Swank on the 'magenta carpet' at Life Ball 2013 in Vienna, Austria
|Born||Hilary Ann Swank
July 30, 1974
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
|Spouse(s)||Chad Lowe (m. 1997–2007)|
Swank made her film debut in a minor role in the 1992 comedy film Buffy the Vampire Slayer before starring in her breakout lead role in the fourth installment of the The Karate Kid franchise The Next Karate Kid in 1994, alongside Pat Morita. On television, she was cast as part of the main cast in the eighth season of the drama series Beverly Hills 90210 as single mother Carly Reynolds from 1997 to 1998. Swank garnered critical acclaim for her portrayal of Brandon Teena in the 1999 biographical indie film Boys Don't Cry, which earned her the Academy Award for Best Actress and Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama. She starred in Clint Eastwood's 2004 sports drama film Million Dollar Baby as struggling-waitress-turned-boxer Maggie Fitzgerald, which won her a second Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress as well as the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role.
Her other films include, The Gift (2000), Insomnia (2002), Iron Jawed Angels (2004), The Reaping (2007), P.S. I Love You (2007), Freedom Writers (2007), the biographical aviation film Amelia (2009) and New Year's Eve (2011). In 2014 she stars in two films, You're Not You, and The Homesman.
Swank was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. Her mother, Judy Kay (née Clough), was a secretary and dancer, and her father, Stephen Michael Swank, was a Chief Master Sergeant in the Oregon Air National Guard and later a traveling salesman. She has a brother Daniel, who is eight years her senior. Many of Swank's family members are from Ringgold County, Iowa. Her maternal grandmother, Frances Martha Dominguez, was of Mexican (Spanish and Native American) descent, while Hilary's paternal grandmother was born in England; Hilary's roots also include German, other English, Swiss-German, Scottish, Scots-Irish, Welsh, and Dutch ancestry. The surname "Swank", originally Schwenk, is of German origin.
She attended Happy Valley Elementary, Fairhaven Middle, then Sehome High School in Bellingham until she was sixteen. She also competed in the Junior Olympics and the Washington state championships in swimming, and she ranked fifth in the state in all-around gymnastics. Swank made her first appearance on stage when she was nine years old, starring in The Jungle Book. She became involved in school and community theater programs, including those of the Bellingham Theatre Guild and The Seattle Children's Theater.
When she was fifteen, her parents separated, and she 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. Swank has called her mother the inspiration for her acting career and her life. In California, Swank enrolled in South Pasadena High School, dropping out later. She described her time at South Pasadena High School: “I felt like such an outsider. I didn't feel like I fit in. I didn't belong in any way. I didn't even feel like the teachers wanted me there. I just felt like I wasn't seen or understood.” She explained her becoming an actor out of feeling as an outsider: “As a kid I felt that I belonged only when I read a book or saw a movie, and could get involved with a character. It was natural that I became an actor because I longed so much to be those other people, or at least to play them”.
Swank made her film acting debut in the 1992 film Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a small role, after which she acted in the direct-to-video drama Quiet Days in Hollywood, where she co-starred with her future husband at the time Chad Lowe. Her first leading film role was in the fourth installment of the Karate Kid series, The Next Karate Kid (1994), which utilized her gymnastics background and paired her with Pat Morita. In 1995, she appeared with British actor Bruce Payne in Kounterfeit. In 1994, she also starred in the drama Cries Unheard: The Donna Yaklich Story as the abused step-daughter who was protected by Donna (Jaclyn Smith). In September 1997, Swank played single mother Carly Reynolds in Beverly Hills, 90210 and was initially promised it would be a two-year role, but saw her character written out after 16 episodes in January 1998. Swank later stated 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."
The firing freed her to audition for the role of Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry. To prepare for the role, Swank lived as a man for a month, and reduced her body fat to seven percent. Many critics hailed her as the best female performance of 1999, and her work ultimately won her the Golden Globe and Oscar for Best Actress. Swank had earned only $75 per day for her work on Boys Don't Cry, culminating in a total of $3,000. Her earnings were so low that she had not even earned enough to qualify for health insurance.
Swank again won the Best Actress Oscar and another Golden Globe, for playing a female boxer in Clint Eastwood's 2004 film Million Dollar Baby, a role for which she underwent extensive training in the ring and weight room gaining 19 pounds of muscle aided by professional trainer Grant L Roberts. With her second Oscar, she had joined the ranks of Vivien Leigh, Helen Hayes and Luise Rainer as the only actresses to have been nominated for Academy Awards twice and win both times. 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."
In 2006, Swank signed a three-year contract with Guerlain for the women's fragrance Insolence. She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 8, 2007 and was the 2,325th star presented.
In 2007, Swank starred in Freedom Writers, about how a real-life teacher, Erin Gruwell, inspired a California high school class. Many reviews of her performance were positive, with one critic noting that she "brings credibility" to the role, and another stating that her performance reaches a "singular lack of artifice, stripping herself back to the bare essentials". Swank next starred in the horror film The Reaping, as a debunker of religious phenomena it was released on April 5, 2007. Swank convinced the producers to move the film's setting from New England to the Deep South, and the film was being filmed in Baton Rouge, Louisiana when Hurricane Katrina struck. The same year, she also appeared in the romantic drama P.S. I Love You with Gerard Butler.
Swank portrayed the pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart in the biopic film Amelia that she also co-executive produced. Filming began in summer 2008 in a number of international locations and Swank met Robert Bresnik, a San Diego artist who supported her role as Earhart by producing several photographic reproductions of the flyer, at Legoland. Bresnik's grandfather Albert Bresnik was Earhart's official photographer, and he owned the original negatives of his grandfather's shoots.
In 2012, Swank's audiobook recording of Caroline Knapp's Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs was released at Audible.com. In 2013, she has starred in the television film Mary and Martha along with Brenda Blethyn. She played a woman whose son has died of malaria.
Swank is attached to star in the Hollywood remake of Intimate Strangers. It was incorrectly reported that she would play a lead role in, and produce a film adaptation of the John Marks novel Fangland.
Human rights controversy
In October 2011, Swank attracted controversy for attending an event in Chechnya's capital Grozny on the 35th birthday of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov on October 5. After wishing him "Happy birthday, Mr. President", she reportedly claimed knowledge about Kadyrov saying: "I read. I do my provisory research". Following criticism from human rights groups, who report having informed her about the human rights abuses in Chechnya prior to the event, asking her to reconsider her participation, Swank said she was unaware that Kadyrov had been accused of human rights violations and that she "deeply regrets" taking part in the lavish concert, and will donate her personal appearance fees "to various charitable organizations."
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- "Hollywood stars fly in on Chechen leader's birthday". BBC. October 7, 2011.
- Elder, Miriam (October 13, 2011). "Hilary Swank 'regrets' partying with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov". The Guardian. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
- "Russia: Celebrities Should Refuse Pay for Chechnya Gala". Human Rights Watch. October 11, 2011. Retrieved October 14, 2011.
- "Hilary Swank apologizes". Human Rights Foundation. October 13, 2011. Retrieved October 14, 2011.[dead link]
- "Hilary Swank Will Donate Chechen Cash To Charity". Huffington Post. October 14, 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2011.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Hilary Swank.|
- Hilary Swank at the Internet Movie Database
- Hilary Swank at the TCM Movie Database
- Hilary Swank at AllMovie
- "Hilary Swank Interview". American Academy of Achievement, Washington, D.C. June 22, 2007.