x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Hilary Swank honours 'astounding' Redgrave

Of the many well-known movie figures appearing on the red carpet at MEIFF last night, none has been more honoured by her peers than Hilary Swank.

ABU DHABI // Of the many well-known movie figures appearing on the red carpet at MEIFF last night, none has been more honoured by her peers than Hilary Swank. The American actress is one of only a handful of stars to have twice won the Best Actress Academy Award. Swank's surprise appearance, wearing a sequined white dress and diamond earrings, was supposed to be an opportunity for her to present a lifetime achievement award to Vanessa Redgrave.

However, instead she presented the Black Pearl Award to Redgrave's husband, Franco Nero, because the British actress was unable to attend. "Vanessa is one of the most talented actors living," Swank said in a backstage interview with The National. "She's an anomaly, and her body of work is astounding. I was lucky enough to meet her once, and she's - quote - 'a person', too." Swank's appearance on the red carpet caused one of the best reactions of the night.

Her upcoming film, Amelia, is not showing at the festival and does not open in the US until later this month. "It's based on the true story of Amelia Earhart, the aviatrix," said Swank. "She was an icon who broke records and was another outstanding woman, like Vanessa Redgrave, actually. "She stood up for other women and for herself. She lived her life the way she wanted to live it and was way ahead of her time."

Swank won her first Oscar in 1999, playing the role of Brandon Teena in the indie hit Boys Don't Cry, a part for which she lost a large amount of weight. For her second Academy Award, which she won in 2004 for the role of the female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald in the Clint Eastwood-directed film Million Dollar Baby, Swank gained nine kilograms of muscle. Although there was no drastic change in body shape for Amelia, Swank still trained hard for the part.

"I don't feel that Amelia and I look anything alike, so I was trying to figure out her mannerisms. "I wanted to learn how she spoke, which was challenging, because she was very humble, but that period sound often doesn't sound very humble. "Another real challenge was learning how to fly, because that was Amelia's passion." Although you might not believe it, seeing her on last night's red carpet, Swank had a particularly humble upbringing: she lived in a trailer park for much of her youth, a fact she acknowledged when receiving her second Oscar.

"I definitely carry my roots around with me," she said. "I try not to forget where I've come from and wouldn't change my background. "It's made me really grateful for everything I have in my life now, and it's amazing to be able to travel the world, experience other cultures and wear a pretty dress." ogood@thenational.ae