DAWN JONES/ROADSIDE ATTRACTIONSHilary Swank stars as a pioneer woman on a dangerous journey in “The Homesman.”

Hilary Swank gets another great role in ‘Homesman’

Hilary Swank has won two Best Actress Oscars for playing tough, hard and beautiful characters in “Boys Don't Cry” and “Million Dollar Baby.” She plays the equally extraordinary Mary Bee Cuddy in “The Homesman.”

In the new Western, which opens this week, she's a single pioneer woman in the Nebraska Territory who volunteers for an unsettling and dangerous journey transporting three insane women to Iowa for special care.

In the original novel by Glendon Swarthout, Mary Bee is described as “plain as an old tin pail.”

“To me, she's one of the most beautiful people in her spirit,” says Swank, who recently visited The City. “She does this not because she wanted to please the other person, but because it was the right thing to do.”

She describes her director, Tommy Lee Jones, as “very specific,” but also “animated” when discussing the rhythm of a scene.

However, he was not easy on his leading lady, and in one scene she actually eats a handful of grass.

“That was a true gag,” she says.

Swank is often viewed as a tough girl, but in real life she doesn't always feel that way. Every role she's ever taken, she says, is scary.

“That's partly why I take them on. Every day I have that fear: am I going to be able to do this today? Is this the right thing for me? Am I following my instinct? I'm trying not to second-guess myself, and also trying not to overthink it. That's what life's about,” she says.

One decision she made involved Mary Bee's costume. Swank liked Mary Bee's dress, which had been slightly modified to allow for movement and hard work, but hated her bonnet.

“It had no service whatsoever,” she says. “It didn't keep the sun out of your eyes. I'm plowing and I can't see anything. It pressed on your ears. It was strictly a look. And I couldn't wait to get rid of it. It was my idea to lose it on the horse, when I'm galloping away. I'm done with this thing.”

Riding horses was also new to Swank, so Jones, brought in experts to teach her.

“He rode with me the first time to see if I could figure it out, or if they were going to have to bring someone else in to be a double. I'm not going to do a boxing movie and do all my own stunts and then have someone ride my horse,” she exclaims. “Oh no! I was going to figure it out!”

IF YOU GO

The Homesman

Starring Hilary Swank, Tommy Lee Jones, John Lithgow, Meryl Streep

Written by Tommy Lee Jones, Kieran Fitzgerald, Wesley A. Oliver

Directed by Tommy Lee Jones

Rated R

Running time 2 hours, 2 minutes

If you find our journalism valuable and relevant, please consider joining our Examiner membership program.
Find out more at www.sfexaminer.com/join/

Just Posted

San Francisco 49ers fall flat at home

Coming off of a massive 48-46 win over New Orleans last weekend, the 49ers felt the direct impact of a game that took a physical toll on their team.

SF may amend Mission Bay plan to allow for Warriors’ hotel, other projects

Area could accommodate up to 550 more units of affordable housing

Increased enforcement drives up citations for Valencia bike lane violations

If you ticket, they will come. The City increased traffic cops along… Continue reading

New tenant protections legislation being introduced

Advocates say many landlords skirt buyout laws by failing to report or using aggressive tactics

City could try to stop Lyft from dropping cash payments for bikeshare

A city supervisor hopes to force Lyft to keep accepting cash for… Continue reading

Most Read