What Happened To Hilary Swank?

Of all the Oscar-winning performances of the past two decades, she gave not one, but two of the most brilliant; nowadays, she seems to have fallen off the face of the Earth. What happened to Hilary Swank and what should be her golden career? Did she simply need a break from the bright lights of Tinseltown? Did she fall victim to some supposed Oscar curse? Did she suddenly and inexplicably become uncastable? Where did Hilary Swank go?

As is often the case, the truth is much more complicated than one simple answer can provide. Swank may be down, but she's not out. She was born in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1974. Raised largely in Washington State, she came to Hollywood as a teen and for a while lived in a car with her mother. Swank soon started finding acting work in movies like The Next Karate Kid and in television shows like 90210. Her breakthrough as Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry was an astonishing masterful performance, and she rightfully won every major award for it. A few years later, she starred in Million Dollar Baby where she gave a powerful, intelligent performance, which earned her another Oscar. These facts about Hilary Swank provide important insight into where the actress is today.

  • She Started Taking Care Of Her Ailing Father


    A post shared by Hilary Swank (@hilaryswank) on

    Commendably, Swank put her Hollywood career on the back burner when her father became ill. In 2015, Stephen Swank had a lung transplant, and Hilary moved him into her home so she could care for him. She told The Guardian:

    "I’m his sole caretaker right now... It’s a certain amount of time, but in a lifespan it’s a blink of an eye. There’s been job opportunities I’ve passed on, and times where I've said ‘I can’t,’ but really what we’re here for is our family. There is nothing I want to do more than be with my dad in this time of need. 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 take care of him and help him through this extraordinary time."

    Swank clearly has her priorities in order. Even if it means a lag between acting projects.

  • She Moved Into Producing

    She Moved Into Producing
    Photo: gdcgraphics / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

    Swank has stepped away from the spotlight to pursue other show business interests, namely producing. In 2008, she joined forces with entertainment industry executive Molly Smith to form 2S Films. Right out of the gate, they inked a two-year, first-look deal with Alcon Entertainment, a Warner Bros. development and production company. One of their first projects was You're Not You, a drama featuring Swank as a woman with ALS; the film was released in 2014. About her partnership with Smith, Swank said:

    "I'm thrilled to be collaborating with Molly on [2S Films]. It's always reassuring to work alongside someone with whom you have already established a great professional relationship. I also look forward to the opportunity to collaborate further with a company like Alcon, where there is also a great shared history."

  • Some Feel She Achieved Too Much, Too Fast


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    It's disheartening to think that anyone would not only begrudge, but punish, another person for being wildly successful. But that may be another component to Swank's retreat from film work. By the time she was 30 years old, she'd won two Best Actress Oscars; for perspective, it took Meryl Streep nearly 30 years to accomplish the same feat. Some simply felt that Swank achieved too much, too fast, without paying her dues. Hollywood still revolves heavily around industry politics, which, to use Swank's own turn of phrase, is flabbergasting.

  • She Performed At The Birthday Party Of A Chechen Dictator

    She Performed At The Birthday Party Of A Chechen Dictator
    Video: YouTube

    One glaring missteps in Swank's public life was her decision to appear at the birthday party of Chechen president and dictator Ramzan Kadyrov in 2011. Kadyrov's human rights abuses have been well-documented, even before he started rounding up, torturing, and murdering gay men. Human rights groups say they warned Swank beforehand of Kadyrov's reputation, which she disputes, but she appeared at the event anyway. There was backlash, and Swank was contrite, even firing her management and most of her agents. She donated her appearance fee from Kadyrov's party to charity.

  • She's Doing Humanitarian Work


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    When attention started drifting away from Swank, she dove into humanitarian work. She established schools in Ethiopia. She visited orphanages in India. She even started her own charity, which brings abandoned children and animals together "to help heal each other." About her charity work and her decision to care for her father, Swank told The Independent that it's a matter of putting things into perspective: "If you were told you had a year to live, how differently would you live your life?... Some of the things we take for granted or we worry about... they’re so absurd in the overall scheme of things."

  • She Launched A Fashion Line


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    Swank may not be the first name that comes to mind when you think of fashion, but another project that has kept her busy is the launch of her own high-end fashion line. In 2016, she started Mission Statement, a clothing company that features what she calls "aesthetic wear." What does that mean, exactly? Basically, she designs workout clothes that are also chic, not to mention expensive—sweatpants retail for $200 and jackets for $1,150. Chic workout gear is a corner of the market Swank feels other designers have missed: "I'm not trying to change something that people may already love... I'm taking it to the next level with an alternative that's comfortable and chic, which isn't out there."