Hilary Swank Says ‘A Lot More Trans Actors’ Would Be Better for Her ‘Boys Don’t Cry’ Role Today

Swank won a Best Actress Oscar for her portrayal of trans man Brandon Teena, who fell victim to a brutal hate crime in 1993.
BOYS DON'T CRY, Hilary Swank, Chloe Sevigny, 1999. (c) Fox Searchlight Pictures/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.
"Boys Don't Cry"
©20thCentFox/Courtesy Everett Collection

Hilary Swank’s Oscar-winning turn as Brandon Teena in “Boys Don’t Cry” was a boon for the representation of trans people onscreen back in 1999. Kimberly Pierce’s film highlighted the tragic story of Teena, who fell victim to a brutal hate crime in 1993 in Nebraska, turning Swank into an A-lister and opening the doors for deeper LGBTQ storytelling in American movies. (Though how widely it opened those doors is open to debate.) But would Swank, a cisgender woman, take on the role today, in a moment of increased visibility for trans actors? Swank spoke about her casting in a recent interview with Variety while promoting her Netflix series, “Away.”

Swank said, two decades ago when the movie was released, “Trans people weren’t really walking around in the world saying, ‘Hey, I’m trans.’ Twenty-one years later, not only are trans people having their lives and living, thankfully, [although] we still have a long way to go in their safety and their inclusivity, but we now have a bunch of trans actors who would obviously be a lot more right for the role and have the opportunity to actually audition for the role.”

One route into those opportunities is the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ new inclusion standards, which offer a revised rubric for Best Picture eligibility, going fully into effect in 2024, to include diverse talent both in front of and behind the camera. While some say the new standards level the playing field for under-represented voices, others say they tamper with creative expression. For Swank, it’s a step in the right direction.

“In order to create change and to really make people tell stories that represent the world in which we live in — which is a colorful world full of all different types of people — rules like that need to be set,” Swank said. “There are so many stories in my 29 years of being in this business that have been told from a white straight male’s point-of-view, and it does a great disservice to people who are living in the world because they don’t get to see themselves represented on the screen in a way that makes them feel seen and heard.”

Head over to Variety to watch the full interview.

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