Hilary proved herself in the 1999 budget limited independent film "Boys Don't Cry", which won her international acclaim and a "Best Actress" title at the 2000 Academy awards. Hilary's most recent performance in the 2004 movie "Million Dollar Baby" delivered similar results, as she won a Golden Globe award. Hilary Ann Swank was born in Lincoln, Nebraska on July 30, 1974. She grew up in Bellingham, Washington and as a child, devoted much of her time to athletic pursuits. Swank swam in the Junior Olympics and state championships, and ranked fifth in her state for gymnastics. At the age of 16, Swank moved to Los Angeles to realize her dream of becoming an actress. Her first notable screen credit was as the sidekick in the feature film, Buffy the Vampire Slayer in 1992. Two years later, she earned a modicum of fame when she was chosen to star in The Next Karate Kid, a critical and box-office failure. Swank subsequently appeared in a number of minor films and gained recognition on Beverly Hills, 90210 for one season, as Steve's (Ian Ziering) girlfriend Carly. In 1999, Swank found a role that would change her life forever in the independent drama, Boys Don't Cry. Based on the story of Teena Brandon, a woman whose decision to lead her life as a man met with dire consequences, Boys Don't Cry was a runaway success.
Particular praise went to Swank for her stunning performance, for which she won a Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Actress. Subsequent projects included The Gift (2000), The Affair of the Necklace (2001), the thriller Insomnia (2002) with Al Pacino and Robin Williams, The Core (2003), the made-for-TV movie Iron Jawed Angels (for which she was nominated for a Best Actress Golden Globe), and Red Dust (2004). In 2004, Hilary blew filmgoers away once again with her portrayal of a champion boxer in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, for which she won a Golden Globe for Best Actress. In 2005, she will be seen in Brain De Palma's adaptation of the James Ellroy novel, The Black Dahlia. Swank has been married to actor Chad Lowe since 1997.
Hilary Swank keen on kids
Actress Hilary Swank has quashed rumours she dislikes children - insisting she's keen to start a family with her actor husband Chad Lowe.
Actress Hilary Swank has quashed rumours she dislikes children - insisting she's keen to start a family with her actor husband Chad Lowe.
The Million Dollar Baby beauty insists that contrary to press claims, she put off motherhood because she felt too young to have a baby when she was in her twenties.
But now, the 30-year-old believes she's mature enough to try for a child with Lowe.
She says: "Of course I love children. In my twenties I wasn't ready, but now I realise it will probably be sooner rather than later."
Hilary Swank denies reports of marriage trouble
Oscar-winner Hilary Swank has slammed reports that her marriage to actor Chad Lowe is in trouble because he's struggling to cope with her phenomenal success.
The "Million Dollar Baby" star was horrified by rumours that Lowe was seeing a Hollywood psychologist to help him come to terms with her glittering film career and save their 12-year relationship, the Internet Media Database reported.
She insisted that as a fellow-actor, he understood and supported her movie career.
She said: "Being married to an actor helps because he understands the ups and downs, and what they mean. It's not like Chad is going to get my roles. If you're not comfortable with someone's success, you shouldn't be with them."
Hillary Swank will fight for her apple!
Oscar winning actress Hillary Swank is reportedly fighting a 187 dollar fine for illegally importing an apple and an orange into New Zealand.
The Million Dollar Baby actress has instructed lawyers to contest the instant fine imposed when she landed at Auckland airport with the fruit in her hand luggage on January 15, the Sunday Star- Times reported.
New Zealand imposes automatic fines for importing fruit and other food that may bring in diseases that could damage its agricultural industries.
Swank Plagued by 'Reaping' Horror
Hilary Swank is already reaping the benefits of her second Oscar win.
The 30-year-old actress didn't have to wait long to begin talks for her next film, which will be the supernatural horror "The Reaping" for Dark Castle Entertainment, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
"Reaping" revolves around a woman (Swank) who debunks myths for a living and is sent to investigate a religious Texas town that's been visited by the 10 biblical plagues.
For those who need a little refresher course in the Old Testament, the Egyptians were inflicted with a series of "plagues" that included: the Nile turning into blood, frogs, lice, flies, dying livestock, bodily boils, fiery hailstorms, locusts, darkness over the land and the death of every firstborn.
"Wonderland" helmer James Cox will direct the horror film, based on a retooled script by Chad and Carey Hayes, who wrote the upcoming "House of Wax" remake.
Swank recently won an Oscar for her leading role as a female boxer in Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby." She has another best actress Oscar for 1999's "Boys Don't Cry." She next begins shooting "The Black Dahlia" in April.
Hillary Swank is a real-life Karate kid!
Hilary Swank might have won an Oscar for her role as a champion fighter in Million Dollar Baby and she is just as tough in real life.
According to The Sun, atleast this is what her Karate Kid star Ralph Macchio thinks. "Hilary played the Next Karate Kid after me. She can kick butt. She's an athlete, she has strength, serious fighting skills, is surprisingly large and dresses in a way that hides how big she really is," he was quoted as saying.
Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood next film
Hilary Swank is campaigning for a part in Clint Eastwood's next movie. But there's only one problem over her attempt to reunite with her Million Dollar Baby director in Flags Of Our Fathers... there are presently no female characters in the script.
Yet Hilary thinks she should still be considered for the World War II drama about the battle of Iwo Jima.
After all, she won her first Oscar for playing a woman who lived as a man in Boys Don't Cry and says: "I've played a boy before!"
The Core: An Interview with Hilary Swank
Winning an Oscar definitely has its highlights. One of them is getting cast in films you would never be considered for in the first place. For Hilary Swank, things have turned out great, so far. Since winning the Best Actress Oscar for her role as Brandon Teena in Boys Don’t Cry, Ms. Swank has done The Giftwith Cate Blanchett and Keanu Reeves. She also played the lead role in The Affair of the Necklace. Last year, she played opposite Oscar winners Al Pacino and Robin Williams in Insomnia. In her latest film, The Core, Hilary Swank plays an astronaut who must become a “terranaut” to save the Earth. In an interview with blackfilm.com, Ms. Swank talks about her role in the film and her latest theater work.
WM: How long did it take you to understand what’s going in The Core in terms of the plot?
HS: I think the beautiful thing about this movie is that a lot of people have saying in the scientific area that it puts the science back into science fiction. So much of science fiction is just fiction nowadays. So it’s a very smart movie and I think that what happens is that the electro magnetic field around the core of the Earth stopped spinning. It’s a true fact that if the Earth stopped spinning, everything would go haywire. Doves would fall out of the sky because their field of flying is all generated on the pull of the Earth and everything. So if the Earth stopped spinning, then we’re all doomed. Although probable, the chances of it really happening are very slim. I think that’s what makes the movie a great ride; it’s knowing something that could happen, but that’s not going to happen unless you go along with it. In the movie, we (the cast) go down to start the electro magnetic field around the core of the Earth to jump start it. We go down and drop explosives around the core and kick starts it and you have to be specific in doing this. For the mission to be successful, this task must be done correctly.
WM: Were you totally absorbed in your character with all the emotions attached with it?
HS: I’m not usually a science fiction fan or even a special effects fan. This movie to me was about something deeper. I think when you say the names of the actor in the film; it doesn’t conjure up special effects science fiction. I think it speaks of how smart the film is another level and the challenges that were there for me as an actor. Not only because I was reacting to special effects that weren’t happening yet and the challenges that that brought. A lot of people that I have become close to in the movie, those characters are put in danger because they are trying to save the Earth.
WM: What was it that drew you to do this film? Was it the cast, the plot, or the fact that you would the play the role of a pilot?
