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Hilary Swank - Goddesses of the Silver Screen
360    Dibyendu Banerjee    29/12/2023

Born on 30 July 1974 in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Judy Kay, a secretary and former dancer, and Stephen Michael Swank, who served the Oregon Air National Guard as a Chief Master Sergeant and later a travelling salesman, Hilary Ann Swank came from humble beginnings, particularly as a child growing up in a trailer park near Lake Samish in Bellingham, Washington, where she moved at age six, after having lived in Spokane, Washington. She made her first appearance on stage when she was nine years old, starring in The Jungle Book and until 16, she attended Happy Valley Elementary School, Fairhaven Middle School and Sehome High School in Bellingham and became involved in school and community theatre programs, including those of the Bellingham Theatre Guild. However, apart from that, she also competed in the Junior Olympics, the Washington state championships in swimming, and ranked fifth in the state in all-around gymnastics.

hilary swank

Her parents separated when Hilary was thirteen and her mother, supportive of her daughter’s passion for acting, moved to Los Angeles, where they lived out of their car until the mother found a job and could save enough money to rent an apartment. During that time, Hilary enrolled in South Pasadena High School and at the same time, started acting professionally to earn by appearing in commercials and television programs such as Evening Shade and Growing Pains. However, soon she dropped out from the school as she felt herself an outsider in the school and also felt that she belonged only when read a book or watch a movie and could get involved with a character.

hilary swank
Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992)

In the early 1990s, Hilary Swank played guest roles on several TV shows, which include Harry and the Hendersons, Evening Shade and Growing Pains and finally made her film debut as a high school student in the comedy horror Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). However, her first leading film role was in The Next Karate Kid (1994), in which she appeared as Julie Piercs and utilized her gymnastics background.

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After that, following several horrible TV movies, she appeared as Carly Reynolds, a single mother, in the popular TV series Beverly Hills 90210, but although it was initially promised to be a two-year role, she was devastated to discover that her character written out after 16 episodes in January 1998.

hilary swank
Boys Don’t Cry (1999)

However, although the firing from the series appeared to be a devastating setback, it freed her to audition for the role of Brandon Teena in the cult film Boys Don’t Cry (1999), her breakout role, which she bagged competing against hundreds of other actresses and would make her a major motion picture star. In preparation for the role, Swank walked the streets of New York City dressed as a man for a month, eliminating every trace of feminine mannerisms, reduced her body fat to 7%, but earned only US$75 per day for her work on the film, culminating in a total of $3,000, which was not enough to qualify for health insurance. Nevertheless, the film made her famous and upon release, critics fluently lauded her performance in the film, with Premiere listing it as one of the 100 Greatest Performances of All Time. In addition, Hilary Swank won the Academy Award for the Best Actress in a Leading Role, the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Drama, along with the Best Actress prizes from The New York Film Critics, The Chicago Film Critics, The Los Angeles Film Critics and many more.

hilary swank
The Affair of the Nacklace (2001)

After that, Hilary appeared in supporting roles in several films, which include the role of Valerie Barksdale in Sam Raimi’s The Gift (2000), starring Cate Blanchett, Katie Holms and Keanu Reeves and the role of Jeanne St Remy de Valois, a countess whose name was stripped from her by the Royal Family during the late 18th Century, in the American historical drama film The Affair of the Necklace (2001), which gave her the first opportunity to appear in an elegant costume drama. Apart from that, she also portrayed the role of Ellie Barr in Christopher Nolan’s thriller Insomnia (2002), opposite Al Pacino and Robin Williams and the role of Beck in the sci-fi adventure film The Core (2003).

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Although all those films were only marginally successful, Hilary Swank was highly acclaimed for her performance as Alice Paul in the HBO TV movie Iron Jawed Angels (2004), depicting the story of the women's suffragist movement and was honoured with both SAG and Golden Globe nominations.

hilary swank
Million Dollar Baby (2004)

However, Hilary Swank came back boldly and created history, when she won her second Oscar, joining the ranks of Vivien Leigh, Sally Field and Luise Rainer, for being nominated for Academy Awards for Best Actress twice and won both times, for her performance in the leading role of a female boxer in her quest to materialise her dream of becoming a professional boxer in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (2004), for which she underwent extensive training in the ring and weight room and gaining 19 pounds of muscle. In addition to her second Academy Award for Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role, Hilary also garnered a Golden Globe for Best Lead Actress in a Drama, along with the Best Actress Award from the National Society of Film Critics, the Screen Actors Guild and The Broadcast Film Critics for her stunning performance in the film.

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Consequently, Hilary Swank also received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, a historic landmark in the motion picture category on 8 January 2007.

hilary swank
The Black Dahlia (2006)

Swank’s later films included The Black Dahlia (2006), a neo-noir crime thriller film directed by Brian De Palma, in which she played the role of Madeleine Linscot, the daughter of a prominent rich couple, who harbours a dark and twisted connection to the Black Dahlia, Freedom Writers (2007), playing the role of an inner-city school teacher, the horror film The Reaping (2007), and the romantic comedy P.S.I Love You (2007). However, Hilary Swank enjoyed another high point in her career when she appeared as the feminist icon and the aviation pioneer Amelia Earhart in the biopic Amelia (2009), directed by Mira Nair. The following year, she starred in the drama Conviction (2010), the real-life story of Betty Ann Waters, a high school dropout who puts herself through law school in the course of an 18-year campaign to win the vindication of a brother she believed had been wrongly convicted of murder.

hilary swank

Hilary’s important films during the next decade include the thriller The Resident (2011), the western The Homesman (2014)span>, Steven Soderbergh’s heist comedy Logan Lucky (2017), the drama film What They Had (2018), in which she played a woman who returns home to help her family manage its matriarch’s progressing dementia and the sci-fi thriller I Am Mother (2019), centred on a girl raised by a robot designed to repopulate the earth.

hilary swank

In her personal life, Hilary met Chad Lowe while filming Quiet Days in Hollywood (1997) and married him on 28 September 1997. However, they were officially divorced on 1 November 2007, after which she began dating her agent, John Campisi, which ended in May 2012. After that, she announced her engagement to Ruben Torres, a financial advisor and former professional tennis player on 22 March 2016, but after dating since May 2015, her representative confirmed in June 2016 that she had ended their engagement. Finally, after two years of dating, she married entrepreneur Philip Schneider on 18 August 2018 and on 10 April 2023, at the age of 48, she announced that she welcomed her twins, a son and a daughter.

Jennifer Connelly Penelope Cruz
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Author Details
Dibyendu Banerjee
Ex student of Scottish Church College. Served a Nationalised Bank for nearly 35 years. Authored novels in Bengali. Translated into Bengali novels/short stories of Leo Tolstoy, Eric Maria Remarque, D.H.Lawrence, Harold Robbins, Guy de Maupassant, Somerset Maugham and others. Also compiled collections of short stories from Africa and Third World. Interested in literature, history, music, sports and international films.
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