Clint Eastwood once said of Million Dollar Baby character Maggie Fitzgerald, “There’s something about her struggle to be something, to get to the top, which is very much like Hilary Swank herself.” And Eastwood’s comparison couldn’t have been more on point, since Swank has been clawing her way to the summit of her profession ever since she was a child.
Indeed, Swank’s fiery determination has fueled much of her professional work, and it’s played a vital role in her personal life, too. But why exactly did the star go on a three-year hiatus from acting? Well, it turns out that her big heart may have had something to do with it…
If you thought that Hilary Swank had everything handed to her on a plate from an early age, think again. Her sheer drive and determination were the key factors to her success – and these qualities certainly didn’t disappear after she had hit the big time. In fact, the actress has practically earned everything she’s achieved off her own back.
After all, Swank’s family didn’t possess a lot of wealth. What’s more, some of her childhood was spent living out of trailers and cars; her parents’ troubled relationship certainly didn’t help matters, either. But, from an early age, Swank dreamed of becoming an actress.
Thankfully, though, Swank’s mother trusted her daughter’s instincts and helped in any way she could – including by cold-calling agents, managers and other people in the business. And against all odds, the persistence paid off, as Swank subsequently got her start in TV, landing parts in the likes of Evening Shade and Growing Pains.
Swank had her first taste of real professional success, though, in the 1992 comedy horror flick Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Then came the role of Julie Pierce in 1994’s The Next Karate Kid, followed by a stint on the hit teen TV drama Beverly Hills, 90210 from 1997 to 1998.
However, it was in 1999 that things really began to take off for Swank. That year saw her deliver a standout performance in Boys Don’t Cry – a project that required Swank to play the role of a transgender man. And, as far as many critics were concerned, she knocked it out of the park.
Boys Don’t Cry even led to Swank scooping up her first Academy Award for Best Actress – but that wouldn’t be her last honor of that kind. Then, in 2004 she was cast as a female boxer in Clint Eastwood’s stunning underdog tale Million Dollar Baby. For the role, she again showcased her dedication by putting on muscle weight for the movie. And the effort paid off, as her performance in the drama earned her a second gong at the Oscars.
Speaking about the awards that she’s earned, Swank told entertainment website Zimbio in 2010, “The fact that people I admire so much have embraced me with the awards means that I don’t feel like such an outsider anymore.” Nevertheless, she never forgot where she came from.
Indeed, it seems that family is very important to Swank; the star has spoken about her connection to her father, for instance. And although Swank and her dad haven’t always seen eye to eye in the past, they’ve since appeared determined to make up for any lost time.
Indeed, when speaking about her father to The Huffington Post in 2015, Swank said, “We’re super close. The bond that we’ve made in this time might make up for some of that time we didn’t have. We didn’t have that one-on-one time together. It’s actually kind of healing.” Sadly, though, recent years haven’t been easy for her dad…
That’s because Swank’s father was tragically diagnosed with lung cancer. And that’s also why the star hasn’t been seen on screen much in the past few years. Yes, instead of making movies, Swank chose to be a full-time carer for her parent in his time of need.
Indeed, Swank would tell The Huffington Post, “My dad is living with me. I’m his sole caretaker right now.” She added, “It’s a certain amount of time [to serve as a caretaker], but in a lifespan it’s a blink of an eye. There’ve been job opportunities I’ve passed on, and things that I said ‘I can’t.’ But really what we’re here for is our family.”
In particular, Swank stepped away from the spotlight to help her father recover from his lung transplant. And the actress seems very glad that she chose to do so, too. “There is nothing I want to do more other than being with my dad in this time of need,” Swank explained. “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 care of him and help him through this extraordinary time.”
And Swank’s actions haven’t just been helpful in practical ways; they’ve also been meaningful in terms of her relationship with her father. “He’s good-natured and giving,” she explained to The Huffington Post. “He has a great sense of humor. It’s easy to be with my dad. It’s easy to hang out. He’s an easy guest to have in my home.”
It’s truly heartwarming to see how much Swank cares about her father, and how she believes that life-or-death situations should always come before anything else. And, understandably, many people were quick to sing Swank’s praises, littering social media with words of appreciation.
One organ donation advocacy group wrote on Twitter in March 2018, “Last night, Hilary Swank talked about her father’s lung transplant on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Thank you for raising awareness about transplantation and organ donation!” And that certainly wasn’t the only compliment given to the Academy Award winner…
Another tweet about Swank stated, for instance, “Just read the story of you caring for your father. Good call. I did the same for my father as he battled Alzheimer’s. It helps with the grieving process.” Swank’s story clearly resonated with people who had done similar things for their loved ones, then.
Indeed, a further tweet in reaction to Swank’s story read, “She’s to be commended for putting family first. Not always an easy choice for someone who depends on being in the public eye for career success.” But, thankfully for her fans, Swank is now back to doing what she does best: acting.
In 2017 Swank made her long-awaited return to the big screen with a role in the critically acclaimed comedy Lucky Logan, before going on to appear in the Danny Boyle-directed series Trust in 2018. She will also play the lead role in the drama What They Had, which is tentatively slated for a cinematic release in October 2018.
Meanwhile, Swank’s father appears to be on the road to recovery after his surgery. The actress said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in March 2018, “He’s great, thank you for asking. It’s the hardest surgery a person can undergo. And I thank all the people who make themselves a donor – it saves lives.”
Swank went on to say that the doctors had “given him a short time to live” if he didn’t have a lung transplant. Fortunately, though, the star informed Colbert that her dad is now “alive and thriving and well.” Heartwarmingly, she added, “I took three years off to be with him and help him through that life journey.” Now, if that isn’t a selfless act, we don’t know what is.