HS: First of all, the script was sent to me as a science fiction special effects movie but a lot of different than what we have seen before. I read it and it was. I thought that all the characters were really fleshed and really real within all the special effects. I have always wanted to be an astronaut. It’s the first thing I wanted to be and it’s challenging, and a whole new genre I haven’t done.
WM: Now that you have one sci-fi film under your belt, would you do another?
HS: It always depends on the script. I didn’t think I’d ever do a film like this but that you have to be open to things. Had I said to my agent, “Don’t ever send me science fiction movies”, I would never have been sent this. I’m always looking for something that I love and can relate to in one way or another. With my character Rebecca Childs, I could relate to her. She’s this strong woman who’s really driven and successful in a man’s world and I thought that really cool.
WM: Are you comfortable with the patriotic undertones in the film in light of what’s going on with Iraq?
HS: Honestly, I think this is a movie people will go to and escape from all of the stuff that’s happening and to me, that’s what my job is as an entertainer. To go and give people a place to go and maybe learn about something new or get lost in another person that they can relate to or just flat out be entertained. It’s an intense state of affairs right now in the world.
WM: Many people didn’t who you were when you won the Oscar a few years. Do you think that’s changed now from the subsequent work you’ve done? Is there a pressure for you since you’ve won?
HS: No. Being nominated and receiving the Oscar has opened a lot of doors that I don’t think ever would have opened to me before, so I’m really grateful for it. It’s been no curse, but a total blessing. I don’t think I would be getting all these opportunities had that not happened.
WM: What do you look for in a role? Do you think about the box office or the character?
HS: It’s a catch 22 because usually you want to do things that you just love and a lot of times in order to do those things, you have to do a movie that makes money so that you can keep doing things that you love. For me, I’m not willing to compromise my heart as well. If I find something, which I did in “The Core”, a great movie that could be really big that I really loved that way no matter what happens, I followed my heart.
WM: Do you think any Hollywood film and role you now do can top the role you won the Oscar for, which was independently financed?
HS: No because now I have an opportunity to do both. I can do independents and I can do big movies. Before I would have had the opportunity to do big movies too, but it would have in the small independent realm. Now if anything, it has afforded me more opportunities. I just a movie called “11:14”, which cost $3 million dollars. The director, Greg Marcks, wrote this great thing which was new and fresh, and I said, “I want to do this so you can get your movie made.” There’s a filmmaker right there that it was wonderful to help out because I think he’s really talented and he’s going to have a really good career.
WM: What’s the film about?
HS: “11:14” is a film where I play a girl who works a local grocery store. It’s another character film. It’s similar to “Run, Lola, Run”.
WM: How much time researching your role for “The Core”?
HS: Didn’t do as much research as I had done in other movies. I wanted to go to space camp but they told me my time in space would be limited and I wouldn’t even be floating. I sat down with Susan Marks, who’s an astronaut, and picked her brain. She was very generous with her time and let me pick away. I asked her everything because her background is similar my character as far as being in the Air Force. She’s actually a Colonel. She was plucked out because she’s so amazing at what she did there by NASA.
WM: What are your thoughts on the Columbia shuttle that went down and how Paramount pulled the trailer to this film that showed you in a shuttle?
HS: What happened was that our trailer opened in the same weekend when the shuttle went down so it out of respect for the families of those astronauts who died. No sense in giving them a commercial that serves as a reminder of what happened. Nothing was cut from the film because the shuttle scene is very minor.
(l to r) Delroy Lindo as Brazzelton, Tcheky Karyo as Serge, Aaron Eckhart as Josh, Hilary Swank as Beck, Bruce Greenwood as Iverson and Stanley Tucci as ZimskyWM: You have decided to do theater next. What brought you to do “The Miracle Worker”?
HS: For me, I have always loved the theater. I’ve always been inspired by people in the theater and I thought, “I’d like to do a play.” I’d like to challenge myself in a whole new area. If I’m not challenging myself, then something’s wrong. I like to stretch myself, and I felt like this play was it for me.
WM: Knowing that Anne Bancroft won an Oscar for this role, was there any intimidation factor?
HS: There absolutely was. I knew that this had been done before and it was done really well and but it really hasn’t been done since. I liked that this is the revival of it. It was one of the first movies that I saw so I was really looking forward to being able to inspire kids in a way that inspired me. It’s been challenging. I’m exhausted to the bone, physically and mentally.
Hilary Swank: Back in the ring
Hilary Swank is brimming over with puppy love.
She just finished a day-long fashion photo shoot with Italian Vogue, and now, as the clock strikes 7 on a freezing Manhattan night, Swank curls up in a chair in the kitchen of the photographer's studio with her year-old mix-breed dog, Karoo, in her arms. The canine sighs contentedly and promptly goes to sleep as Swank, lanky and lithe in tight jeans, sneakers and a cropped designer jacket, with her face scrubbed free of makeup, gently strokes the dog's head.
"She's a good girl," Swank says. "It's been a very long shoot for Karoo. She's become so famous!"
The same goes for Swank, who has knocked out critics and nabbed her second best-actress Oscar nomination for her role in Million Dollar Baby, opening nationwide today. She's brawny, resolute boxer Maggie, an upstart determined to succeed with the help of a crotchety trainer played by Clint Eastwood, who also directs. The movie, gritty and deadly serious, is up for seven Academy Awards after opening in limited release last month.
And Swank, who has been showered with prizes — including her second leading-actress Golden Globe two weeks ago — is back at the top of her acting game. Now, she's the one to beat come Oscar time, a reality that still hadn't sunk in when Swank called on Tuesday, 20 minutes after hearing her name called, and just a few days after a sit-down interview.
"It's just as amazing, exciting and totally unbelievable. I am speechless right now," says the actress, who won an Oscar in 2000 for Boys Don't Cry. Swank surprised everyone and dazzled critics in the real-life role of Teena Brandon/Brandon Teena, a tortured, sexually confused girl who tried to pass herself off as a young man and who paid with her life.
And, in a case of history repeating itself, the Oscar race once again pits Swank squarely against Being Julia's Annette Bening, who lost to Swank five years ago when Bening was nominated for American Beauty. But Swank isn't counting her statuettes just yet.
"I don't necessarily feel like I'm the favorite," she says. "I don't think like that."
Don't tell that to Eastwood, a man of few words who becomes uncharacteristically effusive when he speaks of Swank.
"She's the best. She's absolutely charming, and she's the most real person you'll ever meet," he says. "What you see is what you get."
The director, 74, and Swank, 30, formed an unlikely bond, reminiscent of the one his cantankerous coach and her fierce fighter forge in the film. Eastwood taught Swank to trust her instincts and to never second-guess herself. The two, Swank says, clicked "immediately. When I start talking about it, I always get welled up. I hold him really close. He's so genuine. He doesn't have a superiority complex."
Swank is understated and direct. She smiles often but doesn't laugh all that easily. In fact, she's much like Eastwood, firm and unfailingly polite, and, according to her Baby co-star Morgan Freeman, "very unassuming" with "no pretenses about her." She seeks you out after an interview to vigorously thank you several times for waiting for her, apologize for her exhaustion — and hug you goodbye before heading home to her husband, Chad Lowe, who has flown in from Los Angeles.
Swank, who yawns repeatedly, could use a night in, busy as she has been promoting the movie for two months — and before that, pushing herself "to the limit" to get ready for it. She trained for three months before filming started, spending four hours each day with legendary boxing coach Hector Roca at Gleason's Gym in Brooklyn and slugging it out with real fighters. But her inner pugilist took a while to emerge. To her trainer's chagrin, Swank apologized to her opponent the first time her fist connected.
"Then I went all out. I got hit in the face, I got hit in the body," she says. "The more I got hit, the more I learned that it's OK to hit back."
