Two-time Oscar® winner Hilary Swank steps out of her box for a living. Whether she's playing a transgender teen in Boys Don't Cry, boxing her way through Million Dollar Baby or soaring to new heights as a real-life legend in her latest film, Amelia, Hilary says acting never ceases to be a challenge. "Every time I get an opportunity to act, I'm stepping of my box because it's what really scares me the most," she says. "These roles that I get blessed enough to get the opportunity to play—they scare me. They make my heart beat fast, and I drive to work going, 'Please don't let me mess this up.'"
To ensure she conquered that challenge, Hilary says she studied the small amount of footage of Amelia Earhart that exists, focusing on the 45 seconds taken when she didn't know the cameras were rolling. "I looked for how she really interacted," she says. "A moment of truth."
A daredevil herself, Hilary was just the person to portray the legendary risk-taker. "I've jumped out of planes, I've bungee jumped, I've paraglided, parasailed," she says. In fact, many of the characters Hilary has portrayed have been fearless, unconventional individuals. "I can see those are the roles that I'm drawn to," she says. "Those are the roles that light that fire in my belly."
Her first award-winning role, as Brandon Teena in Boys Don't Cry, was 10 years ago, but Hilary says she holds all of her roles in her heart. "You fall in love with every character you play," she says. "I learn something new from every role. I look at life differently. It enriches my life so profoundly."
Hilary says it takes about a month after shooting a film for her to get back to her old self. "After I'm more rested, then it's more me," she says. "You definitely can't just walk away like that."
In order to play Amelia Earhart, Hilary learned how to fly. She doesn't have her pilot's license yet, so she has to fly with her instructor onboard. "I went to pick up my boyfriend from a meeting in Vegas. I canceled his flight and showed up, and he saw the plane and he said, 'I have to get in there?' I said, 'We flew all this way, you better get in.' And then he white-knuckled it the whole way."
Hilary has been dating her boyfriend, agent John Campisi, for a little over three years, she says. When it comes to getting married, Hilary says she doesn't know what the future will bring. "It's not something we're talking about," she says. "I don't know. We'll see."
Printed from Oprah.com on Thursday, December 5, 2013