Hilary was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Judith Kay (Clough), a secretary, and Stephen Michael Swank, who served in the National Guard and was also a traveling salesman. Her maternal grandmother, Frances Martha Dominguez, was of Mexican descent, and her other roots include German, English, and Scottish. During her early childhood, her family moved to Spokane, Washington, and when she was six, to Bellingham, Washington.
Hilary was discovered as a child by producer Suzy Sachs, who coached her in acting. When she was nine years old, she starred in her first play as “Mowgli” in “The Jungle Book”. She began to appear regularly in local theater and school plays. She went to school in Bellingham, where she lived with her family, until she was 16. She competed in the Junior Olympics and Washington State championships in swimming; she ranked 5th in the state in all-around gymnastics (which would come in handy for starring in The Next Karate Kid (1994) years later). In 1990, Hilary and her mother moved to Los Angeles, where she enrolled in South Pasadena High School, and started acting professionally. She appeared in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) but The Next Karate Kid (1994), where she got the part competing against hundreds of other actresses, was her breakout role. Ever since then, she has been much in demand and has worked non-stop in movies. She won the Best Actress Oscar for playing “Brandon Teena” in Boys Don’t Cry (1999). In addition to the Oscar, Hilary won the Golden Globe Award for “Best Actress in a Drama” and “Best Actress” prizes from The New York Film Critics, The Los Angeles Film Critics, The Chicago Film Critics and The Broadcast Film Critics Association. She also won the “Breakthrough Performance” prize from The National Board of Review.
Hilary then appeared in supporting roles opposite Cate Blanchett and Keanu Reeves in Sam Raimi’s The Gift (2000) and opposite Al Pacino and Robin Williams in Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia (2002). Hilary then starred as “Alice Paul” in HBO’s Iron Jawed Angels (2004), which told the story of the women’s suffragist movement and she was honored with both SAG and Golden Globe nominations for her performance in this film. In 2004, Hilary starred opposite Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman as the title character in Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby (2004); the story of a young woman’s quest to realize her dream of becoming a professional boxer. For this performance, she was honored with her second Academy Award for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role” and has garnered “Best Actress” prizes from the National Society of Film Critics, the Screen Actors Guild, The Broadcast Film Critics, and a Golden Globe for “Best Lead Actress in a Drama”.
Hilary Swank is the third youngest woman in history to win two Academy Awards for “Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role”.
She subsequently had a supporting role opposite Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett in Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia (2006), starred in Freedom Writers (2007), the true story of Long Beach schoolteacher, Erin Gruwell, The Reaping (2007) for Warner Brothers, and reunited with her Freedom Writers (2007) writer/director, Richard LaGravenese, starring in the film adaptation of Cecelia Ahern’s novel, P.S. I Love You (2007).
An aficionado for anything that involves the outdoors, she enjoys: sky diving, river rafting and skiing.
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