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In the most scenic corner of the Pacific Northwest, Hilary Swank is in her element. She has a lot of memories growing up here: “This lake right here is what I considered my best friend, because I spent every single sunny day in that lake,” she said.

Correspondent Tracy Smith with actress Hilary Swank. 

CBS News

These days, the two-time Oscar-winner is staying on familiar ground, in her life and in her work. Her new film, “Ordinary Angels,” is the true story of a woman who moves mountains to help a little girl who needs a liver transplant, to the point of begging the hospital to erase the mounting medical debt.

For Swank, whose own father was a lung transplant recipient, the story hits painfully close to home. She started filming about five months after his death on October 1, 2021. “And so it was like, almost, I don’t know, kismet in a way, to be a part of it,” she said.

The movie is about a woman who tries to do the impossible, and keeps trying, until it happens.

To watch a trailer for “Ordinary Angels” click on the video player below:

Ordinary Angels (2024) Official Trailer #2 – Hilary Swank, Alan Ritchson, Nancy Travis by
Lionsgate Movies on

The same could be said of Hilary Swank herself. 

Raised in Bellingham, Washington, she grew up on the proverbial wrong side of town. Some kids at her school were told not to hang out with the kid from the trailer park. “Yeah, I don’t know – they didn’t want their kids playing with me. I don’t know. I know it’s stupid. It’s so silly.”

But it stayed with her: “Well, it stayed with me because, obviously, I didn’t understand it,” Swank said. “But it’s interesting, ’cause some of those people now, being back in the home town, were like, ‘Oh, I always believed in you.’  Yeah, I’m like, ‘No, you didn’t.’ I can’t keep my mouth shut to that!”

And their response? “That they don’t remember.”

And it seems she never forgot how tough it was to make it. For years she took any part, no matter how small. You might recognize her in “Growing Pains” with another struggling actor, Leonardo DiCaprio, who was on his way up, too.

In 1991 Hilary Swank and Leonardo DiCaprio appeared together on the sitcom “Growing Pains.” 


“It was nine years of really hitting the pavement,” she said, “auditioning five times a day. And in the trunk of my car, it was all these different outfits that I would change and go in to be this different person in these auditions.”

And there was a lot of rejection. “You know, it’s a really hard thing to be told all the time, you know, about your looks and why you might not have gotten this or that. And you start to think, ‘Oh, do I need to change that about myself?’ And I think that was one of the reasons why – I didn’t realize consciously I was doing it, but I think I was looking for roles that weren’t about appearance, that they were really about people.”

And that turned out to be the key. In 1999 she landed a role that changed everything: “Boys Don’t Cry,” playing a real life trans teenager.

Hilary Swank in the 1999 drama “Boys Don’t Cry.”

Searchlight Pictures

Swank was suddenly a name in Hollywood, with the fame, but not the fortune. Only paid $3,000 for “Boys Don’t Cry,” she had an Oscar but no health insurance. “At that time, you had to make $5,000 a year to have health insurance, and I didn’t,” she said. “I didn’t recognize that until I went in to try to get a prescription filled. And they were like, ‘That will be $260.’ And I was like, ‘Oh. I don’t think I need that prescription apparently!'”

Seems she’s had to fight for everything she’s ever had. In the role of a boxer for “Million Dollar Baby,” director and co-star Clint Eastwood had her bulk up her tiny frame with a brutal training routine, and more food than she’d ever eaten before. She consumed 60 egg whites a day. “I drank ’em!”

The movie also beefed up her reputation as a Hollywood heavyweight:  

Million Dollar Baby (2/5) Movie CLIP – Maggie Victorious (2004) HD by
Movieclips on

After winning her second Oscar, she continued to work. But in 2014, she put her career on hold to care for her father, recovering from a lung transplant. “It ended up being a little bit more, but I took three years off from my career,” she said. “I know a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, how can you take that much time off of your career? Aren’t you worried about …?’ I’m like, ‘Worried about what? I’m only worried about my dad’s health.’

“And to think that, I don’t know, your career could go away or something was the least of my concerns, the absolute last thing.

“But it was such a great time,” Swank said. “We became even closer, obviously. And he’s one of my favorite people in the whole world. And I just, I miss him every day. And I would have only regretted not being there.”

Bleeker Street Presents Los Angeles Special Screening Of
Actress Hilary Swank with her father, retired Air Force Chief Master Sergeant Stephen Michael Swank, at a Los Angeles screening of “What They Had,” October 9, 2018.

Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic via Getty Images

Sadly, her dad didn’t get to meet his grandchildren. Swank and husband Phillip Schneider welcomed boy-girl twins last year, just a few months shy of Swank’s 49th birthday. “They just turned ten months old, and I’ve been with them every single day,” she said.

In case you couldn’t tell from the title, “Ordinary Angels” is about how average folks can sometimes do miraculous things. Just looking at the career of its star, it’s tough to disagree. 

When asked if she believed her own career has been miraculous, Swank said, “That’s a good question. So much of it, I think, is rooted in the fact that I loved it so much, but I also said, ‘I’m going to go do this.’ And I didn’t question it. I never said, ‘And if it doesn’t work out, I’ll do this, this, or this.'”

There was no backup plan? “No! I just never said I wasn’t gonna do it, you know? ‘Can’t’ was like a bad four-letter word in my house. So, if that is a miraculous thing, then, yes, I believe in miracles.”

Actress Hilary Swank talks about her new film, “Ordinary Angels.”

CBS News

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Story produced by John D’Amelio. Editor: Lauren Barnello. 


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