PS, I Love You, and in May 2007, Cosmopolitan honored her with a Fun Fearless Fiction Award for If You Could See Me Now.
Ahern's fourth novel, international number one bestseller A Place Called Here, is out now in paperback and went straight to number one in the UK and Ireland. It was published in the U.S. under the title There's No Place Like Here. It has been optioned by Touchstone to be developed as a television drama series. Ahern is currently working on her fifth novel.
In addition, Ahern co-created the new ABC series "Samantha Who?" with screenwriter Don Todd. The show, starring Christina Applegate, has emerged as one of the season's newest hits and has recently been picked up for a full season by the network.
Ahern has also contributed short stories to several anthologies, from which all of her royalties go to charity. She has also written a number of stories that have been published in various magazines.