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Hilary Swank was born on 30thJuly 1974 in Lincoln, Nebraska, USA, which the actress referenced frequently when expressing astonishment over her journey to earning her first Academy Award win years later. A self-described "outsider" in school, the athletic young Swank competed at a state-ranking level in both swimming and gymnastics but felt most comfortable when she was lost in a movie or novel.

She learned to escape into characters on stage, and became active in school and regional repertory theater. Her mother was supportive of her daughter's talent and dreams of becoming an actress, so when Swank's parents separated in her teens, she and her ambitious daughter moved to Los Angeles.

Just weeks later, Swank auditioned to portray Brandon Teena in "Boys Don't Cry" (1999), the fact-based story of a transgender young man from the Midwest whose murder made headlines. The beautifully realized independent film from director Kimberly Peirce presented numerous challenges for Swank, who cut off her long hair, worked with both an acting coach and a trainer, and created a male alter ego which she adopted full-time for close to a month prior to production.

She followed up with another heroic leading role in "Conviction" (2010), playing a woman who spends a decade putting herself through law school in order to represent her brother (Sam Rockwell), who is incarcerated after a wrongful murder conviction. Swank's solid performance earned substantial critical praise, as well as a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for Best Actress in a Motion Picture.