Actress plays skeptical sleuth in latest film
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Hilary Swank is the first to admit that she’s not the most religious person in Hollywood, but that truth only fuelled her desire to play Katherine Winter, a skeptical investigator of religious phenomena in the new film The Reaping.
"I wasn’t baptized into an organized religion and all of that, but one of the great aspects about my job as an actor is that I get to read and learn about all different walks of life and different thinking," Swank says.
In the film, Swank’s character ventures to a small Louisiana town apparently beset by biblical plagues — the local river turns to blood, it rains frogs, livestock dies without any apparent cause.
While her instincts tell her that there must be a scientific explanation for the odd occurrences, she’s baffled by the seemingly inexplicable disasters that have struck the town — a series of events which force her to question her own beliefs.
"You can ask (skeptics) anything … and they have an answer for it. Whereas the other people will come in and say, ‘There’s no way this can be scientifically proven and it must be a miracle. I love that you can represent both sides of that in a movie.’"
In a sort of parallel with her doubtful character in The Reaping, Swank admits to feelings of professional skepticism as she attempts to come to terms almost on a daily basis with her own success.
Call it a plague of pleasant predicaments.
"I wake up everyday and do these quadruple takes at it thinking, what is that sitting in my house?" she says of her 1999 best actress Oscar for Boys Don’t Cry and her repeat in 2004 for Million Dollar Baby.
Swank is one of only 11 women who have won two Academy Awards for best actress. Katherine Hepburn leads the pack with four best actress wins.
The notoriously modest Swank says that after that first win, pressure did mount to continue to choose roles and deliver performances worthy of Oscar. But she feels that any actor needs to put Hollywood’s highest honour out of their head if they want to continue to make decent films. "You can’t be in that mindset because nothing’s perfect," the 33- year-old native of Lincoln, Neb., says.
"Those performances weren’t perfect, they were flawed, and my goal is to continue to challenge myself and try and learn and grow."
But how is the critically-acclaimed Swank received by her peers, especially on the first day of shooting a new film?
"I don’t think people are intimidated by me. I’m just another person, just another actor sitting down and doing the same things, starting from scratch. I think when they see you mess up in a scene they go, ‘Okay, she’s just like me.’"
The Reaping opens in theatres today.