Hilary Swank Interviewed – THE REAPING

     April 3, 2007

Opening Thursday is The Reaping and it stars two-time Academy Award winner Hilary Swank.

Here is the synopsis from the studio:

In “The Reaping,” Hilary Swank plays a former Christian missionary who lost her faith after her family was tragically killed, and has since become a world-renowned expert in disproving religious phenomena. But when she investigates a small Louisiana town that is suffering from what appear to be the Biblical plagues, she realizes that science cannot explain what is happening and she must regain her faith to combat the dark forces threatening the community.

Unlike a lot of the genre films that talk about the Bible and have religious elements, The Reaping has the special effects to tell the story well. This isn’t some low budget indie.

The interview with Hilary has all the usual stuff – what was it like to make the movie, can you talk about your co-stars, what are you working on next. But for someone who has won the biggest award in the industry twice, I’ll say she is the most grounded and down to earth person I have ever met.

I did the interview a week or so ago and it was done in the usual roundtable form. And while I didn’t have the time to transcribe the rest of the interviews I got to take part in, if you’d like to listen to them just click on the persons name below.

David Morrissey

Idris Elba

AnnaSophia Robb

Stephen Hopkins (Director)

And if you’d like to listen to the audio of the interview with Hilary Swank click here (it’s an MP3). Otherwise you can read it below.

The Reaping comes out this Thursday.

Q: So, do you love sci-fi, thriller movies like this?

I do. I do. I like smart ones and I feel like this is a really smart one. It really makes you think. The twists and turns in it and I was surprised and I read a lot of scripts and I see a lot of movies and I couldn’t believe it got me.

Q: How much of the stuff do you actually believe in?

In what?

Q: Apocalypse and plagues and all that stuff…

Well, I don’t know if I would believe that all of a sudden that a bunch of locusts are going to land on us and it’s not really anything I thought about, but I am from Nebraska and there are a lot of locusts there. Um, I think it’s interesting to think about. Do I think it’s going to happen? No, but I think it’s a really interesting thing to think about.

Q: Do you believe in God?

I do. I believe in a higher power. I’m not, I wasn’t baptized or anything.

Q: Your co-stars talked about the situation with hurricane Katrina while you were shooting. How did you feel when you came back?

Yeah, well, I think that obviously it was a horrible devastation that happened, but when we were evacuated, the great thing was that the studio actually said, ‘We’re going to go back.’ A movie is a movie and it’s a business and it took us way off schedule, but instead they just waited. And instead of pulling out and filming somewhere else, which would have left these people homeless and jobless, they kept the movie there, which I appreciated. Warner Bros. and Joel and they all made that real effort to do that. We all did. I was like, ‘Please make sure we go back.’ And I just thought that was really, really great we could give these people a place to go and something else to think about. And try and help rebuild.

Q: What did you get to enjoy in the south?

Pecan pies. Gumbo. Oh, there are so many amazing – there is so much great food down there. I’m a big food connoisseur. I love different types of food and trying different types of food and one of the first things I got when I got down there, my neighbor brought over a pecan pie and welcomed me to the neighborhood. Um, so, y’know it was really great food experience and hospitality. There is a reason why they say southern hospitality, because it is true and it is really alive down there. It’s great. I loved it. I had a little farmhouse while I was down there and my dogs ran free. They loved it. I loved it. It was great. I was down there a long time.

Q: How long had you been shooting before the hurricane occurred?

Almost 3/4th’s of the way through. Somewhere between a half and 3/4th’s. I don’t remember, but it was longer. On the long side. I know we went down on my birthday, which is July 30th, and we left November 2nd.

Q: Did you have to do anything special to train for this part?

I boxed, oh, no that was a different movie. (Laughs.) I acted like a boy. No, wait. Sorry. (Laughs.) No, there was nothing physical that I had to do for this movie. I just – what I actually did, there is this skeptic – I had to read these magazines. There is something called like The Skeptic Mind and all these books on people who debunk miracles and myths and stuff just like my character did and it was really fascinating. Y’know one of the things I talk about, one of the greatest things about being an actor is that I get to look at life at so many different ways and experience it. These people who write this Skeptic Minds and these books, I mean that’s their life. And to really get into it deep like that it’s just an interesting thing. You get to see so many different walks of life and on such deep levels. I did read a lot of those books. I read parts of the bible. I looked at everything.

