Categories Articles & Interviews

Hilary Swank, ‘Conviction’ are aiming for bull’s-eye

Sandra Bullock won an Academy Award for “The Blind Side,” taking on the true story of a woman who wouldn’t give up on a young man who was a prisoner of the streets.

This year, two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank tells another true story; that of Betty Anne Waters, who devotes her life to freeing her brother, a man she believes has been falsely convicted of murder. At the Toronto International Film Festival, the Oscar buzz was everywhere for “Conviction,” which Swank addressed right away.

“You don’t have any control over (awards), so you just do your work,” she said. “Clint (Eastwood) told me something that I never forget. He said that he always aims for the bull’s-eye but doesn’t always hit it; meaning that you just make the best movie that you can but you have to understand that it might not wind up the way you hoped.

“When you have a movie like this where the script is so good, it’s hard to miss. Pamela Gray wrote this great story, but it’s based on something that’s so moving. Betty Anne is an astonishing person who is my true-life hero. In this case, we just tried to get out of the way and not mess it up.”

Q: What’s the trick to telling a story like this, to which a lot of people know the ending from following it in the news?

A: With this movie, for people who do know, it’s such a dramatic story with lots of interesting twists and turns that guide you to the ending you know. But also, a lot of people don’t know, so the challenge is like a dual-edged sword. Like “Million Dollar Baby,” no one said what happened in the end. It’s important to allow an audience to let the story unfold in front of them.

Q: What does it mean to have your movie featured at a film festival like this?

A: I haven’t been here for 10 years, since “Boys Don’t Cry.” The Toronto may be my favorite, actually. What’s great about seeing films here is that you get a bunch of people who just love movies. When you see films in industry towns like Los Angeles or New York, you get people who are leaving their offices, still in their suits; eating popcorn for dinner and who don’t want to be there. They hate it. They see a lot of movies. Here in Toronto, they love movies. They’re passionate filmgoers. Our film was shown in a great old theater with an audience that was involved and vocal at key moments. It was great.