By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD—It’s been a few years since audiences have seen two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank on the big screen. With the exception of the critically acclaimed TV movie “Mary and Martha,” the versatile and comely actress, who won her first Oscar for her portrayal of a transgender man who is maliciously murdered in “Boys Don’t Cry” and then a second Academy Award playing a boxer who suffers a serious injury in the ring in Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” the actress has been virtually incognito. She was drawn back to the limelight by fellow thespian—and Oscar winner—Tommy Lee Jones to co-star with him in his big screen adaptation of Glendon Swarthout’s novel.
Swank, 40, plays a frontierswoman who takes it upon herself to transport three women regarded by the local community as mentally unstable across the Great Plains from Nebraska to Iowa via covered wagon. She enlists the help of a low-life drifter named George Briggs (Jones), promising him full payment for his services once they reach their destination 600 miles away.
As Mary Bee Cuddy, Swank plays a strong, independent-minded woman, whose only problem is she can’t find a man to marry her. Set in 1855, her station in life is considered low and expendable because she is unmarried, even though she has her own home and farm. As she and Briggs venture across the rough and unforgiving terrain with their “cargo,” they face dangers both physical and psychological.
Although she is a big Hollywood star, Swank maintains her homespun Midwestern charm. She addresses her co-star/director as “Mr. Jones” and she has brought along some family members to a press conference because they are in town for the film’s premiere.
A cold threatens to steal her voice, but the determined actress forges through the interview, occasionally popping lozenges in her mouth so she can keep talking.