Like a streetwalker with a broken toe, Hilary Swank hobbles across the concrete floor in a pair of five-inch gold-leather pumps. The studio is darkish and the music is blaring; there is a smell of fresh paint and hair spray and food service in the air, along with the rich aroma of roasted coffee, the handiwork of the authentic Italian barista who is stationed in the vaulted lobby.
Outside, the sun is setting on the industrial end of Santa Monica, a couple of miles inland from the beach. Workers in blue uniforms, from the recycling plant across the street, fan out along the block, reclaiming their cars and trucks. The studio has been here only a few months, part of a gallery conversion project that has transformed Bergamot Station, a former stop on the Red Line trolley, which ran until the early 1950s between downtown Los Angeles and the fabled Santa Monica Pier. Sitting at the curb by the door is the Lincoln Town Car that collected Swank for the shoot at nine this morning. When she was fifteen, Swank and her mom left their double-wide trailer in Bellingham, Washington, bound for Hollywood in a borrowed Oldsmobile. They arrived in town with seventy-five dollars. For a time, they lived in the car.
Now Hilary Swank is thirty-two. The lonely little tomboy who used to like to pass her time floating in a lake has won two Oscars for Best Actress. In Boys Don’t Cry, she played Brandon Teena, a transgendered woman who attempts to live and love as a man and is killed for it. In Milli...