Hilary Swank

For Hilary Swank—nominated as Best Actress for her work in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby—the 2005 Academy Awards® could be the year this 30-year-old actress collects golden statue No. 2.

Hilary has gotten to this point through tons of hard work. At the young age of 15, the talented Hilary quickly became a working actress in Hollywood. And within four years, she got her big break—a starring role on the big screen in The Next Karate Kid. But success wasn't permanent right away. Hilary says she hit a career low when she was fired from the popular TV series Beverly Hills 90210.

But she fought her way to a major comeback when she beat out 800 actresses for the role of Teena Brandon, the gender-bending tragic character in the 1999 film Boys Don't Cry. For that role, Hilary won her first Oscar®.

But what you might not know about is Hilary's humble beginnings, her path to Hollywood, and how her "inspiration" gave her a chance to shine.
Hilary Swank and her mom, Judy

Raised by a single mother, Hilary grew up poor. But when Hilary was just 15 years old, her mom, Judy, was fired from her job as a secretary. The two decided to pack up their car and, with just $75 in cash, head to California to pursue Hilary's acting dreams.

Judy says that she remembers when she decided to leave for California: "In Washington it rains a lot. I was standing at the window and it was raining. I thought, 'What am I going to do? We have no income. How can I do this?' And I actually said, 'I know the Lord doesn't give you more than you can handle, but my plate is really full right now and I don't know what to do.' And then, all of a sudden, the sun broke through those rainy clouds. And it hit me: You didn't give me more. You took it away. You took away the thing that was kind of holding me here, which was money. You took it away and I am free to go. I'm free to take this beautiful child of mine to go follow her dream."

Hilary says, "I have this kind of crazy optimism in my life and it's because of my mom. My mom instilled that in me. My mom said you can. If I said, 'Oh, I don't know if I'm going to be able…' 'Don't say that. You can. Don't put that in your head, you can do it.'"
Hilary Swank

In Million Dollar Baby, Hilary Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, a tough-as-nails small town girl with big time dreams of becoming a prize fighter. Her determination leads her to seek help from reluctant boxing trainer Frank Dunne played by Clint Eastwood. He initially refuses to take her on, but he relents and she finds her bravery and tests her courage.

To get in shape for this role, Hilary had to push her body to the breaking point. "The first time I heard [that boxing matches have a] three-minute round I thought, 'Three minutes? Wow, I'm really going to kick someone's butt. That's nothing.' And then I was halfway through and I almost threw up," she says.

Her workout and eating regimen was enough to put Rocky to shame. "I started training four and a half hours a day, six days a week," Hilary says. "In three months I ended up putting on 19 pounds of muscle. I had to eat every hour-and-a-half and I drank 55 to 60 egg whites a day."

So how was the workout? "It was all so great because it just put me in the mind set of a boxer.…I have to tell you, I felt so strong. I felt so confident. I loved it."
Oprah and Hilary Swank

The Academy Award® nominations are announced at 8:30 a.m. on the East Coast, meaning that they are announced at 5:30 a.m. in California.

Oprah: So where were you? Were you up? Were you watching?

Hilary: I was in bed. Chad [Lowe, Hilary's husband] actually had to fly out that morning. He rigged the TV in our bedroom, because we don't have a TV in our bedroom, and he called me and said, 'It's time to wake up. They're about to do it.' So I turned it on. I was in bed. I had the little, you know, rigged TV sitting there on the pillow, kind of where Chad's head goes.

Hilary says that though she was in a state of shock when her name was announced, she screamed when her director and co-star, Clint Eastwood, was nominated. "Clint [was nominated] not only as a director and [for Best] Film, but as an actor. And he, you know, I think it's his best work. I think his best, best work to date."
Jamie Foxx

He says he's on the wildest ride of his life! Jamie Foxx got not one, but two Oscar® nominations, snagging a Best Supporting Actor nod for his performance in Collateral and a nomination for Best Actor with his amazing performance as Ray Charles in Ray.

Oprah: So they announce [the picks] for Best Supporting Actor before Best Actor. When you got named for Best Supporting, what did you think?