To bulk up, Swank lifted weights and ingested 210 grams of protein each day, drinking 60 egg whites, eating every hour and a half and waking up in the middle of the night to down protein shakes. She gained nearly 20 pounds of muscle, and her entire body changed, she says. She is still happily 5 pounds heavier than before the film.
"It all put me in the mind-set of a boxer," she says. "It's my job. I need to be able to look like a boxer."
Giving vanity the heave-ho, Swank got into the ring without a nose guard because wearing one "hurts your peripheral vision," she says. "You're not going to move the same. I got a bruised nose to the point that sometimes I couldn't touch it for a couple of weeks. It makes you move your face. You have to learn."
Sometimes, the hard way. After popping a blister the way she thought a boxer would, Swank developed a dangerous staphylococcus infection in her foot, she told 60 Minutes.
Like Maggie, the blue-collar fighter single-mindedly determined to make it, Swank grew up in meager circumstances in Bellingham, Wash. "I felt that parallel, that connection to having a dream and coming from nothing," she says. "Growing up in a trailer park, her growing up in a trailer park. That drive, passion, determination."
Says Eastwood: "She works incredibly hard."
Swank rolled with the punches while fighting with boxing champion Lucia Rijker, who spars with her in the film. Once, Rijker recalls, she accidentally head-butted an unfazed Swank, giving her a swollen lip. Another time, a tired Swank forgot to duck when Rijker attacked. "She started laughing and said, 'Wow, OK, I got hit!' " Rijker says. "She told me to do what I had to do, to make it feel real."
Out of the ring, Swank "wants to make sure everyone is OK," Rijker says. "She's very selective of who she brings into her circle, but once you're in, she really cares about you."
One of those close to Swank is L.A.-based singer Karen Giffin. She and her husband met Swank and Lowe eight years ago when the two couples were neighbors in Pacific Palisades. Giffin calls Swank a generous friend who flew her out to New York to attend Baby's premiere and to Paris for a week when Swank was shooting The Affair of the Necklace.
"She takes her friendships seriously," Giffin says. "We used to knit together. We like to meet and have coffee and chat."
They hung out when Swank was shooting Baby in Los Angeles.
"In between her working out at the gym and filming, she would come over and say she was hungry, and I'd make her a salad," Giffin says. "She was very strict about what she could eat. She's very determined and works hard."
She works at her marriage as well. Swank and Lowe, 37, met 12 years ago at a party and tied the knot in 1997. "He has a heart of gold," Swank says. "I certainly knew that I wanted to hang out with him. We've been together ever since that first dinner."
They moved to New York 4½ years ago after Swank felt secluded and out of touch in L.A. Now, they live in Greenwich Village with their two dogs, two birds, cat and rabbit.
"I love this city. I love it culturally," she says. "I feel like I'm in a blender of life. I ride the subway. I walk around the city all the time."
You can spot Swank jogging with her dog or running errands or lunching with friends.
"I lead a very low-key life," she says. "I'm a boring girl who has a bunch of animals and cleans up bunny poop."
She and her husband take cross-country road trips with their pets. And they stay not at the Four Seasons, but at Motel 6. In Manhattan, they eat out or go to the movies. Or they have friends over for "serious, serious game nights. I think just being athletic my whole life and being into sports, I like a good game," says Swank, who excels at chess and Scrabble but has lost to Lowe a few times in both.
His one request of his sporty spouse? That she not skydive, Swank says with a giggle.
She'd like to laugh onscreen as well. Next up for her is Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia, the story of the murder of Elizabeth Short in 1940s Los Angeles; it starts shooting this spring. But Hollywood casting directors, listen up: Swank would love to do a romantic comedy with Ewan McGregor. She's funny. Really!
"I can do weird things like bend my fingers back," says Swank, curling her tongue for added impact. "I'm really Jim Carrey as a woman."
Just get a load of her imitation of Carrey in his manic comedy days. Swank turns her face away, only to whirl back around with her cheeks stretched back, mouth gaping open and eyes popping out. Ace Ventura would be proud.
But can Swank, like Carrey, talk out of her posterior? The actress breaks into her first real, hearty laugh of the interview and shakes her head. Still, she says, "I think Jim Carrey and I should be brother and sister. I told him that at the Globes."
"'We do look alike!' "
Hilary Swank: A Star Who Takes Risks
In the eccentric, egocentric world of Hollywood, Hilary Swank is a distinctly unusual movie star.
Swank, who was a surprise Oscar winner five years ago for her haunting performance in "Boy’s Don’t Cry," was just nominated for a second Oscar, for her riveting portrayal of a neophyte female boxer in Clint Eastwood’s "Million Dollar Baby."
She’s unlike any other movie star: beautiful, but somehow short on glamour, unaffected, and down to earth. She's intelligent and articulate, yet she’s a high-school dropout. She's sophisticated and worldly, but she grew up in a trailer park. She sat down for an interview with Correspondent Mike Wallace.
Swank lives in New York City, and she's a movie star who rides the subway.
"I use the subway all the time. It's my form of transportation," says Swank. "Because it's quick. It's inexpensive."
And she says it’s a great way for her to study her craft.
"My job is about playing people. And I think once you lose touch with people, what do you play," she says.
"So I'm here, and it's the best people watching in the world. You know? For instance, take their glasses on and off while they read their paper. Or how someone who's really tired, how they hold themselves when they're exhausted."
"You sound more like a reporter than an actress," says Wallace.
"Well, in the end, that's part of my job," says Swank.
Last year, Swank rode the subway to Brooklyn, six days a week, for three long months. Her destination was Gleason’s Gym, where for more than 65 years now, thousands of boxers from Jake LaMotta to Muhammad Ali have trained. Swank went there to prepare for her role in "Million Dollar Baby."
Acting opposite Morgan Freeman and Clint Eastwood, Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a 30-something, down-on-her-luck waitress who dreams of becoming a professional boxer.
It’s a demanding part -- physically and emotionally. Eastwood, who also directed the film, says he knew Swank had the acting chops for the part. But her physique was a different story.
"I just thought, 'Yeah, this gal would be great. If we can get her trained up. If we can get a little bit more bulk on her, to make her look like a fighter,'" recalls Eastwood. "She was like a feather. But what happened is, she had this great work ethic."
So before filming began, Swank trained hard, nearly five hours every day. "I could do half a pull-up when I first started training," says Swank. "I literally, I tried to pull myself up, and I was shaking. And I couldn't do it. And I couldn't believe it. I thought, you know, and as a kid, you had, doing pull-ups and stuff. And then when I was done, I could do 11."
Swank bulked up by 19 pounds. That was the easy part. Learning to box like a pro, however, was something else.
The job of teaching her fell to Hector Roca, who has trained dozens of professional boxers. He says Swank was one of his best students ever. "She tried so hard to do it, so she cry," says Roca. "Say, 'Why you cry?' Because I can't do it. I say, 'You can do it.'"
"I would be afraid that I wasn't gonna make it and be able to be believable. And, you know, and it's so important to me," says Swank. "And you know, there were times when I'd get emotional. I was frustrated."
Her efforts impressed all the pros at Gleason’s, but she kept a secret from the boxers, and from the filmmakers who hired her. She had a potentially life-threatening staphylococcus infection.
"I got a blister the size of my palm on the ball of my foot," says Swank.
Within 48 hours, the blister was infected, and staph bacteria spread through her veins. "I couldn't believe the pain. It was unbelievable. And I looked down. There were streaks going up my foot," recalls Swank. "So, I went to the doctor's that second, and he looked at me, and he said, 'This is really serious. And if you had waited two more hours, you would have been in the hospital for three weeks. And if it gets to your heart, that's it.'"
