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WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 28: Actress Hilary Swank attends the 24th annual Elton John AIDS Foundation’s Oscar viewing party on February 28, 2016 in West Hollywood, California. (Photo by Jason LaVeris/Getty Images)

Hilary Ann Swank was born in Lincoln, Nebraska on July 30, 1974. She grew up in Bellingham, Washington and as a child, devoted much of her time to athletic pursuits. Swank swam in the Junior Olympics, state championships and ranked fifth in her state for gymnastics.

At the age of sixteen, Swank moved to Los Angeles to realize her dream of becoming an actress. She moved to Los Angeles when she was 16 and soon landed a guest starring role on the syndicated “Harry and the Hendersons”. She then played recurring characters on both “Evening Shade” (CBS) and “Growing Pains” (ABC) during the 1991-92 season before making her feature debut as Kristy Swanson’s Valley Girl pal in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” (1992). Swank beat out thousands of actresses coast to coast for the coveted lead part of Julie in “The Next Karate Kid” (1994), a role that required her to call on her athletic prowess and marked her most prominent role to that time. A regular on ABC’s short-lived series “Camp Wilder” (1992-93), likewise on ABC’s even briefer “Leaving L.A.” (1997), Swank gained some notice when she joined the cast of Fox’s popular “Beverly Hills, 90210” in 1997 playing a single mom who served as a love interest for Ian Ziering’s Steve. Her career transforming role of Teena Brandon, a Nebraska woman undergoing a “sexual identity crisis” who opts to live as a man, in “Boys Don’t Cry” (1999) earned numerous accolades.

Predictably, Swank’s workload increased significantly after her Oscar win in 2001, and the actress found herself starring in several lesser known but nonetheless challenging roles, including Sam Raimi’s psychological thriller “The Gift” (2001), as well as “The Affair of the Necklace” with then future Oscar winner Adrien Brody. Swank also co-narrated the Barbra Streisand-produced documentary “Reel Models: The First Women of Film”, and would take on gender equality issues once again in HBO’s “Iron Jawed Angels”(2003), which featured Swank, Anjelica Houston, and Frances O’Connor as leaders in the women’s suffrage movement. However, Swank did take a break from brooding period pieces and serious explorations of sexuality for one unapologetic big-budget summer blockbuster — Jon Amiel’s “The Core” (2003), in which Swank co-starred as one of several individuals chosen to journey to the Earth’s core in hopes of jump-starting the collapsing electromagentic forces. She also accepted a supporting role as an eager-to-please rookie detective alongside Hollywood veteran Al Pacino and Robin Williams in 2002’s “Insomnia”.