The news was devastating. In 2014, two-time Oscar winner Hilary Swank learned that her father, Stephen, was in need of a lung transplant. The 49-year-old made the only decision she could, stepping back from Hollywood at the top of her game. “I know a lot of people were like, ‘Oh, my gosh, how can you take that much time off your career? Aren’t you worried about …?’” she later recalled. “I’m like, ‘Worried about what? I’m only worried about my dad’s health.”

She was with her father until the end in late 2020. In the years since, the Million Dollar Baby star has been slowly rebuilding her career, headlining the ABC drama Alaska Daily and starring in Netflix’s Away. Now she is back on the big screen in Ordinary Angels, playing a woman who finds her purpose helping a widowed father secure his daughter a liver transplant. The role, which came to Hilary just months after her father’s passing, felt heaven-sent. “Organ donation is a big, big thing to me,” she told a reporter, adding, “I think it would have been my dad’s favorite movie of mine.”

Rough Beginnings

The Bellingham, Washington-raised star has no regrets sidelining her career to become her father’s health advocate. “I grew incredibly close to him,” she said. “Deepening our relationship and savoring every moment we had together.”

They hadn’t always been so close. Her parents split when Hilary was 15 and she and her mom, Judy, traveled to Los Angeles to pursue the teen’s acting dreams. The pair lived out of their car before they could afford an apartment. “It was nine years of really hitting the pavement,” Hilary recalled, “auditioning five times a day.”

Even when she achieved acclaim — winning an Oscar for her portrayal of tragic trans teen Brandon Teena in 1999’s Boys Don’t Cry — that didn’t always translate to material success. Shockingly, she was paid only $3,000 for the film, leaving her without health insurance. “At that time, you had to make $5,000 a year to have health insurance, and I didn’t,” she told CBS. “I didn’t realize that until I went in to try to get a prescription filled and they were like, ‘That will be $260. And I was like, Oh. I don’t think I need that prescription, apparently!'”

Full Heart

Those days are clearly over despite her Hollywood hiatus — and Hilary has never felt more secure. After her 10-year marriage to Chad Lowe ended in divorce in 2007, she wed entrepreneur Philip Schneider in 2018 (pal Mariska Hargitay was maid of honor!). “Philip has been an amazing support, then and now,” an insider exclusively tells Closer. “He’s there when Hilary needs him.” The pair welcomed twins, daughter Aya and son Ohm, in April 2023. While the actress has joked about sleepless nights, the insider says she considers the babies, delivered when she was 48, her miracles. “She and Philip are very hands-on parents,” adds the insider. “They keep her grounded. For her, family comes first.”

Now at a place where she can pick and choose her roles, Hilary looks back at her career with appreciation. Saying that she never had a backup plan if acting didn’t work out, she said, “‘Can’t’ was like a bad, four-letter word in my house. So if that is a miraculous thing, then, yes, I believe in miracles.”