Hilary Swank may be an esteemed double Oscar winner, but she’s still willing to play dirty for a good part – most recently as a boxer in director Clint Eastwood’s critically acclaimed drama Million Dollar Baby. “I got a bloody lip, a bruised nose and some head butts,” says the actress, who took home a Golden Globe and an Academy Awards for the role. Plus, “I had a lot of blisters.” Swank, 30, who won her first Oscar for 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry, endured grueling training sessions with professional boxers and downed raw eggs and flax oil to bulk up as Maggie, a scrappy waitress turned fighter. Swank recently chatted about getting in the ring, going opposite a screen icon and even taking on her husband, actor Chad Lowe.
So how’d you like sparring?
I about threw up the first time I sparred. The only way that I can explain it is that (it’s like) if you were to take a jump rope and go as fast as you could for three minutes while someone is punching you in the stomach.
Did Chad ever get in the ring with you?
He sparred with me every once in a while. I hit him a couple of times and he couldn’t believe it. He was like, “Where’d that come from?” I was like, “Yeah. Watch it. There’s more where that came from.”
Have you kept the muscles?
No, my training was two and a half hours of boxing and approximately an hour and a half to two hours of lifting weights every day, six days a week. The producers asked me to gain 10 lbs. of muscle. I gained 19 lbs. of muscle. … I’ve actually dropped most of the weight mostly just by not lifting weights.
And how was working with Clint?
First of all, I had to get over the fact that it was Clint Eastwood to start really working with him. … He’s the most amazing collaborator. He collaborates with everyone, but in the finished product his fingerprints are all over everything and you didn’t even really realize that that was all happening. It’s subtle and it’s simple, and it’s really nothing short of astonishing.
What about your character, Maggie. Did you feel a connection?
I probably felt the closest to (her than any other character). I grew up in a trailer park; she grew up in a trailer park. And I was this young girl who had a dream. I was determined and driven and focused. Maggie has a line in the movie where she says, “This is the only thing that I ever felt good doing.” And that’s how I feel.
So do you have any new aspirations, like to start a family of your own?
I turned 30 a couple of months ago, and I think that will happen in my 30s. I certainly wasn’t ready for that in my 20s. But I can see that happening sooner than later.
Was there a big epiphany when you turned 30?
I felt like I hit my adulthood in my late 20s. There was a moment where I was like, “Okay.” I had moved to New York, and I felt like I grew up there, like I really became a woman there, and was just getting really comfortable with myself.
Is there anything in your life now that you approach with the same enthusiasm that Maggie does boxing?
I don’t want to sound, I don’t know, like a crazy optimist, but I think everything. Life to me is such an adventure, and I really look forward to what the day brings.