What the Hell Happened to Hilary Swank?
Hilary Swank came from humble beginnings. By the age of 30, she had won two Academy Awards for Best Actress. But after winning her second Oscar, Swank’s career has stalled out. Today, the two-time Oscar-winner is stick in direct-to-video horror movies and ensemble romantic comedies named after minor holidays.
What the hell happened?
When Swank was fifteen years old, her parents separated. She and her mother moved from Bellingham, Washington to LA to support Swank’s dreams of being an actress. At first, they didn’t have enough money to rent an apartment. So they lived out of their car while Swank’s mother saved up.
In 1991, Swank paid her dues on TV sitcoms like Harry and the Hendersons, Evening Shade and Growing Pains (pictured above). On Growing Pains, she worked alongside Leonadro DiCaprio. All that talent and Kirk Cameron too.
Swank’s first film role was in the 1992 version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
The movie starred Kristy Swanson as the titular hero and featured Beverly Hills 90210 heart throb, Luke Perry, in a supporting role.
Expectations for the Buffy movie were high based on a clever script by Joss Whedon and Perry’s rabid fan base. But the movie did not get the tone of the script right. Whedon was so frustrated by the experience (and Donald Sutherland in particular who he hates to this day) that he left the set and never returned. Eventually, he took the material to TV where he could give it his own spin.
The reviews for the movie were negative and it disappointed at the box office.
In 1994, Swank landed her first starring role opposite Pat Morita in The Next Karate Kid.
The first Karate Kid had been a surprise hit in 1984. Columbia went on to make two sequels. All three of the original films were directed by Rocky director, John G. Avildsen. After The Karate Kid III disappointed in 1989, Columbia was looking for a way to breathe new life into the series. Their solution was to give Mr. Miyagi a new student. A younger student who they could pay less than Ralph Macchio. And in hopes of attracting a new audience, they decided to cast a girl this time.
Avildsen was slated to direct the fourth movie, but ultimately dropped out to direct Luke Perry in the bull-riding drama, 8 Seconds.
Swank (who was a trained dancer) was able to learn the “flashy” karate moves, but struggled with the basics. The fight choreographers awarded her a pink belt, a combination of an advanced red belt and a basic white.
Reviews were negative although Swank was singled out as a star-in-the-making. The movie was the least successful of the franchise at the box office. As a result, it was the last Karate Kid movie until the series was rebooted 16 years later.
In the mid-nineties, Swank continued paying her dues in TV movies like Victim of Rage (1995) and Terror in the Family (1996, pictured above) in which she played a troubled teen who slaps her mom, Growing Pains’ Joanna Kearns,
You just got bitch slapped by a pink belt, Mrs. Seaver! That will teach you to mess with the next karate kid.
In 1996, Swank appeared in the direct-to-video horror sequel, Sometimes They Come Back Again.
Sadly, she did not bitch slap Family Ties dad, Michael Gross. She could have had an entire career in which she abused sit-com parents. Look out, Meredith Baxter!
In 1997, Swank joined the cast of the hit TV show, Beverly Hills 90210. She was cast as a single mother and was promised a two-year stint on the long-running show. But Swank was written off the show after only 16 episodes.
Swank took the firing hard. And with good reason. This was a show that had yet to fire Ian Ziering. If Ziering was good enough to stay on the show for 8 years and counting, what did it say about Swank that she was fired after 16 weeks? Swank later admitted that her confidence was shaken. “If I’m not good enough for 90210, I’m not good enough for anything.”
You really can’t fault her reasoning. But it turns out you can’t keep a karate kid down… unless he’s Ralph Macchio in which case puberty proved to be the knock out blow.
Posted on May 31, 2013, in Movies, What the Hell Happened?, WTHH Actress and tagged Academy Award, beverly hills 90210, boys don't cry, entertainment, Hilary Swank, insomnia, million dollar baby, movies, Oscar. Bookmark the permalink. 77 Comments.