Tribute's Bonnie Laufer talks to Oscar winner Hilary Swank about her latest role in The Affair of the Necklace.


Q: Hilary, I am sure that after you won the Oscar you must have had hundreds of scripts pouring in. What was it about The Affair of The Necklace that made you go with that script?
A: The interesting thing is that I read this script before I was even nominated for a Golden Globe and then I received the part before I won the Golden Globe. So when people say did you choose this because it was the opposite of Brandon Teena, whom I played in Boys Don't Cry — at that point that wasn't even my thoughts. I was drawn to playing Jeanne in Affair of the Necklace. I liked her strong will and she's so determined, naive and all these wonderful qualities that I find that I like in human beings. I also thought that the story was amazing and that it all really happened and so scandalous, I thought that it was so fascinating.

Q: Not many people are familiar with her story.
A: I didn't even know the story. I'm not much of a history buff even in my own country let alone other people's countries, so I can't say that I even knew about (these events). The French know about it because it is such an important part of their history. The scandal basically started the French Revolution but it was definitely a learning experience for me.

Q: Jeanne, the character that you play, was so ahead of her time — real modern woman not caring what others thought. She was determined and spoke her mind and for that time period I thought was quite bold.
A: Even nowadays when a woman is determined and driven and confident and speaks up for herself and what is right she is often times labelled as difficult, so when you take a woman with those qualities and put her in that era it's remarkable. I definitely could relate to that but I think had it been a man, it probably wouldn't have been the same story. She was punished for her determination; a man most likely would have gotten a medal!

Q: You shot on locations like Paris and Prague for many months, you got to wear magnificent costumes and wigs, but what for you was the biggest challenge playing her?
A: I'm not skilled in the craft of this very English proper period piece type of film. A lot of the English actors who are in the film are trained theatrically that way. For me, this was all new and I wanted to make sure that my movement and accent was right but also I had to make sure that I wasn't too stiff so that you couldn't relate to her. There's that fine line that I think that English actors do so well when you are watching them. They have that perfect posture, and are very reserved; that you can see. Finding that for myself was challenging, but Charles Shyer, the director, was so good about making sure that I learned how to do everything and then let it go and made sure that I kept the human quality to it.

Q: How much research did you find that you had to do to really get to know what Jeanne was all about?
A: I love doing prep work! I prepare extensively for everything that I do. I love that process, so with this, there was obviously a wealth of information to read and study. I think every one of the characters had a memoir of their experience. Charles (the director) compiled a very large notebook of excerpts from different memoirs and different parts of history that he wanted us to bring to the story, so that way we were all on the same page. I could have literally spent a year reading about this part of history so I think sticking to what he wanted us to read was important.

Q: Did you have a hard time staying with the British accent?
A: Well, it was interesting because I had about three weeks worth of work with movement and accent and what I would do which really helped was that I put my costume on and did my accent and rehearsed in the outfit. Once you get on set you are working with an actor who has to believe what you are saying, but if you can do it in real life I found it really helped. I couldn't go out to a restaurant in these clothes, but I would sit with my accent coach and have a cup of tea and speak in my accent just so that I could get used to it.

Q: You wear such magnificent costumes in the film. How did you enjoy playing dress up?
A: It's funny. I always tell people that when I played a boy in Boys Don't Cry, I had to have my breasts bound down with tensors and tapes. In this film, I had to wear corsets that pushed them up and showed them off. My breasts have certainly come into their own!!

Q: Yes this was very different for you. How long did you spend getting ready every day?
A: Three gruelling hours!! I spent about an hour and half in wardrobe and then another hour and a half in make up and hair. It got tiring but the people were so great that worked on me on this film. They were so supportive through the entire process. It's something that you just get used to.

Q: You go head to head with some veteran actors. There's Jonathan Price, Christopher Walken and Joely Richardson, to name a few. How did you enjoy that experience?
A: These people were amazing. Someone like Chris Walken, who has been around for so long — I grew up watching his movies so getting the opportunity to work with him was unreal. Jonathan Price, Brian Cox, Joely Richardson — all of them — it was extraordinary. You can only hope as an actor that while you are working that you get something from it as well and I felt like I was constantly learning on this set.

Q: You have a bit of a steamy scene with Simon Baker.
A: We had a couple of steamy scenes actually, but there wasn't enough time to show them all! Ya, Simon Baker wow!

Q: Ya, he's a hottie so it couldn't have been too bad.
A: A hottie, that's for sure!! Not much acting that has to be done in those scenes.

Q: Does that kind of stuff bug you, or is it all in a day's work?
A: No! What's so strange about doing love scenes? I literally say, it's just part of the job. It's part of your job to make out with this really handsome guy and simulate a sex scene. And I say, yes, that's just the way it is. It's a tough job but someone has to do it. I'm glad I'm married to an actor! He totally understands. He has his own share of scenes like that to do.

Q: Speaking of your husband, Chad Lowe (Rob's brother). Do you think that you would someday like to work together?
A: I would love to work with Chad. I think that he is so talented and I am a fan of his work. We've actually started our own production company so we are going to start producing movies together. We have just sold our first manuscript so we are very excited. We work well together so it'll be great.

Q: You must get a pile of scripts these days, especially since Oscar.
A: Since Oscar, I love the way that you refer to him as a real guy.

Q: Well, he is pretty real! I can't imagine what life was like for you the very next day after you won. How did that night completely change your life?
A: There are two sides to it. Obviously I've had more career opportunities and I am so thankful for that. I think that is something that you really strive for as an actor, but other than that my life is the same. I am the same person, I have ups and downs but it doesn't really change your life too much. Maybe I get a better dinner reservation now, but that's really about it.

Q: What keeps you grounded?
A: Chad.

Q: Do you keep him grounded too?
A: Yes. I've been with Chad for nine years so I met him when I was eighteen. We have really grown a lot together and have experienced a lot together and we have this great relationship. I'm very lucky.

Q: Next up we are going to see you in Insomnia and that's pretty cool because you star opposite Al Pacino!
A: He was amazing. I was lucky because he is a very method actor and it was great because our characters like each other and are friends. In the movie he is actually a mentor to me so we had that off screen as well. We became close. He was very mentorish, if that's a word. Robin Williams is also in it. I don't have as many scenes with him, but when we worked together it was also wonderful.

Q: It's a thriller, right?
A: Yes, Insomnia is a thriller and its directed by Christopher Nolan who directed Memento, so everyone is eagerly awaiting this film to see his follow up. I play a pretty much normal girl in it.

Q: Plus you'll be starting The Core soon.
A: Yes, I start filming The Core in Los Angeles next week and that one stars Aaron Eckhart and Stanley Tucci. I'm looking forward to that.

Q: Where do you see yourself say five years down the road?
A: I'm really excited about producing and finding stories that I really believe in. Both Chad and I are looking for things that we feel need to be told. I think that I would eventually like to direct as well. Not anytime soon. I'm not going to jump into that; I certainly have enough on my plate as it is, but I think that would be fun.