She didn't tell Eastwood what had happened. "He still to this day doesn't know," says Swank. "The producers don't know. No one knows, because in the end, that's what happens to boxers. They get blisters. They get infected. They have injuries, and they keep pushing through it."
Her secret didn’t surprise Eastwood one bit. He says her plain-and-simple determination to play the part is in large part why the film turned out so well. "This is just another step in her path to greatness," says Eastwood. "She's the best there is, as good an actress as I've worked with."
Like her character, Maggie Fitzgerald, Swank grew up in a trailer park in Bellingham, Wash. Much of her childhood time was split between performing in school plays and competitive swimming. By 15, she had settled on acting, not athletics.
"I ended up dropping out of high school. I'm a high school dropout, which I'm not proud to say," says Swank. "I had some teachers that I still think of fondly and were amazing to me. But I had other teachers who said, 'You know what? This dream of yours is a hobby. When are you going to give it up?' I had teachers who I could tell didn't want to be there. And I just couldn't get inspired by someone who didn't want to be there."
Her father was mostly gone. He was an Air National Guardsman and later a traveling salesman. Her mother was her main supporter. She thought Swank's acting talents were so exceptional that Hollywood was where her daughter needed to be. So the two of them moved there, even though they had little money to make the move – and no place to live when they got there.
She and her mother remain close to this day. "My mom said to me that I could do anything I wanted in life. As long as I worked hard enough," says Swank. "And to this day, it still makes me really emotional, because I just never questioned it, you know? She just always believed in me."
She was just 15 1/2 when they headed to Hollywood. "She was at a crossroads. My father and her were getting separated, and she said, 'Let's go to California,'" says Swank. "And so $75, and a Mobil card, we drove down to California."
They lived in the car for a couple of weeks. "We had a friend who was selling their house. And so they said, 'You know, there's no furniture, but you can stay there at night. And then, during the day, you have to leave so we can try and sell it,'" says Swank. "So we got air mattresses. Blew the air mattresses up. Slept on the air mattresses. And left in the morning."
They were not homeless for long. Within months, Swank started to land parts, but most of her work was typical teenage fare. By 23, she had landed a part on "Beverly Hills 90210," and it proved to be a turning point.
She was later dropped from the show. "Not dropped, fired," says Swank. "And I thought if I'm not a good enough actor for '90210,' then maybe I should [pack it in.] I don't know. I was devastated."
It was a blessing in disguise. Free from her contract on "90210," she was available to play the lead in a small film called "Boys Don't Cry." It was the true story of Tina Brandon, also known as Brandon Teena, a Nebraska-born girl with a sexual identity crisis: a girl who tried to live as a boy.
But when the secret got out, she was raped and murdered.
Swank’s performance was haunting and powerful. And "Boys Don't Cry" earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress. It was a part for which she was paid just $75 a day -- $3,000 in total.
She won the Oscar, but it didn't take long after that to find out what respect or clout it gave her.
"I was getting a prescription filled. And they said, 'You know, that's, you know, $280. And I said, 'Oh, no, no. I have my insurance card. Put it on my insurance,'" says Swank. "And they said, 'We tried.' And I said, 'Well, can you try again?' And they said, 'We tried a bunch of times.' I mean, they knew me. That was my pharmacy. So I called my insurance company, and they said, 'There's a minimum you have to make in order to make health insurance.' And at that time, it was $5,000 a year."
She had only made $3,000 for "Boys Don't Cry."
"So, I had an Academy Award, and I didn't have health insurance," says Swank, laughing. "The life of an actor."
Today, she and her husband, Emmy-winning actor and aspiring director Chad Lowe, live a quiet life in Manhattan. They share their townhouse with a menagerie of animals.
Swank is about as unpretentious as you get. She doesn’t drink; she doesn’t smoke. She’s polite, does volunteer work in her community, and has been with the same man for 12 years.
It seems the only heat she’s ever attracted came at her husband's expense. She forgot to thank him at the Oscars five years ago – and it was a faux pas she made light of at the Golden Globes two weeks ago, after receiving a best actress award for her role in "Million Dollar Baby."
Swank says she is still deeply in love her husband, and planning for a family. But she's doing her best to keep her private life private. She did, however, tell Wallace one very personal story, which began with a dream.
"I was dreaming a lot that I was going to have to save someone's life. And I thought, 'Well, I'm not gonna ignore this dream anymore,'" says Swank. "And I got certified in CPR. And I'd say three months after that, someone collapsed in an airport."
"I dropped my stuff right there, saw him on the ground. He was the color of an eggplant," says Swank. "He'd not only fallen. He had had a heart attack and wasn't getting -- he was dying. So, I just administered CPR until the paramedics could get there."
"He didn't live," she says, crying. "I mean, I got his heart going. And I kept – I didn't get his heart going. But I acted as his heart, pumping his chest."
Her emotions are always close to the surface. And it’s helped make her one of Hollywood’s best actors, and one of the most well-adjusted 30-year-olds in any profession.
Is she as uncomplicated a person as she seems to be?
"Yeah. I'm not a very complicated person. I don't feel like I need a lot of things to make me happy," says Swank. "I feel like – part of that is my upbringing, not needing a lot of things around you. It's the truth. It really is."
Swank takes Klein to the Oscars
Nothing comes between Hilary Swank and her Calvins. At least not on Oscar night.
The best-actress nominee (for Million Dollar Baby) has said she is wearing a Calvin Klein gown to the Academy Awards Sunday. That kind of early decision is remarkable in the top-secret world of red-carpet fashion design, especially for the Oscars.
"It's unusual that they announce it this early," says Patrick McCarthy, chairman and editorial director of W, a fashion magazine. "Usually they like to create more of a surprise."
Swank, who won an Oscar for 1999's Boys Don't Cry and is considered a front-runner this year, has a relationship with Klein that predates Boys, Swank's rep says. She did some sexy underwear ads for the company last summer, and the campaign's billboards have been relaunched in L.A. in recent weeks as the Oscars get closer and Swank's profile gets hotter.
"Last spring, we began a special collaboration with Hilary for Calvin Klein Underwear and some dressing opportunities (at events)," says Kim Vernon, a senior VP at Calvin Klein Inc. "She has been a friend of the company for many years, and we are thrilled to work with her for such high-profile events."
It's not that Swank wears only Calvin Klein; she was in an olive Randolph Duke gown the night she won her Oscar for Boys.
"She likes to mix it up," spokesman Troy Nankin says. "But she loves (lead designer) Francisco (Costa) and has a close relationship with Calvin himself. She's a good girl and remembers who was there for her in the beginning."
This awards season, Swank has chosen to wear Calvin Klein at some noteworthy events: She was in Klein at the New York premiere of Million Dollar Baby Dec. 5 and wowed 'em at last month's Golden Globes in a sleek copper-colored gown from the designer. But she attended other recent events, such as the Oscar nominee lunch and the Screen Actors Guild awards, in other designers.
But "the big enchilada is still the Oscars," McCarthy says. "The others are also-rans."
Why Calvin Klein? With her athletic figure, she is "the ideal Calvin woman — it makes perfect sense," McCarthy says. "To see Hilary in a frilly, ruffly evening dress doesn't make sense."
Relationships between actresses and designers are most visible during awards season. And the Oscars have become such a competitive promotional event for fashion that design houses are willing to make deals beyond providing a free dress, McCarthy says. In some cases, a designer may say, " 'I will give you $200,000 to wear my dress,' " McCarthy says.
Calvin Klein has not disclosed any financial arrangement with Swank or what she was paid to model the company's lingerie.
Hilary Swank Wins Best Actress Oscar
Hilary Swank won the best actress Oscar on Sunday for the second time in five years, taking home Hollywood's most prestigious honor for her role as a feisty boxer in "Million Dollar Baby."
