No More Hilary Swank
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You take that leap, and sometimes you fly and sometimes you fall
On the cover:
Two-time Academy Awards for Best Actress winner, Hilary Ann Swank, born July 30, 1974. In October 2011, Swank attracted controversy for attending an event in Chechnya's capital Grozny on the 35th birthday of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov on October 5. After wishing him "Happy birthday, Mr. President", she reportedly claimed knowledge about Kadyrov saying: "I read. I do my research". Following criticism from human rights groups, who report having informed her about the human rights abuses in Chechnya prior to the event, asking her to reconsider her participation, Swank said she was unaware that Kadyrov had been accused of human rights violations and that she "deeply regrets" taking part in the lavish concert, and will donate her personal appearance fees "to various charitable organizations."
Why Hollywood won't cast the 2-time Oscar winner
She won two Oscars too quickly
They say that winning an Oscar can be a curse. But winning two in the span of five years? That's a whole other story.
Swank arguably faced a considerable backlash in Hollywood after she won her second Best Actress Oscar—for the Clint Eastwood drama Million Dollar Baby—in 2005. By then, there was a growing feeling that Swank had been excessively rewarded. Suddenly, the actress had gone from starring in 90210 to joining the ranks of two-time winners like Bette Davis, Vivien Leigh and Meryl Streep. (Yes, Streep "only" had two wins by then.) It was especially crazy when you factor in that two of her fellow nominees that year—Kate Winslet and Annette Bening—hadn't even won yet. (Sadly, Bening still hasn't.)
But beyond the politics of who deserved what, Swank was inevitably set up for failure by the Academy. By age 30, she had far exceeded expectations, and accomplished more than most actors could ever dream. At that point, there was really no place to go but down.
She also got lucky
The strange thing about Swank's two Oscar wins is that they were both lightning-in-a-bottle moments in her career. She certainly gave excellent performances in both Boys Don't Cry and Million Dollar Baby; nobody's going to look back and say to themselves, "Wait, she won an Oscar for THAT?!"
The problem is, outside of those two movies, she never really did anything that warranted that level of acclaim. Before Boys Don't Cry, she was only really known for movies like The Next Karate Kid and getting fired from 90210. And even afterward, she struggled to land on her feet, starring in mostly mediocre projects like The Affair of the Necklace and the TV movie Iron Jawed Angels. Sure, she had two Oscars to her name—but not much else to show for it. As a result, Swank became a difficult actress to place in Hollywood. She was great in the right role, but difficult to cast in many others. In many ways, that arguably played a key role in how her career played out after Million Dollar Baby. And speaking of which…
Her latest movies haven't been great
Much like the years after she won the Oscar for Boys Don't Cry, Swank had a difficult time finding success after Million Dollar Baby was released in 2004. She vacillated wildly between starring in prestige movies that were too mediocre for Oscar consideration and mainstream flicks that seemed more geared towards making money than satisfying audiences.
One of her roughest patches came in 2009, when she starred in the Amelia Earhart biopic Amelia, which was in every sense of the word a disaster. Reviews were terrible—it earned a 20 percent score on Rotten Tomatoes—and box office returns were even worse. The film grossed just $14.2 million against a reported $40 million budget, and Swank's days of Oscar glory started to feel like a thing of the past. Not that it bothers her: "You're an artist and you're putting yourself out there, and you take that leap, and sometimes you fly and sometimes you fall," she told the Independent in 2014.
She has other interests
Like many actors who have spent a considerable amount of time in the spotlight, Swank realizes there's more to life than red carpets and million-dollar movies. She said as much while speaking to the Independent in 2014, pointing out, "None of us know what's going to happen from one moment to the next and I think that's one of the things we have to be able to do, to never take a moment for granted. Today, I'm living my bucket list. Life is short and we have to make the most of it every day. If you were told you had a year to live how much different would you live your life than maybe some of the things we take for granted or we worry about? They're so absurd in the overall scheme of things."
The Independent adds that Swank has spent a lot of the last few years "visiting and working in orphanages in India, helping to set up schools in Ethiopia and launching her own charity, called Hilaroo." According to the interview, Hilaroo unites children with animals "to help heal each other."
She's been caring for her dad
Swank's absence from the spotlight has also had to do with things beyond her own control. In 2015, the actress revealed to the Huffington Post that she had recently put her career on the back burner in order to take care of her ailing father, who had just had a lung transplant. "My dad is living with me," she said (via ABC News) of her father, Stephen Swank. "I'm his sole caretaker right now.
"It's a certain amount of time [to serve as a caretaker], but in a lifespan it's a blink of an eye," she continued. "There's been job opportunities I've passed on, and things that I said 'I can't,' but really what we're here for is our family." She went on to add that the decision to put her family first has led to zero regrets. "There is nothing I want to do more other than being with my dad in this time of need," she said. "And if it wasn't me taking care of him, I think I would always look back and regret that opportunity to be able to care of him and help him through this extraordinary time."
Fortunately, she's still got it in her
Although her star wattage isn't as strong as it used to be, even she's given the right role, she can still really kill it. Case in point: 2014's The Homesman, a Tommy Lee Jones-directed movie that earned Swank some of the best reviews of her career from critics who hailed her performance as a return to form. Sure, it didn't win her a third Best Actress Oscar, but the strength of her work and the warm reception it received suggested a third nomination may still be in her future.
A class act
Human rights controversy: In October 2011, Swank attracted controversy for attending an event in Chechnya's capital Grozny on the 35th birthday of Chechen president Ramzan Kadyrov on October 5. After wishing him "Happy birthday, Mr. President", she reportedly claimed knowledge about Kadyrov saying: "I read. I do my research". Following criticism from human rights groups, who report having informed her about the human rights abuses in Chechnya prior to the event, asking her to reconsider her participation, Swank said she was unaware that Kadyrov had been accused of human rights violations and that she "deeply regrets" taking part in the lavish concert, and will donate her personal appearance fees "to various charitable organizations."
Swank is attached to star in the Hollywood remake of Intimate Strangers. It was incorrectly reported that she would play a lead role in, and produce a film adaptation of the John Marks novel Fangland.
Jason Aardiman, Contributor: Jason is an Italian author, social activist, and filmmaker known for political analyses and criticism of corporate globalization and of corporate capitalism. He was born and raised in an Italian-American working class family in New York City. After high school he worked for a number of years then returned to school, eventually earning a B.A. from City College of New York, an M.A. from Brown University, and a Ph.D. in political science from Yale University. Mr. Aardiman has lectured far and wide... (more...)