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Hilary Swank's Academy Award-Winning Performance Paid Her Pennies

When Hilary Swank won her second Academy Award in 2005, she could only express astonishment at the highs of her career so far. She told the audience, "I don't know what I did in this life to deserve this. I'm just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream" (via 60 Minutes).

Swank indeed originally grew up in a mobile home around the small town of Bellingham, Washington (via Hello! Magazine). The young woman quickly took to acting as well as athletics, including ranking fifth in the state for gymnastics. Eventually Swank, aged 15, and her mother decided to move to Los Angeles for Swank's career, though they only had their car and $75 between them. Swank still credits her mother for believing in her talent. "My mom really believed in me," she said, "and her belief made me believe in myself, which is everything. The best gift you can give a child" (via The Guardian). Swank needed that belief, because even her first Oscar-winning role still didn't pay her very much.

Hilary Swank got paid very little for Boys Don't Cry

In 1999, Hilary Swank starred in the indie drama "Boys Don't Cry" as Brandon Teena, a trans man who had been murdered in a 1993 hate crime (via Britannica). Swank went deep into character, presenting as a male for the audition and then while out in public for quite some time (via The Philippine Daily Inquirer).

However, despite her hard work, the actress was only paid $3,000 by the production. She would later comment in a discussion on the talk show "Chelsea" (via People) that despite getting her first Oscar for the powerful performance, "I had an Academy Award, [but] no health insurance."

She'd later win another gold statue for "Million Dollar Baby," but it didn't necessarily help with big paydays. On one production, Swank was offered $500,000, only 5% of what her less famous male co-star was to receive in compensation (via Insider). Unfortunately, strong Hollywood salaries really can be hard to achieve, as many actors have played famous roles for almost nothing.