Swank's win gave the 30-year-old actress a place in the elite ranks of double leading actress Oscar winners Katharine Hepburn, Elizabeth Taylor and Jane Fonda. She won her first Oscar in 2000 after cropping her hair and living as a boy for the true transgender story "Boys Don't Cry."
"I don't know what I did in my life to deserve this. I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream. I never thought this would ever happen let alone be nominated -- a working actor for that matter, and now this," an emotional Swank said in her acceptance speech.
Her co-star, Morgan Freeman, earlier won the Oscar for his supporting role, but the film's director/star, Clint Eastwood, lost the lead acting prize to Jamie Foxx.
Swank's career had seemed to flounder after her first Oscar win which was followed by a box-office costume drama flop, a little-seen sci-fi movie and a supporting role as a detective in the Al Pacino movie "Insomnia."
But the role of Maggie Fitzgerald, a young woman who wants to escape her dull life through boxing but whose career is dramatically cut short, seemed tailor-made for the square-jawed Swank, a former high school swimming and gymnastics champion.
Swank trained for five months and added 20 pounds, mostly in muscle, to her weight for the role, which she has described as the most physically challenging role of her life. She has already won a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild award.
Swank was competing for the Oscar against Annette Bening, British actresses Imelda Staunton and Kate Winslet, and Colombian novice Catalina Sandino Moreno. Acknowledging all four women, she said. "Annette, Imelda, Kate and Catalina -- your work inspires me beyond words."
Born in Nebraska, Swank moved to Los Angeles in 1990 as a teenager and lived in a car with her mother for several months while trying to establish herself in Hollywood.
Swank made her movie debut in 1994 in "The Next Karate Kid" and was named the face of Calvin Klein underwear a year ago. She is married to actor Chad Lowe, whom she made a point of thanking after forgetting last time.
"I'm gonna thank my mom for believing in me from the beginning," she said. And as the Oscar orchestra began to drown her out, Swank added, "You can't do that because I haven't gotten to Clint yet. Clint Eastwood, thank you for allowing me to go on this journey with you."
From '90210' to Oscar Winner: The Gensis of Hilary Swank
If one was to look at the early bio of Hilary Swank, one could hardly foresee an Oscar in her future. A professional actress since the age of sixteen, when she moved to Los Angeles from her native Bellingham in Washington, Swank first appeared onscreen in 1992's "Buffy the Vampire Slayer". Two years later, she earned a rudimentary degree of fame when she was picked to star in The Next Karate Kid, but this recognition proved fleeting: Swank subsequently appeared in a number of minor films and did a year-long stint on "Beverly Hills 90210". In 1999, however, she won both acclaim and recognition for her lead role in Kimberly Peirce's independent drama Boys Don't Cry. Based on the real-life story of Brandon Teena, a woman whose decision to lead her life as a man met with dire consequences, Boys Don't Cry was one of the year's most lauded films, with particular praise going to Swank for her stunning performance. She went on to win a number of honours for her work in the film, including a Golden Globe and Academy Award for Best Actress. Hilary was on her way. Recently she stood her own opposite Cate Blanchett in The Gift, and her latest film - shot prior to the release of Boys Don't Cry - is about to open. The film is the lavish costume epic The Affair of the Necklace, and co-stars Australia's Simon Baker. Set in late 18th century France, the film is based on the true story of aristocrat Jeanne de la Motte-Valois, who leaves her adoptive home to seek out her royal heritage. During her quest, she finds out that her family was torn apart by the fickle royal politics preceding the French Revolution. To avenge her family, she fixates upon stealing a spectacular diamond necklace, and unwittingly contributes towards the death of the French monarchy.
Swank talks about corsets, fame and life after the Oscars.
Q: I was looking through your bio and I remembered that the Next Karate Kid came to mind and "Beverly Hills 90210" and now here you are an Academy Award winner. Are you absolutely surprised at how your career has developed over the last few years?
I'm not one to ever expect anything in my life, but I certainly was hoping I would get the opportunity to test my chops and challenge myself and I was just lucky with that opportunity when Boys Don't Cry came along, because they didn't want someone that was famous. I was at the right place at the right time and I'm very thankful for that and thankful for all the opportunities that have arisen since then certainly after winning the Oscar. I never really thought about it as, you know, when it's going to be my turn, you know. I was definitely really hoping for something that would challenge me but I never expected to quite happen this quickly, I guess. Rather, I didn't expect it to happen with Boys Don't Cry.
Q: The last time I saw you was when we spoke about Boys Don't Cry and it was all the pre-Oscar stuff, and that was very early on. Did the Oscar kind of legitimize something in your profession for you? What's the genuine impact of an award like that?
Well, at first, honestly, you feel this enormous pressure to be larger than life and to not make mistakes and that was really interesting, because I didn't think it would be like that. Every time I watched the Oscars, I was always like: 'Oh that person's life changed and those problems are forever and all those things that you think of and you happen to see you and you realize you're still the same person, you still have your problems, you still make the mistakes, and I guess it's really, it's look in your mind. I was thinking, oh God, there's no place to go but down and I'm being watched under a microscope and you know all of those things. So once I got past that and got back to that very, very pure innocent place of why I even started acting, I was much better off.
Q: Had you heard of The Affair of the Necklace tale before?
No, I hadn't. I'm not a big history buff, not even our own history, of American history, let alone other countries' history. I guess that's why I found it quite amazing is that I was reading this story and it was so scandalous and it seemed that when they say life is stranger than fiction, I just didn't believe it was one of the reasons for the fall of the French Revolution. It was kind of the straw that broke the camel's back. I didn't know of it.
Q: Now I'm a student of history and I never even heard of this woman. Why has she remained so hidden?
Well, I definitely know a lot of French people, and in fact, when we were filming in France, I asked people about it and they all knew about it because it's such an important part of their history. I'm not exactly sure why certain things stay hidden and certain things don't, but I think probably because it WAS so scandalous.
Q: Hilary, when you saw what the role was, were you terrified? It was a huge role, a big budget movie, what was your reaction when you first got the job?
Actually, you know what's interesting about that, is that the budget's not that big. It's bigger than Boys Don't Cry, which had a budget of under $2,000,000, but this movie was only under not quite $25,000,000, and if you think of period pieces in the whole scheme of things, you can't even breathe air into a period piece for $25,000,000. So I think that's quite remarkable on the budget, what the cinematographer did, and what Charles [Shyer, director] did, and the costume designer with those costumes? Those alone should have been $15,000,000.
Q: Were you apprehensive or worried about it?
No, I'm not one who tends to worry, I'm not one who tends to be apprehensive, but I definitely realized the challenge that was ahead of me, but that's where my passion lies, I like to challenge myself, and once I get over the whole fact that I wasn't being judged by everybody, and got back to that, that was fine. You know I was actually offered this movie before I received a Golden Globe and that really spoke highly of Charles Shyer and the producer's belief in me. I was offered this before I was even offered The Gift, but they were just in their beginning stages.
Q: What do you think they saw in you that made them want to go for you for this role? Given that you hadn't done a period film before.
I think, first of all, I read it and then I met with Charles before even being nominated for a Golden Globe, and then he went and saw Boys Don't Cry and I guess you will have to ask him, because I don't know what he saw in Boys Don't Cry that made him think I could play this beautiful woman with breasts and hair. I just saw the love story within it and the scene where she's in the cell and she says, "I love you, that should have been enough." And she realizes that? That's a very human quality that we all have. When we sometimes realize some things too late unfortunately, and sometimes we catch it right before it's too late, and I think back to that's what we really need to be doing in this story and I think that this is his feeling about it, and he just said, "This is going to work."
