Hilary Swank

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Hilary Ann Swank (born July 30, 1974) is an American actress. Her Hollywood film career began with a small part in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) and then a major part in The Next Karate Kid (1994), where she played Julie Pierce, the first female protégé of the sensei Mr. Miyagi. She has become known for her two Academy Award-winning performances: first as Brandon Teena, a transgender man in the movie Boys Don't Cry (1999), and a struggling waitress-turned-boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald, in Million Dollar Baby (2004).

Early life

Swank was born in Lincoln, Nebraska,[1] the daughter of Judy (née Clough), a secretary and dancer, and Stephen Swank, who was an officer in the Air National Guard and later a traveling salesman.[2] She has a brother, Dan. Many of her family members hail from Ringgold County, Iowa.[3] Swank came from humble beginnings, particularly as a child growing up in a trailer park near Lake Samish in Bellingham, Washington,[4] to which she moved at age six,[1] after having lived in Spokane, Washington. Swank has described her younger self as an "outsider" who felt that she belonged "only when [reading] a book or [seeing] a movie, and could get involved with a character," and was thus inspired to become an actress.[5]

When Swank was nine years old, she made her first appearance on stage starring in The Jungle Book. She became involved in school and community theater programs, including those of the Bellingham Theatre Guild. She went to Sehome High School[6] in Bellingham until she was sixteen. Swank also competed in the Junior Olympics and the Washington state championships in swimming; she ranked fifth in the state in all-around gymnastics[1] (which would come in handy when starring in The Next Karate Kid (1994) years later). Swank's parents separated when she was thirteen,[1] and her mother, supportive of her daughter's desire to act, moved to Los Angeles, where they lived out of their car until Swank's mother saved enough money to rent an apartment.[4] Swank has described her mother as the inspiration for her acting career and her life.[7] In California, Swank enrolled in South Pasadena High School (although she later dropped out of school[8]) and started acting professionally. She helped pay the rent with the money she earned appearing in television programs such as Evening Shade and Growing Pains.


The Next Karate Kid is a 1994 film starring Hilary Swank and Pat Morita. It is the fourth and final movie in the Karate Kid series. In September 1997, Swank was cast as single mother Carly Reynolds on Beverly Hills, 90210. She was initially promised it would be a two-year role, but saw her character written out after 16 episodes in January 1998. Swank later said that she was devastated at being cut from the show, thinking, "If I'm not good enough for 90210, I'm not good enough for anything."

As it turned out, the firing was a lucky break for Swank, freeing her to audition for the role of Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry. Swank reduced her body fat to seven percent in preparation for the role.[9] Many critics hailed hers as the best female performance of 1999; her co-star, Chloë Sevigny, had her performance singled out as well. Swank's work ultimately won her the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Actress. She subsequently won the Best Actress Oscar and Golden Globe again for playing a boxer in Clint Eastwood's 2004 Oscar-winning film Million Dollar Baby, a role for which she underwent training in the ring and gained 19 pounds of muscle.[9]

Swank's success meant that she had joined the ranks of Vivien Leigh, Helen Hayes, Sally Field, and Luise Rainer as the only actresses to have been nominated for Academy Awards twice and win both times. She is the third-youngest double Best Actress winner (after Rainer and Jodie Foster). After winning her second Oscar, she said, "I don't know what I did in this life to deserve this. I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream." Swank had earned only $75 per day for her work on Boys Don't Cry, culminating in a total of $3,000.[10] [11][1] Her earnings were so low, that (according to an anecdote on 60 Minutes) she had not even earned enough to qualify for health insurance.

In early 2006, Swank signed a three-year contract as spokesperson for Guerlain (a women's fragrance).[12] In 2007, Swank starred in and executive produced[13] Freedom Writers, a drama about a real-life teacher who inspired a California high school class. Many reviews of Swank's performance were positive, with one critic noting that she "brings credibility" to the role[14] and another stating that her performance reaches a "singular lack of artifice, stripping herself back to the bare essentials".[15]

Swank starred in The Reaping, a horror film released on April 5, 2007, in which she plays a debunker of religious phenomena. Swank convinced the producers to move the film's setting from New England to the Deep South, and the movie was being filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, when Hurricane Katrina struck.[16] Swank also appeared in the romantic comedy P.S. I Love You alongside Gerard Butler, an actor for whom she has much praise.[17] It was released at the end of 2007.[16]

