I don’t think the stars were aligned just right last night because Hilary Swank’s speaking appearance at the Winspear was a rather awkward event. And I’m not quite sure who’s to blame. Both she and interviewer/WRR announcer Quin Matthews never seemed to click. But that’s not to say she wasn’t the least bit charming.
When Matthews announced her, she walked out in uber-high heels and a chic black knee-length dress with a floor length “tail” of fabric that looked appropriate but the tail part would have been marked down a point on Project Runway. The moment they sat down though, they never quite clicked. Swank seemed gracious though to be there. The only thing was, it felt more like an interview for an article than an engaging discussion.
Personally, I think Matthews missed out on a lot and focused too much on minor things. Initially, they discussed Amelia but did we need to know that much about The Next Karate Kid? He went on how well-told the movie was and that it was “more physical than Million Dollar Baby.” Swank gave the funniest smirk asked, “Have you seen the movie?”
The conversation covered her career from childhood agents to Beverly Hills 90210 to the movies she’s wrapped already after Amelia. She spoke beautifully about her experience filming Boys Don’t Cry. But overall, the conversation wasn’t ever much more than what could be read on her IMDB profile. I think Matthews steered the conversation all wrong but my plus-one decided Swank gave short responses so the consensus was both parties were at fault.
Matthews seemed on track with questions and wasn’t going to derail no matter what. Plus, some of his comments were out there. “You had a little part in a movie called Insomnia,” he said. Um, she was the third lead. He kept on about how depressing Boys Don’t Cry was. He touched on topics like her childhood and animal rescue efforts but when he got interesting, he moved on to another topic. It was a lot of foreplay without any release. She mentioned living in a trailer earlier in the convo; Matthews then mentioned her on the cover of Town and Country saying, “that’s definitely far from trailer.” She laughed until he continued about “was there a trailer in that? Maybe the could have put a trailer on the cover.” Yeah. He was joking but ultimately — awwwkwarrrd.
Swank was eloquent about her experiences but at the same time, kind of gave away her answers. When asked about plans to direct or write she simply answered, “No.” He had to coax her at times into longer answers but when she went on an interesting tangent, we never learned more about it. The program said Swank is an “enthralling speaker on topics like succeeding against the odds and coming out on top,” very Oprah-esque topics but they never went there. I think she tried to steer it once into a more interesting direction but faltered and instead we merely learned tidbits about her.
Like, did you know she gained 19 pounds of muscle for Million Dollar Baby? She had her first Oscar but didn’t make enough money from the movie to get health insurance under the Screen Actor’s Guild. She was in the Junior Olympics. She’s a spokesperson for IAMS on pet adoption.
Even the subdued audience was a shock. Nary a round of applause for so many moments that deserved it like her talking about speaking for gay rights groups in New York or saving animals.
But her personality really saved the hour-long evening. She says she’s down to earth and it seems like she really is. She doesn’t come off affected by stardom and acts truly humbled by her work. Plus, she’s pretty funny and tried hard to keep the conversation upbeat and positive and engaging.
It wasn’t really a bad night but definitely an off one. Coincidentally, I could have been home watching this on TV last night.