Hilary was born in Lincoln, Nebraska, to Judith Kay (Clough), a secretary, and Stephen Michael Swank, who served in the National Guard and was also a traveling salesman. Her maternal grandmother, Frances Martha Dominguez, was of Mexican descent, and her other roots include German, English, and Scottish. During her early childhood, her family moved to Spokane, Washington, and when she was six, to Bellingham, Washington.
She subsequently had a supporting role opposite Scarlett Johansson and Josh Hartnett in Brian De Palma's The Black Dahlia (2006), starred in Freedom Writers (2007), the true story of Long Beach schoolteacher, Erin Gruwell, The Reaping (2007) for Warner Brothers, and reunited with her Freedom Writers (2007) writer/director, Richard La Gravenese, starring in the film adaptation of Cecelia Ahern's novel, P.S. I Love You (2007). Hilary Swank is the third youngest woman in history to win two Academy Awards for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role". An aficionado for anything that involves the outdoors, she enjoys: sky diving, river rafting and skiing.