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I have [a suggestion] for Sarah’s Career Prospectus: Hilary Swank—TWO Oscars, a lot of buzz and then…crickets. Like, PS I Love You with Spittle, and New Year’s Eve with everyone. Is she just done with the movie business or was it a misguided turn into bad rom coms that did her in? Can you shed some light?


I saw the new Variety cover online with some of the potential Best Actress nominees this year and Hilary Swank is one of them. Is she having a resurgence of sorts? She is a two time Oscar winner and a decent actress. Yes she has made some shitty rom-coms but I don’t feel like her choices have been overwhelmingly bad. Then the dictator’s birthday party came up and how that might have been an opening for people who already did not like her to pass over her on projects. She did have to apologize repeatedly for that mess, while other celebrities who performed/partied with questionable people avoided similar public outrage. Is it just a matter of The Homesman being a good movie for her or did something weird happen with Hilary Swank that is just now going away?

-- Gayle

Two mentions of Hilary Swank and her two Oscars and her, let’s call it “uneven” career. She’s a two-time Oscar winner, a lauded actress of considerable talent, and yet she’s oddly marginalized, isn’t she? Whenever there’s a big part for actresses, Swank is never at the top of anyone’s list, and it’s not like we pay attention to her in the way we do Cate Blanchett or Angelina Jolie or Halle Berry or Reese Witherspoon. In terms of being a gossip item, this is probably as Swank intends it—she keeps a low profile, is unexceptional in her personal dealings, and outside of promoting films/Oscar campaigning, she doesn’t make a lot of appearances. The above-mentioned dictator-birthday fiasco is the blackest mark on her record, but that came out around the time a lot of other entertainers were busted for the same, including Beyonce.

So what is going on with Swank? Why does it seem like she flounders? Well, career choices play a significant role. Swank overtly chased Oscars there for a while, resulting in turds like Amelia and Birds of America, the super-stereotypical Freedom Writers, and one gem, Conviction. But combined with the Oscar-chasing, she also made a slew of sh*tty rom-coms and horror movies (why…?). The result is that she doesn’t have much of a profile with mainstream audiences. Despite two Oscars, we can’t trust her to be a cornerstone of quality because she’s made just as many bad movies as she has good. But she’s also never established herself outside Oscar baity fare.

She’s never clicked with the rom-com stuff, either. Swank just isn’t the sweetheart type, so while Reese Witherspoon, Renee Zellweger, and Sandra Bullock were able to punch that card, Swank wasn’t. Yet she keeps trying—just this year she starred in You’re Not You, a Nicholas Sparksian movie about a pianist afflicted with ALS. And I don’t even know, with the horror movies. Maybe she’s a fan of the genre? Except for appearing in the original movie version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, she’s literally never made a good horror movie.

As for the dictator birthday party thing, I don’t think it’s that she was punished for it, per se, so much that part of her damage control involved firing her management. She’s still with her agency, CAA, but she ousted a fair portion of her team. They weren’t really killing it before that incident, though—her career has always been a bizarre mish-mash of bad movies, rom-coms, and Oscar stuff—so I don’t think it ultimately matters.

I guess you have to do something other than make potential Oscar movies, although Swank’s talents are best utilized in dramas. What else can she do? Well, New Year’s Eve is terrible, but Swank can be effective as part of an ensemble, which she showed in that movie. She’d make a great straightwoman. She could find an ensemble comedy she can be part of, where her talent for seriousness can be played for laughs. Just not rom-commy laughs. That sh*t isn’t working for anyone these days, let alone someone ill-suited for the genre. Otherwise, she just has to pick better scripts on the drama side. Not everything has to be a potential Best Picture, but there’s plenty of space between that and the “Lifetime Movie of the Week” crap she’s prone to making.