Q: This was your first 'corset' role. How was it for you wearing those costumes and would you do it again?
You know, when people say to me, would you ever bind your breasts again for a role, it's kind of not the most comfortable thing for sure, and wearing a corset is not the most comfortable thing, and I would never just take a role because of how a person looks in a movie. If a period piece came to me, and it was a beautiful story, absolutely.
Is it too much of a distraction wearing those costumes and acting in them?
It's funny that you use that word, because it's absolutely impossible to play that role without being in those costumes, that's part of it and you get in those costumes and you get in that hair and makeup and half of your work's done.
Q: What was it like working with Aussie Simon Baker, who has since achieved success here with TV's "The Guardian"?
It was interesting because he already came in and he gave this amazing audition and Charles wanted someone to read with me so he could see what our chemistry was and he did a screen test and Simon was just right on-there was such a quality about him that he brought to that part, this sadness in his eyes, that was just right. You know, that's another thing I love about Charles, is that he believed that he didn't have to have the 'hot' guy or 'hot' girl in the movie together; he saw Simon in the role and he was great.
Q: Can you talk about the detective you play in Christopher Nolan's Insomnia, with Al Pacino and Robin Williams?
I finished that in July, it's a murder mystery, kind of thriller with Al Pacino and Robin Williams and Christopher Nolan, whom you might remember from Memento, who is incredible, and believe me he is not going to let you down with this movie either.
So how do you feel about this movie? Does it have the usual Nolan twist? Or is there one?
You know what? It's not as tricky as Memento. This movie is like when someone comes in and mixes the Rubik's cube up and it still works, you know in that he comes in and just has a different way of going about making a movie and - and he doesn't like it linear. He likes it nonlinear and he just you know he just messes it up a little bit and with this movie the audience is in on it and the producer is not in on it as what's going on. You know as the budding detective that I am, you see the evolution of her growth as a detective and I always try and find a sentence that describes what the movie is to me before I start it and my sentence in Insomnia was that 'nothing is as it seems - heroes are flawed.'
Q: Now that you've been validated by your peers, what scares you now?
Well recently, flying.
Let me just say this. I live in New York and you know I saw it all happen from my window and being that close to it, I got on a plane a week after and I have flown at least eight times since and I was fine, then the plane went down - the American Airlines plane and you know and in New York right by us and you see the smoke and everything and you're just so close to it and I just thought: Hey you know I have always known I'm not going to die in a plane. I've just always known that, but then do you know what hit me? I had the sensibility not to get on the plane that's gonna crash. So that all of a sudden hit me, but I don't know. You know what? I am not scared of things very often.
Well I was just thinking about starring in a movie with Pacino. I mean that would scare me, and working with Robin Williams.
I don't use the word scary, but it most certainly it is. I mean you work with these people who are so well respected and have proven themselves and you know you - that whole thing my God am I going to live up to their expectations and am I going to be able to step up to the plate? Then you just have to just feel that and get over it and not dwell on that or you're not going to be able to work. I just sort of had to observe Pacino and work off of him. I mean he is just so giving and if you're not present for that and you're too afraid that you're not going to absorb any of it.
Boxing Hilary Swank at Gleason’s Gym
In the spring of 2004, Bruce Silverglade, the proprietor of the fabled Gleason’s Gym, which sits like a pugilistic bastion under the Brooklyn Bridge in Brooklyn, New York, received several cryptic calls from a film company representative. The caller asked if the facility, which is the oldest active boxing gym in the United States, trained celebrities, and if so, could the still unnamed celebrity work there out of the glare of the spotlight? Silverglade explained that, from a boxing standpoint, Gleason’s was true to its roots. All 850 members—regardless of whether they are teenage delinquents looking for an alternative from the streets, white collar warriors, preliminary kids, top contenders or renowned world champions—are treated equally.
Each is required to pay a $70 monthly fee, and if they choose they can negotiate their own deal with the many trainers on the premises. Over the years such boxing luminaries as Muhammad Ali, Mike Tyson, Larry Holmes, Sugar Ray Leonard, Wilfred Benitez, Roberto Duran, Lennox Lewis and Arturo Gatti have called Gleason’s home. While preparing for Tyson some years back, Buster Mathis Jr. compared training at Gleason’s to fighting at Madison Square Garden.
Moreover, no shortage of Hollywood’s elite had trained there for film roles, including Robert DeNiro for “Raging Bull,” Wesley Snipes for “Streets of Gold,” John Leguizamo for “Undefeated,” Willem Dafoe for “Triumph of the Spirit,” Michelle Rodriguez for “Girlfight,” and Jennifer Lopez for “Money Train.” When Silverglade, who is perhaps the least star-struck person you’ll ever meet, was told that Academy Award winner Hilary Swank would be training there for the role of Maggie Fitzgerald in the Clint Eastwood-directed film “Million Dollar Baby,” he was as nonplussed as he usually is. The only thing he did a little bit differently was recommend that Hector Roca, who had worked with such championship caliber fighters as Gatti, Regilio Tuur and Iran Barkley, be her trainer.
“I thought that if all the negative Hollywood stereotypes applied to Hilary, which they didn’t, Hector would be the perfect trainer for her,” said Silverglade, who like Roca was familiar with the late F.X. O’Toole’s book “Rope Burns” on which the film is based, but did not know the author, whose real name was Jerry Boyd, personally. “People say I’m not star-struck, but Hector’s even less star-struck than me. When it comes to training boxers, Hector is all business. It’s either his way or the highway. I think the results speak for themselves.”
The eternally youthful 65-year-old Roca, who represented his native Panama as a bicyclist in the 1972 Pan American Games, had never even heard of Swank. And while he was aware of the Academy Awards, he had no idea what the term “Oscar” meant. When he met Swank and was told he had four and a half months to transform her into a real fighter, he treated her no differently than any of his other clients—whether they were overweight businessmen or professional boxers of varying skill levels.
“She came here to work at the same time every day,” said Roca. “I don’t think she was ever late. She was determined to learn how to box. Never once did I hear ‘I’m tired’ or ‘that’s enough for today.’ I worked her hard for two and a half hours, sometimes three hours a day. Then she left here to go bulk up with a personal trainer. She was dedicated. What she learned in such a short time, takes some people years to learn.”
Realizing he was on a tight schedule, Roca had Swank working in the ring within two weeks. Her primary sparring partner was Maureen Shea, a 24-year-old senior English major at Iona College who was preparing for her second year of Golden Gloves competition.
“In the beginning I held back, of course I did,” said Shea, a veteran of eight amateur bouts, of which she won five. “But I knew how to work with her. If she hit me, I didn’t get mad and try to retaliate. I had nothing to prove to her, because she had nothing to prove to me. She was just another girl learning how to box. She made no big deal about her being an actress, and her humility rubbed off on everyone.”
Roca said there were occasions when movie executives would show up unannounced and were aghast to find Swank sparring without full facial gear. Roca assured them that she was more than holding her own, and if she was going to give a realistic portrayal of a woman boxer she’d have to train under realistic conditions.
“They were scared and kept saying her face was insured,” Roca said, “that I couldn’t get it banged up.” Roca insists that Swank’s immense natural athleticism enabled him to convert her from being an orthodox puncher to a southpaw in no time flat. “I just told them they had to trust me, that I knew what I was doing. After a while they realized that and were very pleased with the results.”
Swank’s husband, actor Chad Lowe, whom Shea described as being as down to earth as his wife, was a regular fixture in the gym, always offering immense support throughout the trials and tribulations of trying to master perhaps the most difficult and dangerous sport of all. Never once did he wince when she got hit, and he actually donned the gloves and went a few rounds with her on several occasions.