Q: Were there any bizarre occurrences on the set? Like a bunch of flies in your room or something?

Oh, can you imagine I walk in after doing that scene? I would have thought it was a really bad ‘Punk’d.’ I was getting ‘Punk’d’ or something. ‘What’s going on?’ No, but there was one thing that happened. You know the scene where they keep Brody McConnell’s body on the gurney and they pan down to the symbol on his back? Every time it would pan down, the sound would go out. Not just out it was like warped. Like, ‘[she makes warped sound].’ And you were like, ‘What’s going on?’ The first time you don’t think anything. They just say ‘cut’ and you just talk and blah, blah, blah. And then they say, ‘Action,’ and we get back to it and then it would go out right when it got there again. Five takes later it’s still going out. And then we were like, ‘What is going on?’ Right when it gets to that point. Isn’t that interesting? Right?

Q: How do you keep yourself in shape now?

Well, with crazy schedules it’s a little bit more difficult then, y’know, but not. But, I like to run and you can kind of run anywhere. I like to swim and you can hopefully, y’know in all of my traveling there is a pool in my hotel. But running is a really easy thing to do and I love to travel, so when I run in different cities I get to really see the city. If I am running around and checking out and you’re not thinking about your workout when you are doing it that way. But, I do like to exercise. It’s something I like and when I don’t get to do it because of my schedule, because my schedule is too heavy, y’know I can feel a difference in my energy and my stress.

Q: You look terrific in the film.

Thanks. Thanks a lot. (Laughs.)

Q: You play a lot of character like this where you get down and dirty and you really get in the muck. Do you prefer that or dressing up?

Oh, it’s all fun. The great thing, again, as I said, one of the great things about being an actor, I mean as a girl I love my high heels and I love my dresses and I like to dress up, but I love that I get to play these characters that are really different than that. I get the best of both worlds.

Q: We heard you don’t like to do a lot of rehearsing. You just like to get in there and do that. Can you talk about that?

Yeah, it’s funny because you hear – there are a lot of people who I respect who love to rehearse. I’ve worked with Al Pacino and he wants to rehearse for hours and hours and he comes from the theater. So, it’s just how everyone’s background is just so different and how when you are working with different people you have to be respectful of that, because even though I don’t like to rehearse other people might. So, keeping that happy balance to keep everyone and able to do their jobs so everyone can is important. But yeah, I think there is something that happens, like with Clint, he believes the first take is the best. He thinks that there is something that happens naturally and instinctively the first time and I think that if you do that in a rehearsal than you’ve lost it. And that first time isn’t on camera. Sometimes when you are working with actors who like to rehearse, the director’s and producer’s can see it as wasting film, because if it doesn’t work then you’re actually rehearsing on film if they see it. I just think a lot of interesting things come from that and you can use and the editor can use. I just think it’s fun. It’s just something that happens that you don’t expect and as you do more and more takes you kind of are understanding what the other person is doing so it’s also fun when the director – and Stephen did this a lot – would whisper and say secrets to the other actors. He would tell you guys. He come up to us all and say, ‘OK, in this take let’s do it this way.’ He’d say, ‘You do this and you do this.’ We didn’t really know what was going to happen which really keeps you on your toes.

Q: Can you talk about working with Idris? Were you familiar with his work and?

I actually didn’t know a lot of his work and was not really familiar with him. But, I just, I think Idris definitely is the real deal. He’s just got so much talent. And we had so much fun together. Y’know it’s great, I think our chemistry onscreen is really great. It seems like we’ve been great friends forever and I just think he –

Q: Is he a prankster?

Did he tell you he was? Because I’m the prankster! (Laughs.) The funny thing is and he may not have told you this, he doesn’t like spiders. And I was like holding a big toad and ‘Oh, I wanna take it home, don’t you?’ And he was ‘Aaaahhh!’ I mean, what a movie to be scared of spiders to be doing right? I mean they were all over, all the time. And I don’t have a problem with it, but it was really funny for me and Anna Sophia to be like, ‘Oh, can we do the locusts? Can they sit on us?’ And he’s like, ‘Aaaaaah.’ It was the complete opposite of the stereotypical guy/girl thing, y’know? One thing too. There were other things that happened, but Idris, oh, loved him. Love him and his accent was brilliant. When he comes now and he uses this English accent I kind of laugh like, ‘You’re putting it on right? You just want to act like you’re real smart or somethin’.’ But, yeah, great, great guy.

