Interview : Hilary Swank

Clint Morris talks to the Oscar Winning Actress


It’s been a tough twelve months for Hilary Swank. Her much-publicised split from former husband Chad Lowe has made headlines all around the world, and as a result, its forced the two-time Oscar winner into hiding. Now, thanks to “”having great people in my life – great friends and great family”, she’s found the courage to overcome her impermanent bout of agoraphobia to come out and plug her new movie, the spine-chilling “The Reaping”.

Granted, Hilary Swank – whose star skyrocketed as a result of her performance in 2000’s “Boys Don’t Cry”, a film she won an Academy Award for – was never one to spend much time with the press anyway. Not because she’s overtly private or cold – in fact, she’s quite the opposite; this journalist finds her lovely and very down to earth – but because unlike a lot of actors and actresses, she got into this game not to become a star, but to become an actress.

“I didn’t get into this business for accolades of for the celebrity part of it. It is all about the work to me and I love my job”, says the actress, who made her film debut in 1992s “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer”.

“In an interesting way I never went in this business for the acclaim of it, or the dressing up part of it. I love people and stories, so all that is a side-effect that happened and still blows my mind. Seriously, I walk by, and I see them, and I think I am in the wrong house. I go to these shows and I keep thinking, ‘Who is going to come and pull me out’, because I don’t know if I belong here, because it feels like me. It is just Hilary from this little town. I am like, ‘How did this happen?’ Seriously, because all these people you look at around you inspire you. You watch your whole life in movies – to be nominated with Meryl Streep? I’ve watched Meryl Streep my whole life. It just feels very surreal – I guess that is the best way to put it.” Those earlier choices were justified, as now Swank is one of Hollywood’s elite, picking and choosing what she does. “I wake up every day, go to work and I am really grateful. I can’t imagine doing anything else, and I wake up and I say, ’I am so lucky to be working on a movie set’. Inevitably, it is usually with people that blow my mind.”

Yet, doing well and making a name for one’s self does come with a price, she says. “Anything in life has a ying and yang in life. There is the double-edged sword in everything, but I don’t understand the whole culture or the fascination with celebrity. At one point I think, paparazzi used to be beautiful, when you see the pictures of Jackie O or something, they actually wanted people to look good but now it is like this fascination with getting someone picking their nose, or cleaning up after their dog and I don’t understand it. I really don’t know what it has to do with movies.”

Movies, it seems, is a subject she’s more than happy to talk about – and there’s nothing in your back catalogue that is off limits. Swank seems to have something good to say about everything she has done – yep, even “Beverly Hills 90210″, a show that dumped her after only a few episodes.

“I never knocked a job and I took any job I could get, especially in the beginning and was never a snob about it – I still aren’t.” Swank, who won her Second Oscar for 2005’s “Million Dollar Baby”, recalls. “But you look at a lot of people’s careers – everyone kind of did that. You take a job where you can for a couple of reasons. One – you need to live, and you don’t want to just be a waiter, but you want to make some money, but more importantly, I never knocked an opportunity to learn, and there was so much to learn. Every bad movie of the week; every bad TV show; anything that I did, was preparing me for, hopefully, an opportunity that I was going to have. You know that great saying – the definition of luck is when preparation meets with opportunity.”

When the opportunity of doing an out-and-out horror movie presented itself, Swank jumped at the chance.

Once she started to read the script for “The Reaping” – in which she plays a Christian missionary investigating a small town that’s suffering from biblical plagues- Swank couldn’t put it down. “It was a real page-turner for me. It is really rare for me to sit down and not look at a page count: How many pages are in this script? And I was reading it, reading it, reading it and the next thing I knew it was over and I kept thinking about it. There is something that happens in this movie that I didn’t see coming, and let me just say, I see things coming a million miles away.

“The idea in this movie that this could really happen is what’s scary. It is not the whole wielding a knife through a forest that are harder movies for me to go see, but there are dramatic qualities to this movie; religious qualities and a lot of analogies to life too. It seems you can’t judge something by first glance, all that’s kind of wrapped up into it.”

Like a lot of her roles – she’s played everything from a Karate Kid to an astronaut to a boxer and a transgendered teen – the actress, 32, couldn’t really relate to her character in the movie, but that doesn’t mean she couldn’t appreciate the character’s plight.

“I think you have to find some element that makes you go, ‘Oh, wow! What an interesting way to look at things, how she is seeing this, or what has happened to her – how she experienced it and how she reacted to it”. “I think that the idea of having such a strong belief, and then having something shake you so profoundly that you lose that belief and then regain it later is powerful and that is what life’s about.”

THE REAPING commences today across Australia

- CLINT MORRIS