In the offices of Dunder Mifflin (Scranton branch), salesmen, accountants and even HR got together to decide once and for all: Is Hilary Swank hot or not? They’re referring to her looks, but one could just as easily be talking about her career. At what point was Hilary Swank hot in her career? In 2008, when the episode aired: Yeah. In the years between her Oscars? Not exactly. Now? No. So, let’s take a look and find out…WTF Happened to…HILARY SWANK?
But to truly understand what the fuck happened to Hilary Swank, we go back to the beginning. And the beginning began when she was born on July 30th, 1974, in Lincoln, Nebraska. As a youth, Swank bounced around a bit, going from Nebraska to Washington to California, developing a love for both gymnastics (Junior Olympian; state finalist) and acting (appearing in The Jungle Book at 9 as Mowgli). After moving to CA with her mother (a dancer) as a teen, she lived in a car at first and described herself as an “outsider”, eventually dropping out of high school.
In 1991/1992, Swank landed two episodes of sitcoms Evening Shade and Growing Pains before getting her first feature, a supporting turn in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992). That same year, she took a steady role on ABC sitcom Camp Wilder, playing the best friend to a main character.
Two years later, Swank played Mr. Miyagi’s new protege in The Next Karate Kid, much- derided for booting Daniel LaRusso. Despite its reputation–which it does earn, as it’s terrible compared to its predecessors–it was a breakout for Swank and does in a way feel ahead of its time. But it would still be some time before she really made it.
1996 brought two DTV flicks–horror sequel Sometimes They Come Back…Again and actioner Kounterfeit, back when it was cool to replace a “C” with a “K”. There was also a turn as a rebellious teen in the TV movie Terror in the Family. 1997 had Quiet Days in Hollywood (alongside future husband Chad Lowe), but was marked for continuing the TV trend, with Swank exposing sororities in Dying to Belong and leading the Unsolved Mysteries adaptation The Sleepwalker Killing and getting a major role on ABC’s short-lived Leaving L.A. The highlight of Swank’s TV run–perhaps ever–was as a single mom on Beverly Hills, 90210. Unfortunately, her 16-episode run was cut off. At that point, Hilary Swank figured her career was over.
After indie Heartwood (1998)–and a three-year casting process–Swank was cast in Boys Don’t Cry (1999), playing trans man Brandon Teena, who was tragically murdered in 1993 after his secret was uncovered. For the role, Swank proved more devoted than ever to the craft, living as a man for a month and dropping to 7% body fat. For the role, Swank earned just $3,000…And the Academy Award for Best Actress. It is undoubtedly one of the most powerful performances of the decade.
Swank started off the 2000s with The Gift, earning a Saturn Award nod as, again, the victim of abuse–but the movie is best remembered for Katie Holmes’ nude scene for good reason. In 2001, Swank starred in her first costume drama, The Affair of the Necklace, giving a damn good turn as Jeanne de Valois-Saint-Rémy, who had a roundabout role in the French Revolution. The next year saw Insomnia–Swank is fine, but she easily falls by the wayside of the Pacino/ Williams dynamic. Swank had mostly avoided the post-Oscar slump but saw a bleak 2003, giving an incredible turn that showed her real range in 11:14, but the movie basically went DTV (despite a Cannes premiere). And then there was The Core, one of the dumbest movies of the decade.
2004’s Red Dust brushed past thankfully, allowing Swank to focus on the Clint Eastwood masterpiece Million Dollar Baby, starring as Maggie Fitzgerald, an aspiring boxer who winds up a quadriplegic facing euthanasia…so, yeah, pretty heavy. Swank again showed her devotion, training relentlessly and putting on 20+ pounds of muscle. And yes, she won her second Oscar, one of just three people to win two statues by the time they were 30. That same year, Swank again got sucked into TV to play suffragist Alice Paul in Iron Jawed Angels.
2006 saw her in a thankless role as an Elizabeth Short lookalike in Brian De Palma’s The Black Dahlia, in addition to splitting with Chad Lowe. The following year was prolific and saw Swank hitting every demographic she could: supernatural horror The Reaping is well below her talents; Freedom Writers had her as real-life white savior Erin Gruwell (would she have refused this movie like Boys Don’t Cry?); she was grossly miscast in P.S. I Love You, post-Notebook tripe that showed romance territory was not her bag. That same year, she signed on as a rep for Pantene to aid their cancer charity.
After 2008’s indie Birds of America, Swank starred in Amelia (2009). Despite the prestige buzz leading to its release, it–and Swank–were missed opportunities to bring the aviator out of one-note legacy. Early that year, Swank was the subject of another thin portrayal when a season five episode of The Office devoted a B-story to the question: Is Hilary Swank hot?
Well, if we’re talking about her career at that point, not really…Swank would suggest the topic was shallow, calling it a “disservice.”
Swank started off the 2010s with a SAG nod for the noble Conviction, playing a woman who becomes a lawyer to represent her helpless brother. 2011 brought spooker The Resident, ensemble New Year’s Eve and…wait, controversial moment?! That year, she celebrated Chechnya president Ramzan Kadyrov’s birthday–despite him being generally known as a fan of human rights violations. Swank pled ignorant to his atrocious behavior. Swank tried to recover with TV movie Mary and Martha (2013). From there, Swank, as usual, showed the occasional glimpse of sheer force with Palme d’Or-nominated western The Homesman (2014), giving a fantastic performance against Tommy Lee Jones. And then Swank, as was looking to be a trend, seemed to aim for another Oscar nod, playing a pianist with ALS in saccharine drama You’re Not You.
Family circumstances led Swank to a break from acting, in which she launched nonprofit Hilaroo Foundation, forming a bond between dogs and at-risk teens; in 2016, she launched eco-friendly clothing line Mission Statement. She would return to the screen (sort of) Spark (2016), giving a rare voice performance in the bomb that saw a ~$40 box office loss.
2017 brought Logan Lucky, although she doesn’t get the fun role, playing an FBI agent while the others have a blast, and 55 Steps, more of a showcase for Helena Bonham Carter as a psych ward patient. The following year saw What They Had and a return to TV with series Trust, playing the mother of kidnapped John Paul Getty III. 2019 gave under-appreciated thriller I Am Mother, while 2020 was the most stacked year in over a decade: on-the-nose wannabe satire The Hunt, a juicy role in stalker thriller Fatale and the Netflix series Away–unremarkable but did allow Swank to explore surprisingly familiar territory. It, like most of her shows, was done after one season. So, too, was her turn as a journalist in ABC’s Alaska Daily.
And that’s where we leave off on Hilary Swank at this point. She is still working, she is still crushing and her legacy of two Oscars as secured her a honorable spot in the history of cinema… so nobody should give a fuck about what the fuck happened to Hilary Swank.
But what would really put this Million Dollar Baby back on top again is if she joins COBRA KAI.
Originally published at https://www.joblo.com/what-happened-to-hilary-swank/