From playing Mowgli, in a school production of The Jungle Book at the age of nine, to winning two, back to back, Oscars, one could be excused for thinking that Hilary Swank’s career has been an easy path to Hollywood stardom. In fact nothing could be further from the truth!
Whilst at school in Bellingham, Washington State, she became an accomplished gymnast and swimmer. These skills would be put to good use in her future career. Certainly her role as Julie Pierce in The Next Karate Kid drew on her gymnastic abilities, and her discipline and motivation saw her excel as female boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald, in Clint Eastwood’s film, Million Dollar Baby, for which she won her second Oscar.
Born in 1974 in Lincoln, Nebraksa, she lived with her family in Spokane, Washington. At the age of 6, they moved to a trailer park in Bellingham, Washington, where she attended Happy Valley Elementary School, moving onto Sehome High School, via Fairhaven Middle School. Involved in local theatre, Hilary says, she dreamed of being an actress since she was years old.
When Hilary was 15 her parents separated. This was the catalyst for the move to Los Angeles. With just $75 to their names, mother and daughter lived out of their Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme, until Judy, Hilary’s mother, saved enough money to rent an apartment. Judy, almost daily, pestered agents and managers to get Hilary parts in TV shows. Her perseverance paid off, and after guest appearances in several television series, Hilary was offered the part of Kimberly Hannah in Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
Her first Academy Award for Best Actress was for the demanding role of Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry. Although awarded the highest accolade within the film industry, Hilary Swank was paid a total of £3000, for her work on the film. Fame she had achieved, fortune was just around the corner.
Married to actor Chad Lowe, they announced their divorce in 2006, the same year that she produced and starred in another challenging role as dedicated teacher Erin Gruwell in Freedom Writers.