“Hilary hit him more than he hit her,” joked Roca. “That girl is a real athlete. You teach her something and she picks it up right away. The next day, it seems like she practiced it all night.”
Swank and Lowe developed such a close bond with Shea, they traveled to two of her fights in the 2004 Golden Gloves competition, even though both were in obscure outer borough arenas. Shea was not only thrilled to have them present, she was amazed at how easy they were able to blend in. “There are a lot of nice people in boxing, but you’re not going to find many nicer people than Hilary and Chad,” said Shea. “Training at Gleason’s you get used to working alongside world champions. It’s no big deal. The same happened with them. Within an hour of them being there, they were just two more people working and sweating.”
Swank told Silverglade she will return to the gym, once her intense promotional obligations culminate at this Sunday’s Academy Awards, where she is favored to win Best Actress honors. Silverglade believes she will be true to her word, because she genuinely seemed to enjoy her time there. One of his fondest memories is seeing her, an Academy Award winning actress, actually looking awestruck when introduced to Mike Tyson. Furthermore, says Silverglade, all of the publicity surrounding her training at Gleason’s has reaped dividends for him from financial, promotional, even emotional standpoints.
And Roca, a diehard dominoes player, who wouldn’t comment on his earnings, said that he’s now in more demand than ever. And he was in high demand long before he ever learned what an Oscar was. He’ll be in Las Vegas this weekend with some preliminary fighters, but hopes to get himself in front of a television set on Sunday to see his prized pupil win the most coveted award in her field. He will always cherish his contributions to her efforts as much as she will cherish the award itself. But, he insists, nothing will compare to the gratitude he feels toward her, not only for making him look so good, but for presenting him with a set of ivory dominoes shortly before she departed New York in mid-January for the Golden Globe Awards in Los Angeles. After being named Best Actress, she thanked “my trainers Hector Roca and Grant Roberts [her non-boxing trainer], who encouraged me to push myself beyond any imagination I ever had of myself.”
As much credit as Roca deserves, it is hard to downplay the role that Gleason’s itself played in the success of the film, even though the movie took place in Los Angeles. Since taking over the gym in 1985, Silverglade has resurrected it into a world-renowned industry unto itself. He did that by making everyone who walked through the door—from overweight bankers to underweight actors and actresses—realize that taking those three long steps into the ring is like taking a journey to the center of their soul.
Most importantly, Gleason’s offers a cultural and metaphorical link between the most divergent of eras. The gym’s legacy was spawned in 1937, when fight manager Robert Gagliardi needed a new training venue in the Bronx. Because of immense anti-Italian sentiment during that era, as well as an Irish proliferation of the sport, he named it after Bobby Gleason, a popular second-rate pug in his stable. After several moves, the gym landed at its current location in 1986.
Silverglades’ professionalism is a far cry from the Gleason’s of the late seventies, which was on West 30th Street in Manhattan. In those days an old wizened gym rat stood sentry at the door, collecting a dollar from every visitor. Armed with my very first press pass, I muttered “Press” as I cockily breezed passed him.
“Press your f-ing pants,” he snorted. “It’s still a dollar to get in.”
You can’t help but get the impression that even then and there, Hilary Swank, being the consummate professional that she is, would have fit right in.
Hilary Dressed to Thrill in Backless Bombshell
Best actress winner Hilary Swank stood out from the crowd at the Academy Awards with her daring choice of dress.
While most of the Hollywood A-list went for strapless gowns, Swank chose a clinging creation from designer Guy Laroche. With a high neck and long sleeves, the midnight blue dress showed barely an inch of skin from the front view.
But the gown was entirely backless and revealed the body Swank toned to perfection during months of boxing training for Million Dollar Baby.
The 30-year-old actress opted for the French designer despite her modelling contract for Calvin Klein, after falling in love with the dress.
“I just thought it was really beautiful,” she said.
Elsewhere on the red carpet, sleek and sophisticated were the order of the day as the stars harked back to the 1940s and an era of true Hollywood glamour.
Cate Blanchett, an actress who never puts a foot wrong in the fashion stakes, wore a pale yellow taffeta Valentino gown with jewelled corsage at the shoulder.
“Valentino made it for me. I just loved it,” she said of the dress, which could have come straight out of her film The Aviator.
Charlize Theron wore a pale blue Dior dress with a full skirt made from layers of tulle.
Penelope Cruz chose a strapless yellow Oscar de la Renta creation and British hopeful Sophie Okonedo looked pretty in a white prom-style gown by Rochas.
Best actress nominee Imelda Staunton shunned big name designers in favour of a teal gown made by her friend, costume designer John Bright. She accessorised with a diamond snake brooch, ring and earrings by Boucheron.
Kate Winslet stood out in a bright blue dress with beaded inset by Badgley Mischka.
Renee Zellweger also opted for colour in a red Carolina Herrera fishtail dress.
Black was a top fashion choice this year with Scarlett Johansson and Beyonce Knowles both opting for dresses which hugged their curves.
Johansson wore a Roland Mouret gown which showed off her hourglass figure and made her feel “like a princess” but joked: “I can barely breathe!”
Knowles, who made several costume changes throughout the evening as she sang the tunes nominated for best original song, wore velvet Versace.
Kirsten Dunst, Drew Barrymore, Vanessa Paradis and Annette Bening were among the actresses who chose black.
Neutral tones were also popular – Gwyneth Paltrow wore a nude silk corset dress designed by her friend Stella McCartney, while Halle Berry wore a taupe Versace gown.
Supermodel Gisele Bundchen accompanied boyfriend Leonardo DiCaprio and wore a white strapless empire-line dress with gold embroidery.
Best actress nominee Virginia Madsen wore royal blue Versace, Salma Hayek wore midnight blue Prada and Melanie Griffith also chose Versace, which she teamed with a plaster cast and walking stick after breaking her foot.
All the stars dripped in diamonds – the world’s most exclusive jewellers fight to get the A-list wearing their designs.
Scarlett Johansson wore a 19th century Fred Leighton diamond tiara, Natalie Portman set off her Grecian-style dress with a diamond-studded Alice band, and Beyonce Knowles wore diamond drop earrings with matching bracelet.
There were none of the fashion disasters of recent years, such as Bjork’s bizarre swan outfit or Cher’s cobweb creation.
Only the men let the side down with some dubious choices.
Best supporting actor nominee Clive Owen looked immaculate in a tuxedo by Giorgio Armani.
But Johnny Depp was less stylish in a blue tux with black collar, and Robin Williams had fashion watchers cringeing at his fuschia pink shirt.
Oscar keeps it real - real dull
Oscar had his moments last night, but most of 'em were ... what's the word we're looking for? Oh yeah -- boring!
With a glut of TV awards shows on the circuit, it's not enough to be the big daddy of them all. You've gotta give the people what they want, and what they go to movies to get -- it's called entertainment, stupid.
And trotting out Beyonce to sing three different songs doesn't cut it. The most entertaining part of her gig was guessing which colour eye shadow she'd switch to for her finale.
Oh sure, there were some surprises. The show only ran 10 minutes over schedule. During the red-carpet pre-show, Star Jones confided, "I like Pink's hot dogs with chili and cheese." Who'd have guessed?
And Jamie Foxx's best actor win for Ray gave the ceremony its one true moment of emotional power, when he tearfully remembered his late grandmother's tough-love acting lesson: "Act like you've got some sense."
Hilary Swank got off to a good aw-shucks start with her best actress acceptance speech, gushing, "I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream."
But even Swank felt it was necessary to thank her lawyer before giving best picture Million Dollar Baby's Oscar-winning director Clint Eastwood his props.
