Hilary Swank

Published December 2nd, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

Date of Birth: July 30, 1974 

Sign: Sun in Leo, Moon in Aries 

Relations: Husband: Chad Lowe (actor) 

Education: South Pasadena High School, Pasadena, Calif. 


HILARY SWANK GREW up in Bellingham, Wash., a college town north of Seattle, Swank floated between two distinct social strata, the jocks and the drama dorks. On the one hand, the teenage swimmer competed in the Junior Olympics and in the Washington state championships, and also ranked fifth in the state in all-around gymnastics. On the other hand, an early stage debut (and her first gender-bending role, incidentally) as Mowgli in The Jungle Book incited in Swank a love for the stage, and she quickly became a fixture in the local theater scene.  

In 1990, a 16-year-old Swank moved to the far bigger pond of Los Angeles to pursue her acting career. While attending South Pasadena High School — where Swank says she received "the worst education of [her] life" — the young actress accepted requisite rent-and-dues-payin' gigs, appearing in such sitcoms as Harry and the Hendersons, Growing Pains, and Evening Shade. Two years later, she was offered a regular spot on ABC's Camp Wilder and nabbed her first film credit, playing a jealous pseudo-friend in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and spouting such lines as "Buffy? What's your sitch? You're acting like the thing from another tax bracket."  

Perhaps inspired by butt-kicking Buffy, Swank signed up to play troubled orphan Julie Pierce in 1994's The Next Karate Kid. The former athlete spent five hours a day training with martial arts expert Pat Johnson, but despite her dedication to the part, the film earned such karate-chop-to-the-ego reviews as: "What is the sound of one hand clapping? The audience giving it up for The Next Karate Kid" (slam courtesy of the Washington Post).  

Swank turned in her black belt but didn't throw in the towel; she continued to pad her résumé with a multitude of tele-pics and low-budget movies until 1997, when she was thrust before the eyes of couch potatoes everywhere as the newest member of Beverly Hills 90210. Her character, Carly Reynolds, was a single mom who was fervently pursued by resident Casanova Steve Sanders (Ian Ziering). Sixteen episodes later, Carly was sent off to care for an ailing father, never to return to the ZIP code again.  

Whereas Steve and Carly nursed a pair of broken hearts, Swank's real romantic life blossomed that same year, when she and Chad Lowe (Rob's baby brother) made their wedding vows before friends, family, and In Style magazine. Rob had finally lived down that little "video" scandal, but to the gossip-at-large, it might have seemed that Chad was stirring up a little tittle-tattle of his own in 1998, when he was seen spending an inordinate amount of time with his "brother-in-law," James. In actuality, James was Swank's alter ego — see, the dedicated actress was preparing for a headlining role in the affecting indie drama Boys Don't Cry. In it, she would portray Teena Brandon, a real-life Nebraska woman who lived as a man, calling herself "Brandon Teena" — and was subsequently raped and killed because of her sexual-identity confusion.  

Swank explained to the Toronto Sun: "To do the movie justice, because it was so close to a lot of people's hearts, it was very important to me to actually pass as a boy, to live as a boy, which I did for six weeks." To do so, she cut her hair, deepened her voice, strapped her breasts in tension bandages and placed socks in an obvious location.  

Boys director Kimberly Peirce had spent four years trying to find the right actress to portray Brandon. In an interview with the Sun, she related, "Most girls can't suddenly be boys. I saw all these great, wonderful actresses, but they could not do the boy thing. They'd strut around, they'd wink, you know. But they couldn't bring the sexuality out." But when she saw Swank's audition tape, Peirce recalled, "[There] it was. This beam came across the screen. She was wearing a cowboy hat and had this gorgeous jaw, great big ears, wonderful teeth, big brown eyes, an Adam's Apple. She had the confidence and charisma, but most of all she had a smile."  

That smile first earned Swank reams of critical praise. Next, it secured her a 1999 Golden Globe statuette for Best Actress in a Drama and a Best Actress Oscar, which she swiped from the likes of Meryl Streep and Anette Bening.  

After years of patience and persistence, Swank has officially moved into Hollywood's upper echelon. She has already secured a part in Sam Raimi's The Gift, with Keanu Reeves and Cate Blanchett, and Variety reports that she is also being wooed to star in The Affair of the Necklace, in which she'll sketch an aristocratic beauty who, while searching for her heritage, manages to overthrow the French regime.  




1999 Boys Don’t Cry 

1998 Heartwood  

1997 The Way We Are  

1996 Kounterfeit  

1996 Sometimes They Come Back ... Again  

1994 The Next Karate Kid  

1992 Buffy the Vampire Slayer 



1997 The Sleepwalker Killing  

1996 Terror in the Family  

1997 Leaving L.A.  

1997 Dying to Belong  

1997-1998 Beverly Hills, 90210  

1994 Cries Unheard: The Donna Yaklich Story  

1992 Camp Wilder  

1991 Growing Pains  

© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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