Jamie: It just feels so good because it's like a dream. It's like when I looked at Denzel [Washington]; when I looked at Halle Berry as a younger kid and thinking, "What's with the black suits and the statues?" and being inspired by that…and to see things coming to me like the way it came to them is just a beautiful thing. So every little thing about this is just wonderful.
Jamie Foxx

Jamie says that while he's happy about getting nominated, he's more happy that Ray touched people's lives.

"When you look at Ray Charles, you have to believe in this," Jamie says. "And like I said, I wasn't a true believer a lot of times in the spirit of things. But when Ray Charles passed—and it was unfortunate that he passed before the movie came out—he left his spirit on it. When you're watching this movie, right on the edges of the film is Ray Charles giving you his spirit. So everybody is being able to feel what I feel at the same time because they're happy about it.

"I'm in New York and this lady walks upstairs. [She says,] 'If you don't get nominated, there's not a God.' And it was like everybody was rooting for this. So I really, if we were to…win the Oscar®, I would split it up in a million pieces and give it to everybody, because everybody is feeling the energy of this film."

Jamie talks more about his role in Ray and making the film!
Cate Blanchett

Cate Blanchett joined Oprah all the way from England! Cate is nominated for Best Supporting Actress for her role as Katharine Hepburn in The Aviator.

Oprah: Were you a little nervous about [the role] at first?

Cate: Oprah, I was completely daunted. I mean, it's one thing sort of playing a role that's challenging but when you're playing someone who's so iconic and her fan base is so enormous…the most scary thing is negotiating the expectations of her fans. Terrifying!

Oprah: You thought it might be a career-killer? That it would either work or not?

Cate: That's why I'm so amazed to be talking to you. When I took it on, I mean, it was Martin Scorcese so I was in very safe hands. But I really thought, 'This is the end. I'm gonna have to go back to theater and I'll never make another film again afterwards.'
Cate Blanchett

In The Aviator, Cate worked with director Martin Scorcese and actor Leonardo DiCaprio. Was she nervous working with such famous names—even though she is one herself?

"When you work with really great actors, you're just meeting another human being," Cate explains. "Because I come from a theatrical background, [I'm] used to ensemble playing and when you meet a great film actor, they're very generous, so it's just about working with the other person and having that human connection. [Leonardo] was very passionate about his role [as eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes] and obviously he'd done an enormous amount of research, as had Martin Scorsese. And they really embraced and welcomed me into that sort of inner sanctum. So that made my job a lot easier and were very understanding of how scared I was, at the undertaking, I think."
Leonardo DiCaprio

Leonardo DiCaprio talked with Oprah about his role in The Aviator .

The Aviator tells the story of the legendary, eccentric billionaire Howard Hughes—a complex man, a daredevil pilot and flight pioneer who struggles to keep a grip on his million-dollar empire and his sanity. Leo had dreamed of playing Howard Hughes for nearly a decade. He says he immersed himself so much in the role that sometimes he wondered if he was losing himself a little too much—in particular, trying to adapt Howard's obsessive compulsive disorder.

"When you commit yourself to a character at that level, you take on certain attributes," Leonardo said. "And Howard Hughes was a germaphobe, and he had OCD to a huge degree that drove him nuts."

More with Leonardo on The Aviator ! Plus, legendary director Martin Scorsese and co-star Kate Beckinsale.
Johnny Depp and Oprah

When Johnny Depp stopped by for a rare interview, Oprah heard he might be a bit nervous. So to help calm his nerves, she broke out the good French wine for the special occasion!

Johnny is nominated for Best Actor for his role in Finding Neverland , a heart-warming film about the life of J.M. Barrie, the creator of Peter Pan. Johnny plays Barrie, who, in desperate need of inspiration, finds magic in a chance encounter with a widowed mother and her four young boys. It is his second Oscar® nomination—he was nominated last year for his role in Pirates of the Carribean !

When Oprah asked Johnny what legacy he wanted to leave behind when he leaves this earth, Johnny went reaching for a glass of wine!

"Wow. Boy, oh, I don't know," Johnny said. "I mean, I just hope that people like the stuff I did. Hope the movies stick around and people like it…that [the movies make] them happy."

More from Johnny and his Finding Neverland co-stars Kate Winslet and young Freddie Highmore!
FROM: Hilary Swank and Oscar® Nominees
Published on January 31, 2005


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