Hilary Swank talks confidence and sharing stories. (Photo: Instagram)
Despite often being seen as tough and intense (a la Karate Kid), two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank has had her share of sadness. In fact, one of the biggest challenges for the 40 year-old actress was when her father was away for deployment during her childhood. Swank’s dad served as Air Force Chief Master Sergeant while she was growing up.“Even though my father wasn’t deployed to fight in a war, he was still gone,“ says Swank. "For a child, when your parent [is] not there, it doesn’t really matter where they are, you just know they’re not there.”
Recently Swank teamed up with the United Service Organization (USO) and Duracell to honor her father and 2 million American children who have (since 2001) dealt with having a deployed parent. They shared a short film by Duracell that shines a light on children who are going through the same struggle.“I don’t know if it’s because I’m a woman, but that relationship between a little girl and her dad – especially in that video – it made me well up. It’s so touching,” she says.
Swank’s obstacles – such as her father being away during her youth – are ones that make bad hair days (or in her case, years), seem insignificant. Beyond unfortunate beauty looks, she has positive, no excuses, attitude about rising above hurdles. Though she has an animated film, and a TV show The One Percent in the works, she’s been turning down roles in order to take care of her ill father. “I just think when someone gets deployed and they’re gone for months to a year, sometimes not only once… but up to five times, it’s a real challenge,” says Swank. “You can’t replace a parent.”
In our one-on-one chat, the actress told us what kind of people (and who, specifically) she admires, the public’s misconceptions about her, and how much makeup she’s really wearing on a regular basis.
Who are your heroes and role models?
Definitely my mom as well [as my dad]. Both of them – people who persevere through challenges and have taught me to stay down to earth, and there’s not any challenge you can’t face when you have your family.
You’ve taken on characters that are confident, empowered and kick butt. Why are you drawn to these roles?
[They are] people who persevere through all odds. That inspires me more than anything. I find it can be super easy to say, “Oh, this is what happened to me…these are the cards was dealt, so I’m a victim of it.” No. You have one life as far as we know – figure out what it is, overcome your obstacles, what it is you want after your life and go after it. I’m of the firm belief that anything is attainable.
Besides overcoming obstacles, what makes you feel confident?
Knowing that I’m not alone in my insecurities. I think it’s probably one of the things about getting older. I just turned 40 last year. Going through your 20s and your 30s, you feel more alone in your stuff. All of a sudden, you realize when you’re 40, “Oh, we all have our stuff.” It’s what connects us all. If we’re not afraid to share what that is, we feel less alone on our journey.
What are – or were – your insecurities?
Like I’m going to say that! [Laughs]. No, I’m just kidding. It’s anything. Sometimes you feel confident and sometimes you don’t. I don’t know why that is. Sometimes I just feel like it’s the simple things – the little things. That’s the beauty of talking about whatever it is and whatever capacity it is. For me, not having your father around when you’re growing up and what that brings up for you, and how do you share that? Who do you find that says, “Hey, I felt that, and I experienced that too, and it did make me feel this way,” so you’re not alone in that.
Confidence comes from sharing your battles and relating to others who have experienced the same.
Definitely for me. I think that a lot of people feel that way when you say, “You feel that way too?” That’s the beauty of movies. That’s the beauty of art.
You’ve rocked long and short hair for movies. Do you prefer one over the other?
I’ve had short hair for roles that I’ve played, so I’ve gone through bad hair years – not just bad hair days when I want my hair to grow back out. I like long hair. I like all the different things you can do with it. You can braid it, you can put it in a ponytail, you can put it down, you can curl it, you can straighten it. There’s more to do with it. I like it long.
When you’re not on camera or in movies – are you wearing makeup? What is your style?
I mix it up. It really depends. I would say, for the most part, I’m not a makeup girl. I do a lot of outdoorsy types of things. I play tennis, I hike, I swim. Makeup doesn’t really do with those things, but I do like to dress up and go out and have a nice dinner every once in a while.
One upcoming role of yours that didn’t require makeup is The Queen in Spark. It’s about a monkey who is discovering the secret of his true identity. What are some misconceptions about you?
I think people most think I’m pretty intense. Part of it is, when I talk, I’m really animated and I have these hawk eyes. Also, I have an opinion about what I believe in. I really step out for those things and quite often. I also play characters where I die a lot, so I can see why it brings on, “Oh, she’s intense!” but I think there’s a side of me that people don’t know that is completely light hearted and different from all of that.