But what was up Sean Penn's nose? Two hours after host Chris Rock cracked that he doesn't know who Jude Law is, except that he's in every movie made over the past four years, Penn got huffy when he arrived to give Swank her Oscar, telling the world in general that Law is "one of our finest actors." Sheesh, chill out, dude.
Rock was adequate as host, if not exactly quick to the punch. The first award of the show, for art direction, had all the nominees on stage while their names were read. It was the same drill for several other categories, which struck Rock as disrespectful. Eventually. It was two hours into the show before Rock weighed in with, "Oh come on. Oh man, they're giving the Oscar on stage? Next year they're going to give out Oscars in the parking lot ... it'll be like a drive-through Oscar."
Whatever, it saved winners seated in the back of the room from having to make an on-camera trek to the stage. And winners like Canuck Chris Landreth, whose Oscar-winning animated short Ryan screens at the NSI FilmExchange festival later this week, didn't seem to mind. Landreth thanked the Academy just for continuing to honour shorts.
"Million Dollar Baby" Hilary Swank
IN THEATRES -- In a life of constant struggle, Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time--then Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) walks into his gym. In, "Million Dollar Baby," both face a battle that will demand more heart and courage than any they've ever known. PG-13 for violence, some disturbing images, thematic material and language.
Directed by: Clint Eastwood Written by: Paul Haggis, stories by Jerry Boyd aka F.X. Toole
Cast: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Mike Colter, Lucia Rijker, Brian F. O'Byrne
While most Americans want to be rich and famous, some acquire substantial assets but few reach the peaks of celebrity that make their names household terms. In Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby," [ movie poster ] [ movie soundtrack ] written by Paul Haggis based on a story in fight trainer F.X. Toole's collection "Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner," a woman approaching middle age and going nowhere takes vigorous and sustained action to achieve both goals. That she does so in the boxing world though she commences serious training at the late age of thirty-one is not credible. However Hilary Swank in the role of boxer Maggie Fitzgerald turns in such a prize-worthy role as a woman with nothing who wants everything that we accept the movie's premises. Not so clear is the motivation of her trainer, Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), who virtually sleepwalks through the movie, guilt-ridden that he and his daughter have been estranged for twenty-three years for reasons that are never explored.
While the production notes for the film state that this is not a boxing movie but one about relationships is simplistic. True, the spine of the story is the symbiosis between an aging trainer and a soon-to-be-middle-aged contender. But those of us who believe that boxing should be as verboten as public smoking is in New York City will have their prejudices confirmed. Boxing has carried many a man and now quite a few women into a life with more money than they could have earned in a lifetime in a less lucrative job. Yet a pastime that richly rewards a person for beating the stuffings out of his opponent has no more place in the lexicon of civilized sport than does bullfighting in Spain and Mexico.
Much of the story takes place in a seedy prizefight training center, where aspirants hang out and punch bags under the watchful eyes of trainer Frankie Dunn and a helper who now does menial jobs about the gym, Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris (Morgan Freeman). Scrap, as he is affectionately called, has known better days, his own career in the ring ended when he loses an eye despite Frankie's unwillingness to stop the fight in time. Some of the humor of the pic is provided by Danger Barch (Jay Baruchel is a splendid supporting role), a mentally challenged individual whose dreams of stardom in the sport will prove elusive. When Maggie Fitzgerald, who has paid up her dues for a six-months' period, insists that she is tough and asks Frankie to be her trainer, she is put off by Frankie's raspy-voiced response, "Girlie tough is not enough." If you're a betting man, do you doubt that you can win a wager that Frankie would soon take her on?
"Million Dollar Baby" is essentially a three-character piece, with Morgan Freeman doubling as a philosophic narrator, but Eastwood does well bringing in secondary characters. The most loathsome is Maggie's mom, a lazy hillbilly who viciously attacks her daughter for buying her a house because that would mean she'd lose her welfare benefits. Brian O'Byrne supplies the conscience of the story as Father Horvak, who is amazed that Frankie has been to church every day for the past twenty-three years and, as the priest states, must be sitting on quite a bit of guilt to motivate the worship. (This makes us salivate for information on just what Frankie did to alienate his daughter over two decades previous.)
Aside from that hole in the plot, the principal characters are well developed. Maggie does not want to spend the rest of her life waiting tables and scraping dishes. Frankie is adrift because all the letters he sends to his daughter are returned to sender. Since people like violence, as is stated in the film, we in the audience, despite our views of boxing, can't help being emotionally involved in the bouts, wishing Maggie the best as she proceeds up the rungs to a title fight for which she is not really prepared. The tragedy that ensues leads Frankie to make a fateful decision, weighing his priest's injunction against his own conscience. If "Million Dollar Baby" relies on hoary themes, we're drawn in particularly by the crackerjack performance that Eastwood evokes from Hilary Swank.
Hilary Swank nearly TKO'd by foot infection
While training for the boxing drama "Million Dollar Baby," Hilary Swank was nearly TKO'd - by a foot infection.
Swank, nominated for a best-actress Oscar for her performance in the Clint Eastwood-directed film, says a blister on her foot nearly led to her downfall.
After popping the blister, Swank continued her rigorous workouts. But soon she was in intense pain and knew something was wrong.
"I couldn't believe the pain," the 30-year-old actress says in an interview to air Sunday on CBS' "60 Minutes" newsmagazine. "It was unbelievable and I looked down, there were streaks going to my foot.
"So, I went to the doctor's that second and he looked at me and he said, 'This is really serious. And if you would have waited two more hours, you would have been in the hospital for three weeks - and if it gets to your heart, that's it.' "
Swank says she was diagnosed with a bacterial infection but never told Eastwood, also her co-star in the movie, because it wouldn't have been in character.
Instead, she took several days of medicated rest and then returned to the ring.
"I didn't tell Clint," she says. "The producers don't know ... because in the end, that's what happens to boxers: They get blisters, they get infected. They have injuries, and they keep pushing through it."
Swank won an Oscar in 2000 for "Boys Don't Cry."
Jamie Foxx, Hilary Swank win Screen Actors Guild awards:
Jamie Foxx and Hilary Swank won the best actor and actress trophies for their roles in "Ray" and "Million Dollar Baby" at the 11th annual Screen Actors Guild (SAG) awards here.
Morgan Freeman took the best supporting actor award Saturday for his role as Swank's gym manager in Clint Eastwood's "Million Dollar Baby", said hollywoodreporter.com.
Cate Blanchett picked up the best supporting actress trophy for playing Katharine Hepburn in Martin Scorsese's "The Aviator".
The cast of director Alexander Payne's bittersweet comedy "Sideways" won the award for best ensemble.
Geoffrey Rush ("The Life and Death of Peter Sellers") and Glenn Close ("The Lion in Winter") won trophies for best actor and actress in a mini-series or TV movie.
Jerry Orbach of "Law and Order" and Jennifer Garner ("Alias") won trophies for best performances in a drama series.
Tony Shalhoub ("Monk") won for best actor in a comedy while Teri Hatcher ("Desperate Housewives") took the award for best actress in a comedy.
The cast of "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" won the ensemble award for best drama and that of "Desperate Housewives" won as best comedy series cast.
The SAG Life Achievement Award went to actor James Garner, the star of films such as "The Great Escape" (1963), "Maverick" (1994) and "The Notebook" (2004).
Hilary Swank finds boxing very taxing!
Hollywood actress Hilary Swank has said that she needed months of preparation for her role as a boxer in he latest film 'Million Dollar Baby'.
In the movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, Swank plays Maggie, a white trash waitress who was determined to become a boxer.
According to The Sun, the star found training sessions really hard, as each day she had to train for six hours, eat a high protein meal every 90 minutes, and guzzle down two flaxseed shakes to get into fit shape