Categories Articles & Interviews

Resident superstar Hilary Swank talks

Two-time Academy Award-winning actress Hilary Swank has graced a string of emotionally engaging films.

An actress as well as a producer, Swank recently starred in Amelia alongside Ewan McGregor, and Richard Gere in 2009, and in Conviction, which was released earlier this year.

However, her latest film, The Resident, is a psychological thriller inspired by the fact that every year, very many single women move into apartments for the first time. They do not know who lived in the apartment before them, they do not know their landlords and they do not bother to change the locks.

Swank plays Juliet, a young doctor, who moves into a New York apartment after splitting up with her husband, and soon finds out things are not as they seem. Here she talks about the role and what it meant to her.

The Resident is the second film from the reborn Hammer Films. Were you aware of their movies when you were growing up? They had good distribution in the US back in the day…

I didn’t really know too much about Hammer to be honest, but that doesn’t say a lot really, because I’ve never known much about companies and things like that.

Now that I am a producer as well I’m learning a lot more, though, and have become very aware of Hammer, all their accomplishments and all that they’ve done over the years.

They were really nice people, too, and really cooperative.

This film is a tense thriller rather than a horror isn’t it?

Yes, I found this more to be a thriller than a horror film when I first read it.

I find all forms of genre entertaining. As an audience member, I prefer drama, but I like thrillers and I like to be on the edge of my seat.

It didn’t really remind me of anything that I had seen before, and that was why it was interesting to me. It was a fun two-hander really, although it kind of became a three-hander with the boyfriend character.

It reminded me a little of Rosemary’s Baby when I read it – it’s set in an apartment building and you don’t really know what’s going on.

In this movie it’s not quite the same relationship you had with Jeffrey Dean Morgan on PS I Love You (he played Irish love interest William). Had the two of you remained friends since shooting that film?

I love Jeffrey and I love collaborating with him; we’ve become real friends, so he was the first person that came to my mind when reading the script. After I met Antti (J. Jokinen, director).

I said, “What do you think of Jeffrey Dean Morgan?” And he said, “Great let’s settle on that.”

Why did you think of Jeffrey for the role of landlord Max?

You don’t think of him as the bad guy, because he’s like a big puppy dog, and is usually the good guy. So it seemed to be something unusual.

You’ve always said that you need to identify with your characters Hilary, so how did you connect to Juliet?

Well, I think we’ve all had times in our life when we’re trying to figure out who we are, and how we fit in.

And certainly we’ve all had a relationship break up, where you’re left thinking, “Where do we go from here?”, so that was all very interesting.

But for me, even though it is a psychological thriller it is still fun. It didn’t get me down at all.

You’ve been very successful, and no-one is successful in Hollywood, or life, without great determination. Where was your determination fostered?

In would come from my upbringing and also from my mum. She didn’t necessarily follow her dreams and she didn’t want the same thing to happen to her child.

She instilled in me a belief that I could do anything in life if I applied myself. She never let me say the word ‘can’t’; that was a four-letter, banned word in our house! She wanted me to figure out how to do stuff, not give up. I think that’s where it came from.

Your mother made sacrifices for you, moving to LA when you were still quite young. Did that fuel your desire to succeed?

I don’t know if I thought that way at the time, but looking back that was a part of it, certainly.

Also, when you were young, you grew up confronted by a certain amount of snobbery…

I think that is kind of universal.

Money separates us all, you either have it or you don’t, and the unfortunate part of my experience was learning about class divides at such an early age. Money isn’t something you’re aware of at an early age; back then, everybody seems as though they are created equal. In a child’s eyes we all have feelings, we all need to eat, and you don’t understand what money is until it’s thrust in your face, and then you’re not equal to someone else and not worthy in their eyes. That was hard to learn at a young age, but it made me the character I am today.

You were aware of that even when you were seven years old?

It’s not something you think about at all. I was about seven and I was like, “My friends’ parents don’t want me playing with their kids, and I don’t understand why.”

Then I started to realise. It was only then that I realised that if you live in a trailer park, other people don’t look on you fondly.

How has your upbringing shaped your later life?

It gave me a lot of empathy, and I don’t know if I’d have as much now if it were not for that experience.

I look around now, and I want to help under-privileged kids, and I look at life in a way that I think is very different from how I would look at it if I had been handed a lot of things and not had to work so hard for them. So there is always that silver lining!

People always presume that an Oscar win prompts a deluge of job offers, but is there a flip side to that where filmmakers might not offer you parts because they presume an Oscar-winner won’t be interested?

Of course, and that’s only natural. I do it too. If I think of an actor and he or she is in comedies I think that they’re funny and don’t think of them as something else. That’s only human.

We compartmentalise, that’s how we work through the world.

I understand why people, when they think of me, might think of drama. That’s what I’m well-known for, but it doesn’t bother me at all.

I love doing drama, and it’s just nice to be known for something! I feel blessed to have had the opportunities that I’ve had.

Following on from that, do the press or other people, sometimes think you’re more serious than you really are?

I remember working with Richard LaGravenese on two films back to back [PS I Love You and Freedom Writers, both 2007] and he said to me, “You’re one of the funniest people I know and I wouldn’t have guessed that.”

There’s no way for people to know me completely because they only see me in movies or in periodicals, but again that’s neither upsetting nor frustrating.

The only way to know a person is to be an actual friend of theirs.

The Resident is in cinemas now, certificate 15.