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Last Updated: Tuesday, 25 January, 2005, 13:52 GMT
Swank punches into the spotlight
Actress Hilary Swank is back in the spotlight thanks to her role in Clint Eastwood's boxing drama Million Dollar Baby, which has earned her an Oscar and Golden Globe win.

Hilary Swank
Hilary Swank plays a boxer in Million Dollar Baby
Hilary Swank has already proved that Oscar voters like a bit of grit and guts with their glitz and glamour.

Five years ago, she won the best actress prize for Boys Don't Cry for her portrayal of Brandon Teena, a young woman from Nebraska who chose to live as a man.

Now her role as boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby has won her the same acclaim.

Swank, 30, put on 19lbs (9kg) of muscle to play the role - working out for four and a half hours each day and drinking egg whites at night to build up her muscles.

On set, she had to absorb real-life punches both in and out of the ring - some from real-life boxer Lucia Rijker, who plays her enemy Billie "The Blue Bear".

Hard work

But hard work and dedication have always been at the centre of Swank's rise to fame.

Hilary Swank and Chad Lowe
Swank forgot to thank husband Chad Lowe at the 2000 Oscars
Swank was raised in by her mother in Bellingham, Washington state, until she was 15.

Judy Swank had lost her job and was separated from Hilary's father, who was in the US Air Force. Seeing her daughter's aspirations to act - casting director Suzy Sachs had been putting her in local productions since the age of nine - Judy decided they should move to Hollywood.

With $75 to their names, the Swanks decamped to Los Angeles, living in Judy's car and buying food from the closest petrol station on its charge card.

"People say, 'Oh, that's so intense and difficult and sad,'" Swank told Chicago Sun-Times film writer Roger Ebert last year. "It wasn't any of that to me. I was in Hollywood and for me... every single minute of it was ecstatic."

But Swank and her mother eventually established themselves in their new home.

Her first film role came in 1992's Buffy The Vampire Slayer - which starred Kristy Swanson in the lead role later taken over on TV by Sarah Michelle Gellar.

Major star

Just two years later, Swank found herself in her first lead role, as troubled teenager Julie in The Next Karate Kid, encouraged to improve her life through martial arts.

Hilary Swank
Swank won her second Golden Globe earlier this year
While The Next Karate Kid did not set the movie world alight, Swank's performance won over Hollywood and she has barely been short of offers since.

But her profile remained low until 1999, when Boys Don't Cry and its Academy Awards success made her a major star.

After her Oscar win, film-watchers expecting Swank to become ubiquitous were disappointed.

Her film roles since then have included a love-struck royal in period romance The Affair of The Necklace, a subterranean "terranaut" in sci-fi flop The Core, and an Alaskan police officer opposite Al Pacino in Insomnia.

Million Dollar Baby has put Swank back on the movie map. And this time she remembered to thank her husband of seven years, actor Chad Lowe, younger brother of Rob.

She hit the headlines when she won for Boys Don't Cry after forgetting to mention him in her acceptance speech.

But she has already made up for it this time around by giving him a special mention at the Golden Globes.


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