Hilary Swank says recruiting Tommy Lee Jones to direct ‘The Homesman’ was easy

Like a number of actors still in the awards season mix, Hilary Swank has been talking about her contender along with films from Sundance or Cannes for a long time. In fact, she's been promoting Tommy Lee Jones' “The Homesman” from one film festival to another across the country for the past six months. Sitting in a Beverly Hills Hotel room the morning before its last stop, AFI Fest, the two-time Oscar winner admits she's happy to have something so good to talk about.

“Do you hear my voice right now? My lack of it? It's because I've been singing Tommy Lee's praises and talking about the movie literally since May,” Swank says, beaming. “When you have a movie you love and believe in, it's great. I wake up and I say, 'I could be tired right now talking about doing what I love, living my dream, or I could be tired doing another job I don't like and trying to achieve it.' So I try to keep it all in perspective that way.”

“The Homesman” finds Swank playing Mary Bee Cuddy, an 1850s rancher who is given the responsibility of transporting three women, who have been unable to handle pioneer life, back East to “civilization.” It's a somewhat familiar role for Swank, who gets to play a fiercely independent western woman who has to tame numerous physical obstacles while quietly battling her own inherent loneliness. While Swank didn't take or receive a producer credit on the film, she was the one who actually sent the script to Tommy Lee Jones for him to consider as his next feature directorial effort after the acclaimed “The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada.”

Swank recalls, “I read the script. I fell in love with it. I emailed Tommy Lee. He said, 'Let's meet.' And he said, 'You're my girl.' I wish it was always that easy.”

This is actually the second time Swank has co-starred with her director, the first, of course, being “Million Dollar Baby” opposite Clint Eastwood. While some actors might consider having one person handle two important roles as a detriment, Swank relished the opportunity.

“You have a shorthand,” she says. “You're working with your director right there, who is also an actor, and they know what it entails to be an actor. They are right here. It's intimate. They are not across the room. It's lovely.”

Beyond the opportunity to play a character such as Mary Bee, Swank says she was inspired by what this story could say in a modern context.

“I felt even though it took place in the mid-1800s, [it touches on] what women now are still dealing with, from the objectification of women to the trivialization of women,” Swank says. “Also, Mary Bee had these qualities of morals, manners and values that I think are really lacking in society. I just thought, 'What a great reminder and inspiration.' And also, to add a layer of that: vulnerability. I'd say she goes where angels fear to tread, but then you see this underlying vulnerability as well, where she wants to find a man. She wants to be loved. She wants to give love and I think those are things that women now can relate to, women who want to walk shoulder to shoulder with a man and have a man see them as all of that and support that.”

For more of Swank's thoughts on “The Homesman,” check out the complete video interview at the top of this post.

“The Homesman” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday.