As it turns out, Hilary Swank’s dog is named Kai, which is why she was so befuddled when people on the street kept yelling, “Do Cobra Kai” at her. After winning two Oscars – for Boys Don’t Cry, which was somehow 20 years ago already, and Million Dollar Baby – yes, perhaps her early role in 1994’s The Next Karate Kid isn’t the first thing that pops into her head.
This week Swank appears in Netflix’s I Am Mother, a sci-fi film that received strong accolades at Sundance. In I Am Mother, Swank plays a mysterious stranger who shows up at a sterile, post-apocalyptic bunker where a robot (voiced by Rose Byrne) is raising a young girl (Clara Rugaard) in an effort to repopulate Earth. It’s striking to see Swank in a role like this because she’s not done a lot of sci-fi in her career (other than 2003’s The Core, a film Swank says she did because it had such a strong cast), and Swank admits she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi in the first place but loves fantasy films, which leads to a spirited debate about what sci-fi is in the first place. (Eventually Siri has to get involved, and she wasn’t that big of a help.)
Swank also looks back on Boys Don’t Cry 20 years later. A role that still defines her career in a movie far ahead of its time, but acknowledges that it’s a role she couldn’t play today.
Should I sit in that chair? There’s a phone on it.
Oh, is that Claire’s phone? Did she leave her phone?
I thought that was a gift.
I left a little gift for you.
I get a new phone, this is great.
You go wherever you want to go. I’m sitting here and you have three chairs, your choice.
I’ve been an admirer of your work for a long time. I even saw The Next Karate Kid in theaters.
Oh, thank you.
It would be funny if I didn’t know anything between then and now. “What have you been up to? Any accolades?”
That would be funny, but then I would hope you have a lot of time.
I really enjoyed you being in a sci-fi dystopian movie…
I can’t remember you doing anything like this. I guess maybe The Core? But this is a very different movie.
One hundred percent, yeah, that was the only other similar genre to this that I’ve done, and it’s mostly because I’m not a huge sci-fi fan. But for me, within this story, I saw something that was really thought-provoking in it, not that sci-fi’s not. But it’s not in the that far future, I think, where we’re going to have a lot more AI around us. And what does that mean? And the idea of can you be taught empathy? Is empathy taught?
So what you’re saying is the robots are eventually going to kill us?
No, I hope not.
I feel there’s been joking about AI taking over for years, ever since probably the first Terminator. Like, “Oh, Skynet.”
And some robot is going to pick up this interview off your phone and go, “Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.”