Hilary Swank

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Hilary Swank
Life Ball 2013 - magenta carpet Hilary Swank 03.jpg
Swank on the 'magenta carpet' at Life Ball 2013 in Vienna, Austria.
BornHilary Ann Swank
(1974-07-30) July 30, 1974 (age 40)
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
Years active1990–present
Spouse(s)Chad Lowe (m. 1997–2007)
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Hilary Swank
Life Ball 2013 - magenta carpet Hilary Swank 03.jpg
Swank on the 'magenta carpet' at Life Ball 2013 in Vienna, Austria.
BornHilary Ann Swank
(1974-07-30) July 30, 1974 (age 40)
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
Years active1990–present
Spouse(s)Chad Lowe (m. 1997–2007)

Hilary Ann Swank (born July 30, 1974) is an American actress. She has twice won the Academy Award for Best Actress and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 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).

Early life[edit]

Swank was born in Lincoln, Nebraska.[1] Her mother, Judy Kay (née Clough),[2] 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.[3] She has a brother Daniel, who is eight years her senior.[4] Many of Swank's family members are from Ringgold County, Iowa.[1] 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, English, Swiss-German, Scottish, Scots-Irish, Welsh, and Dutch ancestry.[5][6] The surname "Swank", originally Schwenk, is of German origin.[7]

After living in Spokane, Washington, Swank's family moved to a trailer park near Lake Samish in Bellingham, Washington, when Swank was six.[8]

She attended Happy Valley Elementary, Fairhaven Middle, then Sehome High School in Bellingham until she was sixteen.[6][9] 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.[9] 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.[8] Swank has called her mother the inspiration for her acting career and her life.[10] 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.”[8] 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”.[11]


Early work[edit]

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.[4] 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.[6] 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."[12]

Critical success[edit]

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.[6] Swank had earned only $75 per day for her work on Boys Don't Cry, culminating in a total of $3,000.[13] Her earnings were so low that she had not even earned enough to qualify for health insurance.[14]

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.[14] 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.[15] 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."[14]

In 2006, Swank signed a three-year contract with Guerlain for the women's fragrance Insolence.[16] She received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame on January 8, 2007 and was the 2,325th star presented.[17][18]


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,[19] and another stating that her performance reaches a "singular lack of artifice, stripping herself back to the bare essentials".[20] 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.[21] The same year, she also appeared in the romantic drama P.S. I Love You with Gerard Butler.[21][22]

Swank portrayed the pioneering aviator Amelia Earhart in the biopic film Amelia that she also co-executive produced.[23] 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.[24]

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.[25] 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.[26]

Swank is attached to star in the Hollywood remake of Intimate Strangers.[27] It was incorrectly reported that she would play a lead role in, and produce a film adaptation of the John Marks novel Fangland.[28][29]

Personal life[edit]

Swank and First Lady Michelle Obama in 2011

While filming Quiet Days in Hollywood.[4] Swank met actor Chad Lowe.[30] They married on September 28, 1997[31] but divorced on November 1, 2007.[32]

In 2006 Swank began dating her agent, John Campisi[33] They ended their relationship in the summer of 2012.[34]

Human rights controversy[edit]

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.[35] After wishing him "Happy birthday, Mr. President", she reportedly claimed knowledge about Kadyrov saying: "I read. I do my provisory research".[36] 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,[37][38] 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."[39]


Feature films and television shows
1990ABC TGIFDanielle
1991Harry and the HendersonsEpisode: Harry Goes Ape
Evening ShadeAimee No. 12 episodes
1991–1992Growing PainsSasha Serotsky2 episodes
1992Buffy the Vampire SlayerKimberly Hannah
1992–1993Camp WilderDanielle
  • 19 episodes
  • Nominated– Young Artist Award for Best Young Actress in a New Television Series
1994Cries Unheard: The Donna Yaklich StoryPatty YaklichTV movie
Next Karate Kid, TheThe Next Karate KidJulie Pierce
1996Sometimes They Come Back... AgainMichelle PorterDirect-to-video
Terror in the FamilyDeena MartinTV movie
1997Quiet Days in HollywoodLolita
Dying to BelongLisa ConnorsTV movie
The Sleepwalker KillingLauren SchallTV movie
Leaving L.A.Tiffany Roebuck6 episodes
1997–1998Beverly Hills, 90210Carly Reynolds16 episodes
1999Boys Don't CryBrandon Teena
2000Gift, TheThe GiftValerie BarksdaleNominated—Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress
The AuditionShort
2001Affair of the Necklace, TheThe Affair of the NecklaceJeanne St. Rémy de Valois
2002InsomniaDetective Ellie BurrNominated—Empire Award for Best Actress
200311:14BuzzyNominated—DVDX Award for Best Actress (in a DVD Premiere Movie)
Core, TheThe CoreMajor Rebecca Childs
2004Red DustSarah Barcant
Iron Jawed AngelsAlice Paul
Million Dollar BabyMaggie Fitzgerald
2006Black Dahlia, TheThe Black DahliaMadeleine Linscott
2007Reaping, TheThe ReapingKatherine Winter
Freedom WritersErin GruwellGolden Camera Award for Best International Actress
P. S. I Love YouHolly Kennedy
2008Birds of AmericaLaura
2009AmeliaAmelia EarhartHollywood Film Festival Best Actress
2010ConvictionBetty Anne WatersNominated—Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role
2011Resident, TheThe ResidentDr. Juliet DevereauNominated—Fright Meter Award for Best Actress
New Year's EveClaire MorganSegment: Times Square
2013Mary and MarthaMaryTV movie
You're Not YouKateAlso producer; post-production
2014The HomesmanMary Bee CuddyPost-production


