Swank Switches On

The Oscar Winner's Return in What They Had

BY: Claire Connors

It’s a new dawn for Hilary Swank, who is back in fine form after taking a career hiatus back in 2014. We all know her origin story by now: the young Nebraskan actor wowed audiences and critics by winning her first Academy Award (the third youngest to achieve that!), for the biographical film Boys Don’t Cry in 1999. Then she wowed us again when she grabbed the Oscar for her tragic role in Clint Eastwood’s boxing drama Million Dollar Baby five years later.

For the next 15 years, Swank portrayed real-life heroes in many of her films, like 2004’s Iron Jawed Angels, about American suffragette leader Alice Paul; 2007’s Freedom Writers about teacher Erin Gruwell making changes in an academically-challenged inner city school in Los Angeles following the LA riots; and 2009’s biopic, Amelia, about the beloved aviator Amelia Earhart.

And a few years later, Swank became a hero in real life. The actor took time off to help her father recover from a lung transplant in 2014. Today, Stephen Swank is in good health and credits his daughter with making that happen. What’s the female word for mensch?

Swank’s two big comeback roles earlier this year are again based on real people. In Amazon’s 10 part series, Trust, she’s Gail Getty, the mother of J. Paul Getty lll, the heir to the Getty fortune, who was kidnapped in 1973. And in 55 Steps she plays Colette Hughes, a patients’ rights lawyer who helps an institutionalized patient with mental issues (Helena Bonham Carter) to reform the laws regarding the treatment of patients.

This fall Swank stars in the heartbreakingly beautiful family drama, What They Had. She play Bridget, a married mother living in California who gets “the call” that her aging mother (Blythe Danner) has wandered off in the middle of the night of a Chicago winter. She rushes back to the family home to help decide what needs to be done next: continue letting her mother live with her still-able but increasingly deteriorating father, or move her into a home for Alzheimer’s patients? Co-starring Michael Shannon as her frustrated brother and Robert Forster as the patriarch who has no intension of letting the love of his life move into a home, this is a must-see movie for the superb performances alone.

What They Had opens October 19th.