LOS ANGELES — Casting Harry Connick Jr. in a movie and not having him sing is like hiring Jackie Chan and not have him do any martial arts stunts. But that's what happened in "P.S. Love You."
No, not the Chan thing.
Connick is the only major cast member in the romantic comedy who doesn't belt out a single note.
It seems, according to Connick, there was never any discussion of music. And the New Orleans jazzman is happy that for once he didn't have to sing for his supper.
"It is a different head trip, singing. You have to think 'Can this guy really sing?' or 'Is he kind of a garage-band kind of singer with no technique?' I didn't have to worry about any of that," Connick says during an interview at the Beverly Hilton Hotel.
In the film, Connick plays a bartender who finds himself attracted to the recently widowed Holly (Hilary Swank). He doesn't hold back his feelings because he has Asperger's syndrome, a condition that can lead a person to blurt out whatever is on his mind and be unusually impaired in social situations.
The truth behind the casting of Connick in the nonmelodic role is that director Richard LaGravenese didn't want Connick to get the wrong idea.
"I was afraid to ask him. I didn't want him to think I only cast him because he could sing," the director says.
The only time Connick got to sing during the filming was on his last day of work.
He spotted a piano on the set. Connick was feeling musical withdrawal so he sat down and started to play. It took only a few seconds for a crowd to form. Connick spent 30 minutes taking requests.
So "P.S. I Love You" became the rare occasion when it wasn't music that drove Connick's casting. The first time that happened was when he portrayed a serial killer in the psychological thriller "Copycat," a role Connick never thought he would get.
The logical casting for Connick would be for him to star in a movie musical, but he doesn't think that will happen.
He understands that starring roles in musicals often are given to actors with greater box-office appeal, rather than those with the best voices. Case in point was the selection of Richard Gere in the movie version of "Chicago."
"P.S. I Love You" may have been a nonmusical moment in Connick's life, but the majority of his time is spent with music: touring, a stint on Broadway in "Pajama Game," helping in rebuilding New Orleans.
His main focus behind the work in Louisiana goes back to music. Connick has been working on the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, a place for musicians to meet and play.
"I used to go to Bourbon Street when I was a kid," Connick says. "There was club after club of people who were around when the music started. Real legends. All of us could just go bounce from one club to the next and play with these people from the time we were 5 years old.
"Well, it is all gone now."