  1. ^ a b "Senate Resolution 16 – Introduced". The Iowa Legislature. April 19, 2005. 
  2. ^ "Hilary Swank". Ringgold County IAGenWeb Project. Retrieved October 17, 2011. 
  3. ^ "Hilary Swank Biography (1974–)". Filmreference.com. Retrieved September 9, 2010. 
  4. ^ a b c "Hilary Swank Biography". Yahoo! Inc. 
  5. ^ http://ethnicelebs.com/hilary-swank
  6. ^ a b c d "Interview". Inside the Actors Studio. 2009. 
  7. ^ "The Swank Family". Ringgold County IAGenWeb Project. Retrieved October 17, 2011. 
  8. ^ a b c Longsdorf, Amy (January 3, 2007). "Swank: Acting gave me sense of focus". TimesLeader. Archived from the original on January 10, 2007. Retrieved January 10, 2007. 
  9. ^ a b Tiscali UK (2006). "Hilary Swank Biography". tiscali.film & tv web site. Retrieved November 24, 2006.  Biography spreads across 9 web pages. High School information is on page 2.
  10. ^ "Hilary Swank tells all to Extra". United Press International. January 3, 2007. Retrieved October 17, 2011. 
  11. ^ "Hilary and Huncky Patrick Picture Perfect Premiere". Hello. January 5, 2007. Retrieved January 7, 2007. 
  12. ^ "Hilary Swank reaping rewards". Sydney Morning Herald. April 23, 2007. 
  13. ^ "Jamie Bell's life story put on screen". The Guardian (London). July 17, 2001. 
  14. ^ a b c Rebecca Leung (March 2, 2005). "Hilary Swank: Oscar Gold – 60 Minutes". CBS News. Retrieved September 9, 2010. 
  15. ^ Stuever, Hank; Booth, William (February 28, 2005). "At the Oscars, a 'Baby' Boom". The Washington Post. 
  16. ^ Freydkin, Donna (October 10, 2007). "Hilary Swank enjoying the scent of 'Insolence'". USA Today. 
  17. ^ "Hilary Swank to get star on Hollywood Walk of Fame". English.eastday.com. January 8, 2007. Retrieved January 8, 2007. 
  18. ^ Associated Press (January 8, 2007). "Hilary Swank gets star on Hollywood Walk of Fame". The Mercury News. Retrieved January 8, 2007. [dead link]
  19. ^ Sanford, James (January 5, 2007). "Swank brings credibility to 'Freedom Writers'". Kalamazoo Gazette. Retrieved January 6, 2007. 
  20. ^ Roach, Vicky (March 22, 2007). "Hilary's all class". The Sunday Telegraph. Retrieved March 25, 2007. 
  21. ^ a b Hart, Hugh (April 1, 2007). "Real scare for cast of 'Reaping'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved April 1, 2007. 
  22. ^ Hilary Swank: Light and Shade[dead link], interview with stv.tv, December 2007
  23. ^ "Hilary Swank to play Amelia Earhart". Variety. February 7, 2008. Retrieved September 9, 2010. 
  24. ^ Dunham, Elisabeth (June 17, 1988). "Amelia Earhart's personal photographer recalls the shyness of his favorite subject". Associated Press. Retrieved May 17, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Pack of Two: The Intricate Bond Between People and Dogs". audible.com. Retrieved September 18, 2013. 
  26. ^ "Bereaved and Incited by Malaria". The New York Times. April 19, 2013. Retrieved September 18, 2013. 
  27. ^ "Kelly Fremon -10 Screenwriters to Watch", by Matthew Ross, Variety.com
  28. ^ Fleming, Michael (December 5, 2007). "Swank sinks teeth into 'Fangland'". Variety. Retrieved October 21, 2009. 
  29. ^ "Hilary Swank Defangs Fangland Rumors". DreadCentral. 
  30. ^ http://www.extratv.com/2011/09/05/on-set-romances-biggest-breakups/#hilary_swank_and_chad_lowe
  31. ^ "Hilary Swank, husband Chad Lowe split". MSNBC. 2006-01-09. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  32. ^ "The Hottest Heartbreak Hairstyles: Hilary Swank". Cosmopolitan. Retrieved 2012-06-25. 
  33. ^ "Swank is dating her agent". Contact Music. December 20, 2006. Retrieved December 20, 2006. 
  34. ^ "Hilary Swank and John Campisi Split". People. August 20, 2012. Retrieved August 20, 2012. 
  35. ^ "Hollywood stars fly in on Chechen leader's birthday". BBC. October 7, 2011. 
  36. ^ Elder, Miriam (October 13, 2011). "Hilary Swank 'regrets' partying with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov". The Guardian. Retrieved October 14, 2011. 
  37. ^ "Russia: Celebrities Should Refuse Pay for Chechnya Gala". Human Rights Watch. October 11, 2011. Retrieved October 14, 2011. 
  38. ^ "Hilary Swank apologizes". Human Rights Foundation. October 13, 2011. Retrieved October 14, 2011. [dead link]
  39. ^ "Hilary Swank Will Donate Chechen Cash To Charity". Huffington Post. October 14, 2011. Retrieved October 17, 2011. 

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