Birthplace: Bellingham, Wash.
The Oscar-winning actress has certainly paid her dues. In 1990, 16-year-old Swank left her native Bellingham, Washington, for Los Angeles, where she landed minor roles in such forgettable sitcoms as Harry and the Hendersons and Evening Shade. She made her feature-film debut in 1992's Buffy the Vampire Slayer, in which she played a bratty acquaintance of the title character. A natural athlete who swam in the Junior Olympics and was a top-ranked gymnast in Washington, Swank tried her hand at martial arts in 1994's The Next Karate Kid. The movie failed, and Swank struggled to resuscitate her career, appearing in several made-for-TV movies. A 16-episode stint on Beverly Hills, 90210 in 1997 brought her widespread exposure, and perhaps paved the way for her career-making turn in 1999's biopic Boys Don't Cry, in which she played Teena Brandon, a Nebraskan teen who reinvented herself as Brandon Teena. The role brought her instant fame and critical acclaim, and she won an Oscar, a Golden Globe and several critics awards for the riveting performance. Swank also appeared in The Affair of the Necklace (2001) and the sci-fi flick The Core (2003). She played the role of suffragist Alice Paul in HBO's Iron Jawed Angels (2004). 2004 also brought her kudos for her role in Clint Eastwood's Million Dollar Baby, for which she again did the Golden Globe and Oscar combination win. She's married to actor Chad Lowe.
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