Two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank has been caught in some on screen battles, including a struggle against gender stereotypes in “Boys Don’t Cry,” a fight against racism in “Freedom Writers,” and some actual down-home boxing in “Million Dollar Baby” — but now she’s coming face-to-face with a menace of Biblical proportions in the movie thriller “The Reaping.”
“The Reaping” tells the story of a skeptical former minister (played by Swank) who attempts to debunk a religious community’s fear that supernatural forces are at work in the plague-like destruction of their town.
There wasn’t anything supernatural about the destruction that occurred while the movie was being filmed, however - the Louisiana shoot was halted midway due to the onslaught of the very real Hurricane Katrina in August 2005. Access Hollywood spoke with Hilary about getting caught in the middle of that chaos, and her determination to see the film through to completion in Louisiana:
“Well you know, it was obviously a horrible and scary time for the community there,” Hilary said. “It was horrible devastation and I felt bad that we were told to leave, and I felt bad leaving people - I wish we could have brought the whole city. It was a horrible situation but the great thing is that Warner Bros. wanted to finish their movie. I really wanted to make sure that we went back there that we didn’t pull out. We postponed the movie but it was just important for us to go back and make sure our money went towards helping rebuild.”
The film’s producer, Joel Silver, has referred to Swank as a “leader” on that shoot, in that she reached out to help people in the community as well as members of the crew who found that they had lost everything. “Yeah, I was a real advocate for going back because they had lost their homes and I think it was important that they don’t lose their jobs too,” she told Access. “They needed a place to go to be able to, you know, gather their senses.”
When asked what it was that drove her to accept this role in the first place, Hilary says that the initial draw for her was the fun, smart script, as well as the chance to try something different. “I remember reading this script and it just being a page turner, and I got tricked by the twist and I didn’t see it coming,” she recalls. “I read a lot of scripts and I see a lot of movies and I think I am really hard to trick and I couldn’t believe it.”
She also promises that “The Reaping” is not short on scares - even after reading the script and acting in the film, the finished product had her covering her eyes and jumping in her seat. But perhaps it’s her character’s journey from a skeptic to a believer that most hits a chord with Swank, as she tells Access: “I am definitely a believer. From where I have come from till now… I mean, a girl from a trailer park living her dream? I know I work hard, but I definitely have been blessed with a lot of opportunities.” As far as “miracles” are concerned, she’s not as firm in her stance. “I think it depends on what your definition of a miracle is,” she says. “Some people think it is people walking on water and some people think it is child birth, you know what I mean?”
Another miracle, perhaps, is the way that Swank has managed to keep her personal life shielded from the tabloids, even in spite of her split with husband Chad Lowe last year. While many celebrities get caught in a web of gossip following such an event, Hilary has managed to keep herself clear of such things as much as possible. She credits her good fortune with the paparazzi to her focus on the work: “Well, I have been in the business a long time and have not been in the public eye. It’s just I feel like first and foremost I am an actor, and I got in this business because I love to act. I love my job and I feel really blessed to be able to live my dream, and I never got in it to be a celebrity or to be seen like that…that is just the life I lead - I don’t go out a lot.”
And how about that killer figure of hers? For Hilary, it all comes down to sensible eating and exercise: “You know I am really lucky with metabolism. I really like to eat but I also like to exercise - I find it to be a real mind/body balance. I don’t do it to look a certain way, I do it because it makes me feel a certain way and I think that is the most important thing to talk to people about when they are trying to get in shape. It is not about aesthetic, it is about a feeling. If you are eating things that don’t make you feel good then it’s just not a great feeling.”
“The Reaping” is in theaters now.