BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Illness changes things. It changes how we live. What we care about. Who we make time for.
For Hilary Swank, who moved her father into her Los Angeles home three years ago as he underwent a risky lung transplant, it also changed how she dated.
“It’s almost a great way to weed out people,” says Swank, 44, who recently married social venture entrepreneur Philip Schneider. ” ‘Wait, you live with your dad?’ The reaction to that helps you move through things faster.” She and Schneider, who were set up on a blind date, have “that same ethos and belief in being there for your family,” she says. “That started it off right.”
Familial devotion is at the heart of Swank’s latest film, “What They Had,” one of the first roles she took after caring for her father. In the multi-generational drama, Swank plays Bridget, a long-distance daughter coping with her mother’s descent into Alzheimer’s. Her father (Robert Forster) argues he can care for his wife (Blythe Danner) better than the Chicago memory-care facility that his son (Michael Shannon), who lives nearby, is advocating. It’s Christmas, and no one has the answers.
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Swank says little prepares you for becoming an aging parent’s proxy. “There were moments when I was taking care of my dad where you’re not confident, when you know that in helping make a decision, (it) could be good or bad – and that was something you were going to have to live with, no matter which way it went. So it was scary.”
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