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Hilary Swank Once Happily Put Her Hollywood Career on Hold for Her Father

Busayo Ogunjimi
Oct 09, 2021
04:30 P.M.
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Actress Hilary Swank made the ultimate sacrifice years back when she put her career on hold to tend to her ailing dad, Stephen Michael Swank.


"Camp Wilder" star Hilary Swank stormed the movie scenes in the early '90s and made appearances in some all-time iconic films in the years that followed.

Her movie appearances ultimately made her a household name, skyrocketing her to stardom. However, when the world could hardly get enough of her, the prolific actress disappeared from the movie screens.

Hilary Swank and dad Stephen Michael Swank at the Los Angeles Special Screening of "What They Had" at iPic Westwood on October 9, 2018. | Photo: Getty Images

Hilary Swank and dad Stephen Michael Swank at the Los Angeles Special Screening of "What They Had" at iPic Westwood on October 9, 2018. | Photo: Getty Images


She would later attribute her temporary hiatus to her father, who fell ill at the time and needed emergency surgery. Swank spent years by his side, not minding the implication her sweet gesture would have on her Hollywood career. It was a sacrifice she was happy to make.


Hilary Swank was born to Judy Kay Clough, a dancer who also worked as a secretary, and Stephen Swank, a Chief Master sergeant-turned-traveling salesman, in 1974. Before her family moved to Bellingham, she grew up in Spokane, Washington, where she completed her education up to the high school level.

When Swank was fifteen, her parents separated, causing the actress to live with her mom. To support her daughter's acting dreams, Judy Kay relocated to Los Angeles in hopes of finding better opportunities.

Hilary Swank at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills on April 12, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. | Photo: Getty Images

Hilary Swank at Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills on April 12, 2018 in Beverly Hills, California. | Photo: Getty Images

They lived in their car for months, working odd jobs until Swank's mom saved enough to rent an apartment. She describes her mom as her biggest hero and inspiration.


She enrolled at the South Pasadena High School but soon dropped out as she felt out of place and received no support from peers and teachers.

She proceeded to focus on her acting, landing roles in "Buffy The Vampire Slayer," "Beverly Hills 90210," and finally making her big break on "The Next Karate Kid." She also starred as trans man Teena Brandon on "Boys Don't Cry" and has remained unstoppable since then.



In 2015, the Oscar-winner announced her plans to put her career on hold to become her dad's caregiver. During an interview, she revealed that her dad underwent a lung transplant and lived at her home while he recuperated.

She described the experience as an honor, noting she was more than happy to give up Hollywood to care for her dad. The opportunity allowed Swank to bond with her dad, whom she was not close to while growing up. To her, it was a way of healing.

While her sacrifice undoubtedly painted her as an amazing daughter, Swank thinks otherwise, insisting it only portrays how lovely her dad was.



Hilary Swank spent three years looking after her dad, bonding with him, and forging a lasting father-daughter relationship. During that period, she refrained from taking on new Hollywood roles.

However, some offers admittedly proved too "beautiful" to ignore, like "The One Percent" and "Spark," where she lent her voice to the Queen's character. Explaining her decision, she shared:

"There's been a couple of projects that are beautiful, but in the end, there's nothing I want to do more than being with my dad in his time of need. You can't get this time back."


Soon after her dad's recovery, she made a big comeback, snagging a role on the FX series "Trust." She confirmed in a 2018 interview that her dad was doing great while commending everyone who made themselves organ donors.


During an interview with Health in 2020, Swank went candid about what being her dad's caretaker meant for her. The star described lung transplant as the most difficult of all.


Explaining the reasons behind her break, the award-winning actress noted that it took a year to figure out if an organ transplant was successful. She decided to spend that year staying by her dad's side.

Although her initial plan was to take a year off, one year soon morphed into two and three. In the end, her dad recuperated successfully, thanks to answered prayers. Explaining what being a caregiver truly entailed, Swank divulged:

"It takes a lot of energy, love, and edifying yourself on the matter at hand. The ups and downs are so challenging and can be overwhelming."

She further advised other health advocates and caregivers to remember to take time off for themselves and relay their needs to those around them to acquire support.

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