Actress Hilary Swank has a penchant for choosing roles based on actual people. In 1999 she won her first Oscar for portraying Brandon Teena — a Nebraska transgender male who was murdered six years earlier — in the indie drama Boys Don’t Cry. In 2005 Swank earned Golden Globe and SAG nominations for her work in the HBO movie Iron Jawed Angels, in which she played suffragette Alice Paul. Since then, Swank portrayed California school teacher Erin Gruwell in the 2007 drama Freedom Writers and legendary airplane pilot Amelia Earhart in director Mira Nair’s 2009 biopic, Amelia.
Swank’s latest real-life project is the Tony Goldwyn-directed drama Conviction. In the film she dramatizes the extraordinary journey of Betty Anne Waters — a Massachusetts woman who spent eighteen years fighting to exonerate her imprisoned brother, Kenny. He was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison for a crime she believed he didn’t commit.
When AMC News talked with the two-time Oscar-winning actress at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival — where Conviction had its world premiere — she told correspondent Jacob Soboroff that she didn’t want to meet Waters right away after taking on the role. Instead, Swank began her preparation by attempting to decipher the unbreakable bond Betty Anne had with her older brother — one that propelled Waters to devote such a large part of her life to securing his freedom.
Swank marveled at their relationship, saying, “It’s a love that most people want and are searching for.”