Before Fame, Fortune, and Two Academy Awards, Hilary Swank and Her Mother Slept in a Car As She Chased Stardom

“Despite the challenges, I feel nostalgia for those days, when we had nothing.”

Hilary Swank
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Long before the fame, the fortune, and the two Academy Awards, actress Hilary Swank slept in a car with her mom as she sought stardom, The Wall Street Journal reports.

Eager to start her acting career, Swank said that she stopped going to high school at the end of her sophomore year and after “my mother had recently separated from my father,” she said. Mother and daughter drove to Los Angeles from Bellingham, Washington, hoping Swank’s dreams of acting would come true.

Hilary Swank

Life wasn't always glamorous for Swank, who opened up about her early days in Hollywood

(Image credit: Getty Images)

“In L.A., my mother and I first lived in her Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme on quiet residential streets,” Swank said. “When we weren’t sleeping in the car, we stayed at the house of a new friend my age whose family had just moved out and were trying to sell their home. We slept on an air mattress.”

She continued “After about a month [of living in L.A.], Mom found secretarial work and we rented a bedroom from a single mother in Burbank. Starting out, I booked just okay television parts, but I didn’t care. I was excited to be living my dream.”

Hilary Swank

Swank went on to win two Best Actress Oscars, for "Boys Don't Cry" and "Million Dollar Baby"

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Hilary Swank and Philip Schneider attend the 80th Annual Golden Globe Awards at The Beverly Hilton on January 10, 2023 in Beverly Hills, California.

Swank and husband Philip Schneider are new parents to twins

(Image credit: Photo by Matt Winkelmeyer / Getty)

Swank had her first breakout role in ABC’s short-lived 1990s sitcom Camp Wilder, USA Today reports; she would go on to win two Best Actress Oscars, for 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry and 2004’s Million Dollar Baby. She has also found success not just professionally but personally—Swank and her husband, entrepreneur Philip Schneider, are parents to twins Aya and Ohm, and explained the meaning of their unique names last week. The family of four live back and forth between Colorado and Swank’s hometown of Bellingham, Washington.

“Even though I’m happy we left L.A., every so often, when I’m there for meetings, I’ll drive along a street in Pasadena where my mom and I parked and slept,” she said. “Despite the challenges, I feel nostalgia for those days, when we had nothing.”

Rachel Burchfield
Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor

Rachel Burchfield is a writer, editor, and podcaster whose primary interests are fashion and beauty, society and culture, and, most especially, the British Royal Family and other royal families around the world. She serves as Marie Claire’s Senior Celebrity and Royals Editor and has also contributed to publications like Allure, Cosmopolitan, Elle, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, InStyle, People, Vanity Fair, Vogue, and W, among others. Before taking on her current role with Marie Claire, Rachel served as its Weekend Editor and later Royals Editor. She is the cohost of Podcast Royal, a show that was named a top five royal podcast by The New York Times. A voracious reader and lover of books, Rachel also hosts I’d Rather Be Reading, which spotlights the best current nonfiction books hitting the market and interviews the authors of them. Rachel frequently appears as a media commentator, and she or her work has appeared on outlets like NBC’s Today Show, ABC’s Good Morning America, CNN, and more.