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Hilary Swank Says Her Desire to Tell Stories Is the Same, ‘No Matter Who the President Is’

By Christopher Vourlias

LOS ANGELES (Variety) – One day after President Donald Trump launched an attack against “racist” Hollywood – a tirade that appeared to be inspired by the movie “The Hunt,” whose release Universal has just canceled – Hilary Swank, one of the film’s stars, told reporters at the Locarno Film Festival that it’s “important to celebrate our differences” and that the president’s divisive politics haven’t changed her intent to tell meaningful stories.

“My desire to tell certain stories has always been the same, no matter who the president is,” said Swank, who is developing a project about a Syrian refugee. “The choices that I’ve made pretty much inform who I am as a person, and that’s not going to change….I definitely make stories about the underdog, and, you know, I stand up for human rights.”

Swank co-stars in the Blumhouse film about a group of strangers who wake up in a forest, only to discover they’re being hunted for sport by rich vacationers. Universal suspended its marketing campaign for “The Hunt” in the wake of last week’s shootings in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, while Fox News and other conservative outlets criticized the film ahead of its planned Sep. 27 release. Universal announced Saturday it would cancel the release, saying, “Now is not the right time to release this film.”

Speaking outside the White House before departing for the Hamptons Friday morning, President Trump was responding to reporters’ questions before veering into a criticism about the film industry. “Hollywood — I don’t call them the elites, I think the elites are the people they go after in many cases. But Hollywood is really terrible,” he said. “You talk about racist — Hollywood is racist. What they’re doing with the kind of movies they’re putting out, it’s actually very dangerous for our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disservice to our country.”

Later in the day, Trump appeared to take aim at “The Hunt” while continuing his diatribe on Twitter.

“Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate! They like to call themselves ‘Elite,’ but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order…. to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!”

Appearing onstage with Swank in Locarno on Saturday, moderator Mike Goodridge said he would not be bringing up “The Hunt” for discussion. Swank noted that “no one’s seen the film. You can’t really have a conversation about it without understanding what it’s about.”

The two-time Oscar winner is at the Swiss fest this week to receive the Leopard Club Award honoring her career in film. The actress and producer was feted at a ceremony Friday night in the Swiss city’s 8,000-seat Piazza Grande.

On Saturday, Swank spoke with Variety about her three-year hiatus from film to care for her ailing father, a period that helped her discover “there are other things that are important” to her, such as her work as a humanitarian and an entrepreneur. “It was a wonderful time of redefining myself and growing up in a different way,” she said.

Three years after revealing she’d once been offered one-tenth the salary of a male counterpart even after she’d won an Academy Award, Swank also tackled the issue of gender inequality in Hollywood, admitting that being a woman sometimes made her feel like “a second-class citizen.” “To this day, I still don’t get paid equal to my male counterpart,” she said. “That hasn’t changed. And I don’t think that there’s fairness in that.”

Swank nevertheless reflected on some of the gains made by the Me Too movement. “Clearly there’s way more opportunities not only for actresses, but directors, and I think people on the crew as well. We’re seeing more inclusivity, and I feel like not just with gender, but with race. That’s really important,” she said. “I think equality is taking leaps and bounds, but I think there’s still a way to go.”

Asked if she might become more engaged as an activist ahead of the 2020 elections, Swank said it was “important to speak up for what you believe in,” adding that “if you’re in the position to be able to help other people, no matter what that is, I think that you should utilize it.”

She continued: “I don’t step into roles to necessarily make a point; I just step into roles to be a storyteller of the human race, which is diverse and broad. Yet we all have that same desire to give and receive love, and to find our fullest purpose. In the end, that’s what will always connect us. But I think it’s also super important to celebrate our differences.”

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