Date of Birth: July 30th 1974
Two-time Oscar winning American actress. Her Hollywood film career began with a small part in Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1992) and then a major part in The Next Karate Kid (1994), where she played Julie Pierce, the first female protégé of the sensei Mr. Miyagi. She has become known for her two Academy Award-winning performances: first as Brandon Teena, a transgender man in the movie Boys Don't Cry, and a struggling waitress-turned-boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald, in Million Dollar Baby. She will have a cameo in Iron Man, an upcoming film based on fictional Marvel Comics character due for release in May 2008.
Swank was born in Lincoln, Nebraska to Stephen Swank, an officer in the Air National Guard and later a traveling salesman, and Judy Clough. She has a brother, Dan. Many of her family members hail from Ringgold County, Iowa. Swank came from humble beginnings, particularly as a child growing up in a trailer park near Lake Samish in Bellingham, Washington, where she moved to when she was six. Swank has also described her younger self as an "outsider" who felt that she belonged "only when a book or a movie, and could get involved with a character", and was thus inspired to become an actress.
When she was nine years old, Swank made her first appearance on stage starring in The Jungle Book, and thereafter became heavily involved in her school and community theater programs, including those of the Bellingham Theatre Guild. She went to Sehome High School in Bellingham until she was sixteen. Swank also competed in the Junior Olympics and the Washington State championships in swimming; she ranked 5th in the state in all-around gymnastics (which would come in handy when starring in The Next Karate Kid (1994) years later). Swank's parents separated when she was thirteen, and her mother, supportive of her daughter's desire to act, moved the two of them to Los Angeles, California, where they lived out of their car until Swank's mother saved enough money to rent an apartment. Swank has described her mother as the inspiration for her acting career and her life during this time period and subsequently. In California, Swank enrolled in South Pasadena High School (although she later dropped out of high school) and started acting professionally. She also helped pay the rent with the money she earned appearing in television programs such as Evening Shade and Growing Pains.
Swank's Oscar success meant that she had joined the ranks of Vivien Leigh, Helen Hayes, Sally Field, and Luise Rainer as the only actresses to have been nominated twice and win both times (both times she won over fellow actress and nominee Annette Bening). She is also the third-youngest double Best Actress Oscar winner (after Luise Rainer and Jodie Foster.) After winning her second Best Actress Oscar, she said, "I don't know what I did in this life to deserve this. I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream." Swank had earned only $75/day for her work on Boys Don't Cry, culminating in a total of $3,000. Her earnings were so low, that (according to an anecdote on 60 Minutes) she had not even earned enough to qualify for health insurance but she has managed to draw attention of fight-movie goers and boxing fans with her award winning role Million-Dollar Baby.