Q: Next movie is ‘P.S.’ I Love You’ with Gerard Butler who is now exploded on the scene because of ‘300’ and you shot it after ‘300’ right?

Yes, a few months later.

Q: Did he still have the abs? (Laughs.)

No. He even said, ‘I was in really good shape y’know. I looked really in this movie I just did. It was just so hard I had to let go.’ And I was like, ‘OK. You still look great, what are you talking about?’ And then you see that movie and you’re like, ‘Oh, that’s what you meant.’

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Q: Can you tell us about that movie and who you play in it?

Hmm hmm. It’s a romantic comedy and working with Gerry was great. We’re actually looking for something else to do together with Richard LaGravenese because we all had such a great time together. It doesn’t sound funny when you kind of pitch it, but it’s about this man, Gerry, this couple that are married, me and Gerry, and he gets a brain tumor. And while he’s dying he writes these letters to me. So, once he’s died I’m getting these letters every month on how to just find myself again and move on. And he has me doing all these funny, silly things along the way. It’s really, really, I mean you laugh and you cry and it’s a reminder of what is important in life. To hold the people you love dear and not take them for granted. It’s really, really touching.

Q: Are you still learning a lot? Are you watching and observing?

Yeah and I love that you asked that. That’s something that’s so important to me. I feel like, people say, ‘Geez. Well, with two Academy Awards, where do you go?’ Well, I look at those movies and see mistakes all over the place and things that I would have done differently and better. And I think anytime you look at your life and think, ‘Oh, yeah I got that. I understand it. I got that down. It’s a breeze,’ you can just quit. Because that’s not – I want to constantly grow and learn and challenge myself. That’s ultimately what I look for in a script is to be challenged in some way. And y’know lots of different ways. And yes, I’m a big observer. I would say, one of the things, a funny story – as a kid, I would observe so much and one of the things my Mom saying ad nauseum was, ‘Stop starring Hilary!’ I would just stare and watch people. I remember as a kid watching how many times people would chew before they swallow. I remember watching people walk and watching how people write. Do they put their pen up here or do they put their pen here or do they put their pen here. Do they touch their hair when they talk. I’m just fascinated by people. Fascinated. And I’m fascinated by how different people work. Like, when we talk about the different directors I’ve worked with. Seeing how they all work differently, but they all make these great movies. How you can get to a point by doing it so many different ways. I just love that.

Q: Do you keep your options open every time you go into a film?

I definitely try to and it’s one of the things, y’know that is probably the most difficult, because I’ve been doing this half my life now. And so, I have an expectation of what it should be like on the set or I have an expectation of what a scene should come out, but the real challenge for me is to stay open minded and not to have an idea of how it’s going to turn out. To get up and go to my job everyday and be open minded to how the scenes are going to turn out, to how other people work, to being open to how they are working and I think that’s really important, especially in a creative job.

Q: Are you able to observe anymore?

Oh, yeah because I’m out and people will see me starring at them? It’s definitely different, but when I was living in New York, it was great, because I was taking the subway still and it was really important…I think what happens to actors when they become famous is they become more solitary, because it’s harder to go out just the nature of – of course it is. But, I think that’s one of the biggest detriments, because when you start loosing touch with people and absorbing you loose touch with life and what you’re trying to create. So, I love traveling and I love taking public transportation when I can and being with people, because that’s what I do. That’s my job. Here you’re in your car, but in New York, people are in such a hurry, so you’ll be on the subway and someone will be reading and they’ll be like, ‘I love your work! I love it.’ And then they’ll go back to reading their book. Y’know? Or they’ll be walking down the street and they’ll be going, ‘Oh, that was great!’ But they keep going because they have places to go. So, it’s, y’know, that’s the difference.

Q: What are you working on next?

I’m working on doing press for ‘The Reaping’ and then ‘P.S. I Love You.’

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