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If you like Hilary Swank's story, you might also like:
Julie Andrews,
Carol Burnett,
Olivia de Havilland,
Whoopi Goldberg,
Ron Howard,
Jeremy Irons,
James Earl Jones,
Naomi Judd,
Sidney Poitier
and Barry Scheck

Hilary Swank can also be seen and heard in our Podcast Center

Hilary Swank's recommended reading: To Kill a Mockingbird

Related Links:
New York Times
Hetrick-Martin Institute
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Hilary Swank
Hilary Swank
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Hilary Swank Interview (page: 5 / 8)

Two Oscars for Best Actress

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  Hilary Swank

Your performance in The Jungle Book was around that time, wasn't it? Your first appearance on the stage?

Hilary Swank Interview Photo
Hilary Swank: Yes. That was actually the same year. He said, "I think you should try out for the school play," and it happened to be The Jungle Book. I went in and auditioned for Bagheera. I wanted to play Bagheera, and I was asked to play Mowgli. I thought, "A boy? I'm going to have to go think about that," and I came back. I said, "Yes, I'll do it. I'll do it." So that was my first play. I don't know if it was a peek into the future of what my first big role would be, but I didn't cut off my hair for the role.

What was the reaction? Did you feel that sense of coming alive in doing that?

Hilary Swank: Absolutely. That's on videotape. It 's very funny to watch. I remember it gave me focus. It gave me something to just really put everything into.

I remember learning the lines. I remember thinking, "Am I going to remember all of these lines?" I remember rehearsing. I remember the joy of losing myself in the rehearsal process at that age of nine years old. I remember it like it was yesterday. I remember the collaboration and how fun it is to figure out what you're doing together.

After that you became more active with the Bellingham Theater Guild. Was that outside school?

Hilary Swank: That was outside school.

I told my mom at that young age, "I want to be an actor," and at that point, she was like, "Oh, that's great," but at the time, I was also a swimmer. I started swimming at a very young age. I was a gymnast. I loved sports. I had played basketball, depending on what season it was, but I always swam. I ended up going to the Junior Olympics. So I had a lot going on in my life, and my mom said, "Well, if you want to start doing plays, that's great. We'll go audition," and she was very supportive of that. She wanted to make sure, obviously, that it was something I really wanted to do before we made any big steps, and so, yes, I started doing theater in my local repertory theater in Bellingham.

So you just continued to feel that vibe of wanting to do more?

Hilary Swank: I absolutely loved it. And then there was a time when I was about 14...

My mom started to come to a crossroads in her life where things were changing up. My father and her separated. Then I hit 15, and I was still doing school plays. My mom realized that it was something I wanted to do with my life, and about the middle of my 15th year, she said, "Well, if you really want to do this, we should go down to Hollywood and pursue this in a real way, and I am at a place where I can do that now." And with $75 and a gas credit card, we got into our car with all of the stuff we could put in there and drove down to Los Angeles.

It's a good thing it wasn't $3.50 a gallon back then.

Hilary Swank: That's right. We'd still be paying it off.

That's almost a legendary story about you, but it's so moving to think about your mother's guts to do something like that.

Hilary Swank: My mom will say to this day, "How did you get the way you are? How did you not worry? Your work ethic, your optimism," and I tell her, "Mom, you took it all on. You worried." She hid it well. She never showed me how worried she was. When we first got down to Los Angeles, we were living out of our car -- which is in the press and something I talk about a lot -- just until we could find a place or my mom could get a job, and to her, that was obviously something that she worried about, but for me, it was a great adventure. I didn't look at it as something that was a negative. Again, it was like the trailer. I was a kid. It was all an adventure to me. It was life. It was not something that I thought as a negative in any way, shape, or form. I was in Hollywood, about to pursue my dream. I was going down there to try and live what I love. So it was a wonderful, wonderful adventure.

Hilary Swank Interview Photo
My mom found a friend who was selling her home, so their house was empty during the day, and we spent a little bit of our rations and bought some air mattresses, and we blew them up and would sleep on them at night in this house, and then fold them up and leave during the day, so they could try and sell their house. That's where we lived for a little while.

That sense of drive must be very powerful in you as well. "I am here, I am going to do this."

Hilary Swank: I would say I'm a very driven person, but I think more than drive, I would say I'm a very passionate person, because I think drive can only get you so far. Without passion behind it, and a sense of destination, you're just kind of wandering around aimlessly. You can have drive and push yourself, but if you don't really know what you're pushing yourself towards and have a real sense of what it is you want to do, it can be frustrating.

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This page last revised on May 05, 2008 13:17 EST
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