When it comes to starring in movies, most people assume that performers are all making bank for their starring roles. Sure, some are making millions, but there are plenty of examples of people making far less than one would assume.
Hilary Swank is a popular actress that has won multiple Academy Awards, but there was once a point in time when the performer was making a shockingly low salary. In fact, the salary she took home for her Oscar-winning role in Boys Don’t Cry was not even enough to qualify her for health insurance.
Let’s look back at how underpaid Hilary Swank was for Boys Don’t Cry.
She Made $3,000 For Boys Don’t Cry
Back in 1999, Hilary Swank was looking to find a role that could put her on top of the industry. The actress had already been appearing in film and television projects for years, but she had yet to find a right role that could set her apart from everyone else. This role would eventually come in the film Boys Don’t Cry.
That movie, which was based on the story of Brandon Teena, was a film with a tiny budget that had a lot of potential. Small projects aren’t always poised to make a huge mark on the business, but every now and again, one will be able to generate a significant amount of buzz with the right audience.
Because the budget of the film was tiny, it does make sense that the performers getting paid to appear in the film would receive smaller compensation. It has been reported that Hilary Swank only made $3,000 for her role in Boys Don’t Cry. Most people cannot imagine a performer like Hilary Swank making so little for a role, but clearly, she saw a huge opportunity here and jumped all over it.
It Wasn’t Enough For Health Insurance
With a $3,000 salary coming her way, Swank went into intense preparation for the role, going so far as to live like the main character from the film for some time before filming actually got underway. This helped her get into character, and it had a profound impact on her performance.
There was, however, a problem with Swank’s pay. The minuscule $3,000 that she was making for the film was not even enough to qualify her for health insurance.
“I made $3,000. In order to have health insurance, you have to make $5,000. So I didn’t even know that I didn’t have health insurance until I went and tried to get a prescription filled. They said, ‘That’s $160.’ I went, ‘Um, did you try my insurance?’ They said, ‘Mmm-hmm.’ I had an Academy Award, no health insurance,” said the actress.
Swank was just 24 at the time, and news of not having health insurance must have been a huge shock. This all could have been resolved had the studio spent a bit more money on her salary, but they left her high and dry with no knowledge of what was actually taking place.
Despite everything going on with her lack of pay and her lack of health insurance, Hilary Swank would deliver an outstanding performance that turned heads and made her a darling of awards season.
She Won An Academy Award For Her Performance
Ultimately, Hilary Swank would take home the Academy Award for Best Actress for Boy’s Don’t Cry, officially separating herself from the rest of the pack and cementing her place as one of the best actresses in the game. The actress would continue to have sustained success and collect larger checks along the way.
Several years after winning Best Actress for Boy’s Don’t Cry, Swank would once again finds herself taking home an Academy Award for her performance in Million Dollar Baby. This made her one of the few performers in history to win multiple Academy Awards for their acting.
Since her days of not qualifying for health insurance, Swank has touched on the gender pay gap in Hollywood, telling one particular story that should strike a chord with people everywhere.
“Then I win my second Academy Award, and the next couple movies later, I get offered a movie,” she said. “But the male hadn’t had any kind of critical success, but had been in a movie where he was hot. And he got offered $10 million, and I got offered $500,000. That’s the truth. The truth,” Swank recalled.
“So I said, ‘No.’ And then they went and found a newcomer who did it for $50,000. So they made a savings of [$450,000], probably to give the guy his bonuses,” she continued.
Though she won an Oscar for the role, Hilary Swank’s pay for Boy’s Don’t Cry and subsequent gender pay gap issues should help propel the business into an era where stuff like this doesn’t happen anymore.