Swank received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 8, 2007. Hers was the 2,325th star presented.[18][19]

Variety online reported in February 2008, that Swank would be portraying Amelia Earhart, and be co-executive producer for a biopic titled Amelia.[20] Filming occurred in the summer of 2008 in a number of international locations. Swank is also attached to star in the Hollywood remake version of Intimate Strangers.[1]

Personal life

Swank has said that she is "an actor, not a celebrity" and has described herself as a "homebody."[16] Swank considers herself a spiritual person, though not a member of an organized religion[21]. She has said that she is "athletically inclined" and that she "love[s] sports."[13]

Swank developed potential health problems, including elevated mercury levels in her body, through certain preparations for her roles, including weight gain and loss for Boys Don't Cry and The Black Dahlia. She has stated that she would "do what [she] need[s] to make [the role] believable and to make it work" and that her "battle scars are a reminder that you're alive and human and that you bleed."[9] In 2007, Swank noted that she "feel[s] like in the last couple of years, I’ve really come into my own and a lot of that has come from figuring out who I really am and what I want in life."[4]

Swank married actor Chad Lowe on September 28, 1997. The two met in 1992, on the set of Quiet Days in Hollywood, a direct-to-video film.[1] Swank infamously forgot to thank Lowe during her acceptance speech after winning her first Oscar in 2000, and she spent nearly every public appearance afterward making up for it. Upon winning her second Oscar in 2005, Lowe was the first person she thanked. However, in January 2006, the couple separated. In subsequent interviews, Swank expressed hope that they could reconcile, but they announced in May 2006 that they were divorcing.[22] In December 2006, Swank confirmed that she was dating John Campisi, her agent.[23]

External links


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Dawson, Angela. "The write stuff", The Detroit News Online, 2007-01-02. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  2. Hilary Swank Biography (1974-)
  3. http://coolice.legis.state.ia.us/Cool-ICE/default.asp?Category=BillInfo&Service=Billbook&ga=81&hbill=SR16
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Longsdorf, Amy. "Swank: Acting gave me sense of focus", TimesLeader, 2007-01-03. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  5. "HILARY AND HUNKY PATRICK PICTURE PERFECT AT PREMIERE", Hello! Magazine, 2007-01-05. Retrieved on 2007-01-07.
  6. Tiscali UK (2006). Hilary Swank Biography. tiscali.film & tv web site. Retrieved on 2006-11-24. Biography spreads across 9 web pages. High School information is on page 2.
  7. "Hilary Swank tells all to Extra", United Press International, 2007-01-03. Retrieved on 2007-01-04.
  8. Slotek, Jim. "Swank’s life lessons", Calgary Sun, 2007-01-04. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "SWANK RISKS HEALTH FOR ROLES", PR Inside, 2006-12-20. Retrieved on 2006-12-20.
  10. "Jamie Bell's life story put on screen", The Guardian, 2001-07-17.
  11. Arc Lavine. "Prize fight", Sunday Tribune, 2005-03-06.
  12. "Hillary Swank's new sweet smelling deal", ABC, 2006-02-28.
  13. 13.0 13.1 Westbrook, Bruce. "Like her Freedom heroine, Hilary Swank loves her job", Houston Chronicle, 2007-01-05. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  14. Sanford, James. "Swank brings credibility to `Freedom Writers'", Kalamazoo Gazzette, 2007-01-05. Retrieved on 2007-01-06.
  15. Roach, Vicky. "Hilary's all class", The Sunday Telegraph, 2007-03-22. Retrieved on 2007-03-25.
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 Hart, Hugh. "Real scare for cast of 'Reaping'", San Francisco Chronicle, 2007-04-01. Retrieved on 2007-04-01.
  17. Hilary Swank: Light and Shade, interview with stv.tv, December 2007
  18. "Hilary Swank to get star on Hollywood Walk of Fame", English.eastday.com, 2007-01-08. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.
  19. Associated Press. "Hilary Swank gets star on Hollywood Walk of Fame", The Mercury News, 2007-01-08. Retrieved on 2007-01-08.
  20. Variety:Amelia
  21. Hilary-Swank-Interview, Reaping Movie accessed 05 september 2008
  22. "Hilary Swank says "we're still married"", MSN BC, 2006-01-17.
  23. "Swank is dating her agent", Contact Music, 2006-12-20. Retrieved on 2006-12-20.

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