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Hilary Swank is an American actress who has won Academy Awards for her starring roles in the films Million Dollar Baby and Boys Don't Cry.
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The film also explores Brandon's relationship with Tina (played by Chloe Sevigny), a romance that endures after Brandon reveals himself to be a female. "For me it's a love story, and a terrible story of hate. Part of Brandon's tragedy is that he didn't really have a safe place," Swank said in Interview magazine.
Throwing herself into the role,
Swank spent weeks as a man. She studied how people reacted to her and whether they saw her as a male or female. The project was clearly a labor of love for Swank, for which she was paid only $3,000. The independent drama became a critical success. For her memorable and universally acclaimed performance, Swank earned a number of critics' awards, a Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama, and an Academy Award for Best Actress. She found her marriage the subject of much tabloid speculation at this time, after she forgot to thank her husband during her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards.
More film roles soon followed. In 2000, Swank appeared in the supernatural thriller The Gift, also featuring Keanu Reeves and Cate Blanchett. She then starred in the historical drama The Affair of the Necklace (2001) with Jonathan Pryce, Christopher Walken and Joely Richardson. Both films failed to attract much of an audience. She fared better with the 2002 crime thriller Insomnia with Al Pacino and Robin Williams, playing a local Alaskan cop, but she had yet to play a leading role that matched the caliber of her work on Boys Don't Cry.
Working with director Clint Eastwood, Swank gave it her all to play a female boxer in 2004's Million Dollar Baby. She put herself through a grueling training regime to play a young woman hoping to become a professional fighter. "For this role, I was asked to put on 10 pounds of muscle, but I didn't feel that it was enough, so I put on 19 pounds. I trained for three months, boxing and lifting weights for four hours each day. I drank egg whites and flax oil, ate raw fish, and woke up every night for a protein shake," she told Redbook magazine.
Her dedication to her craft clearly came through in Million Dollar Baby. As Clint Eastwood later said, "she absolutely inhabits her characters and approaches each one with unparalleled enthusiasm." Swank won both an Academy Award and a Golden Globe for her work in the film.
On television, she took on another strong character, playing suffragist Alice Paul in 2004's Iron Jawed Angels. With her career on an upswing, Swank took on more leading roles. She starred in Brian De Palma's true-life crime thriller The Black Dahlia (2006), playing a femme fatale. The film, however, received lackluster reviews and did poorly at the box office.
In her personal life, Swank experienced some heartache as she and her husband decided to divorce in 2006. "In the end, it just didn't work, but I would never look back on this relationship as failed; I look at it as 13 1/2 years of success," she explained to Vanity Fair magazine.
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