We’re wrapping up round one of the Best Actress bracket game with our two most recent winners. Since I was looking to feature multiple recipients, Hillary Swank was a no-brainer for inclusion in the game. But there was some question over which actresses to include from the 21st century. There have been some deserving winners in memorable roles. One could argue that recent winners like Jennifer Lawrence, Cate Blanchett, Julianne Moore or Brie Larson might resonate more with readers. Believe me, that conversation took place. But ultimately, the last spot went to Halle Berry due to the historic nature of her win.
But before we get to our final match of the round, let’s review yesterday’s results.
This was another reasonably close contest. Ultimately, Jodie Foster beat out Sally Field with just under 60% of the votes. That means that the winner of today’s bracket will face off with Clarice Starling in round 2.
Hilary Swank has been nominated for Best Actress twice and she took home the statue both times. But starting out, Swank faced long odds. Early in her career, Swank and her mother were essentially homeless. They lived out of a car for a couple of weeks and crashed at friends’ houses. Her early roles included a bit part in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, replacing Ralph Macchio as The Next Karate Kid and a recurring role on Beverly Hills 90210 from which she was fired. Swank was understandably devastated by that last one stating “If I’m not good enough for 90210, I’m not good enough for anything.”
While Swank may not have had what it takes to hang out with the Walshes at the Peach Pit, it turns out she was well-equipped for acting. She was still largely unknown when she landed the role of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was raped and murdered after his secret was discovered. Boys Don’t Cry wasn’t the kind of movie that seemed likely to launch an actress’ career. But Swank pursued the part aggressively and was ultimately rewarded with an Oscar for her efforts.
Anyone who has read a few “WTHH” articles knows that an Oscar win is no guarantee of a long and successful career in Hollywood. After her win, Swank struggled to find another great role. That came to her in 2004 when she played a boxer in Clint Eastwood’s drama, Million Dollar Baby. Five years later, Swank took home her second Academy Award.
Since then, Swank’s career has hit some turbulence. But then, you already knew that.
Halle Berry started off as a beauty pageant contestant and a model. Like Swank, she was homeless for a time early in her career. She landed a role paying a model on the short-lived Who’s the Boss? spin-off, Living Dolls and later had a recurring role on Knots Landing. Berry’s first film role was playing a drug addict in Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever. The following year, she was cast opposite Eddie Murphy in the romantic comedy, Boomerang.
Throughout the 90’s, Berry paid her dues in movies like The Flintstones, Losing Isaiah, Executive Decision and Bulworth. In the year 2000, she was cast as the superhero Storm in the first X-Men movie. If you asked anyone in the X-Men audience whether or not Berry would win Best Actress the following year, they probably would have responded with fits of hysterical laughter.
But in 2001, Berry became the first black actress to win an Academy Award for Best Actress for her role as a damaged widow and single mother in the drama, Monster’s Ball. When she accepted her award, Berry gave an impassioned speech about opening the door for future women of color. But since her win fifteen years ago, only four black actresses have been nominated in the lead category and to date none of them have won (Ruth Negga could conceivably break that losing streak if she should win for Loving this year).
Following her win, Berry embraced the commercial opportunities it brought her. Rather pursuing prestige pictures, Berry became a Bond girl in Die Another Day, reprised her role as Storm in three more X-Men movies and won a Razzie for her turn as a scantily clad Catwoman.