Hilary Swank grew up living in a car with her mom

3 mins read

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, the Oscar-winning 49-year-old actor shared his early days as an aspiring young actor in Los Angeles, living with his mother Judy in their car after she had recently separated from his father Stephen.

“In Los Angeles, I first lived with my mom in her Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme in quiet neighborhoods,” the actor recounted.

“When we weren’t sleeping in the car, we were staying at the house of a new friend my age whose family had moved away and were trying to sell their current house. We slept on an air mattress.

Swank has lived in a trailer park in Bellingham, Washington, USA, since childhood and has struggled with financial insecurity. In an interview with the publication, she said she always tried to look on the bright side and was grateful to have access to food and shelter, but social exclusion by her more affluent peers made her isolated.

“It wasn’t until my friends’ parents excluded me from dinners and playdates that I realized that living in a trailer park made me an outcast,” the actress explained.

I didn’t immediately understand classism, even though I knew I was perceived differently. Then I did. I also realized that where we lived was a bigger problem than who we were.

The Million Dollar Baby actress said she eventually found a sense of belonging in the local theater community, where she honed her acting skills and eventually decided to pursue acting as a real profession. After a period of sleeping in their car, her mother finally found a secretarial job and they were able to rent a room in Burbank. 

After signing with Bonnie Liedtke, the agent who allegedly discovered Leonardo DiCaprio, she met with casting directors and landed roles in TV series such as Harry and the Hendersons, Evening Shade, Growing Pains and made her movie debut in 1992’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

“I was excited to be living my dreams,” Swank said, expressing her gratitude to her mother, who encouraged her to pursue her goals.

My mother understood the thrill of being on stage and that acting brought me back to life.

Swank, who won two Oscars for her roles in Boy’s Dont Cry in 1999 and Million Dollar Baby in 2004, says she remembers her humble beginnings with “nostalgia” for simpler times. “Even though I’m happy to leave Los Angeles every now and then, when I go there for meetings, I drive down the street in Pasadena where my mom and I used to park and sleep. I feel nostalgic for those days when we had nothing despite the hardships,” Swank said.

Swank is currently promoting her film Ordinary Angels, which will be released in US theaters on February 23, 2024. The film tells the story of a woman who mobilizes her local community to save the life of a widower’s sick daughter.


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