Ordinary Angels: Hilary Swank on the true story of a 'snow baby' and a helpful stranger

Hilary Swank says playing roles based on real stories have made her a "better person".

The 49-year-old has portrayed a real-life single mother, a lawyer and a high-school dropout - and won her first Academy Award in 2000 for Boys Don't Cry, a story based on the life of Brandon Teena, a trans man who was murdered in 1993.

She tells Sky News: "Each character that I've ever played is in my heart, and I am so grateful for that because it just made me, I think, a better person and certainly helped me challenge myself as an artist".

Swank says she never thought her acting choices would have such an impact on others and finds it "so beautiful to have those conversations" with people who relate to the roles she has played.

"[My filmography] touches not only different, genders, which is so unique, but different races and, and different classes of people and that is so beautiful because I then get to connect with people who have gone through something similar.

"Whether it's people with addiction, people who are having a sexual identity crisis, people who are clear on their sexuality but had struggled in the past, people who were not seen in high school and dropped out because they didn't matter and then that went on to graduating high school and college because they saw a movie that I was in".

Her latest film, Ordinary Angels, is also non-fiction and she plays a woman who goes out of her way to help strangers at their time of need.

It's based on the true story of a recently widowed father of two daughters, one of whom is in need of an organ transplant.

Losing her father

The story has a real connection with Swank, whose father was an organ transplant recipient before his death in 2021.

In 2014, the two-time Oscar winner took a three-year break from acting to be the sole caretaker of her father and says it allowed them to grow closer "deepening our relationship and savouring every moment we had together".

She was offered the role in Ordinary Angels just months after his death in 2021.

"When people are losing their lives it's hard and it's a reminder of the lives that are lost in our own lives as we play them".

Swank describes playing real people as "an honour," explaining: "It allows us, as actors and storytellers, to break the blinders of how we walk in the world and see the world and it reminds us that people are going through things that we have no idea about. So, to be a little kinder walk, tread a little gentler, give people more grace."

She adds: "Each character that I've ever played is in my heart, and I am so grateful for that because it just made me, I think, a better person. And, certainly helped me challenge me as an artist".

The real 'snow baby'

Ordinary Angels centres on a struggling hairdresser Sharon who finds a new sense of purpose after reading about a tragic story in a Kentucky newspaper.

Ed, played by Reacher's Alan Ritchson, is a recently widowed father of two daughters - one of whom is waiting for an organ transplant.

The film is based on real events that occurred in Kentucky in the early 1990s that saw a local hairdresser step in and launch fundraisers to help the family with their medical debt and organise the child's journey via private plane whenever a donated liver became available.

Locally named the "snow baby", Michelle Schmitt and her father were helped by a stranger, Sharon Stevens and their community, to get from Louisville to Nebraska for an organ transplant during a historic snowstorm.

Read more from Sky News:
Manhunt for Home and Away star accused of assault
Harvey Weinstein's 2020 rape conviction overturned

The tagline of Ordinary Angels is simple - "Find your purpose. Make a difference".

Swank agrees and says it's important to remember that we are not always aware of what others are going through.

"We have a choice in how we want to step into our lives every single day. That means helping others and helping ourselves to be a better person."

Ordinary Angels is in UK cinemas now.