Hilary Swank Only Got Paid Her $3,000 For This Iconic Role

In 1999, Hilary Swank made history when she appeared in the indie film "Boys Don't Cry," which follows the real-life story of Brandon Teena, a transgender person who was murdered on New Year's Day in 1993 (via The Hollywood Reporter).

The film, written and directed by Kimberly Peirce, was Peirce's directorial debut; she knew as soon as she read Teena's story that she wanted to bring it to life.

"It was as if I had adopted this person," she explained. 'I knew that night I had to tell the story and tell it in a way that dignified Brandon Teena and his journey to live the life he needed and wanted to live. I knew immediately it was about getting inside of that."

Years later, when Peirce finally got the funding and support needed to make the film, she had every intention of casting a queer or trans person – however, it was actress Hilary Swank that eventually landed the role. Swank was, at that point, known for her roles in "The Next Karate Kid" and "Beverly Hills, 90210." But the work that Swank did up until that point paled in comparison to the chance to appear in "Boys Don't Cry."

She told THR her other roles were "just opportunities to grow my craft and trying to find out what I am doing until the opportunity allowed to be in something like 'Boys Don't Cry.' It was nine years of work that I was doing until I got the opportunity."

Though a huge opportunity, the movie had a tight budget

Although "Boys Don't Cry" would eventually go on to earn $15 million, it was made with a $2 million budget. Surprisingly, Hilary Swank earned only $3,000 for appearing in the film (via Insider). "In order to have health insurance, you have to make $5,000. So I didn't even know that I didn't have health insurance until I went and tried to get a prescription filled," thee star recalled to Chelsea Handler in 2016. "They said, 'That's $160.' I went, 'Um, did you try my insurance?' They said, 'Mmm-hmm.' I had an Academy Award, no health insurance."

Swank recognizes that while the film was a long shot, appearing in it paid off for her. "I broke into film with that movie," said Swank (via IndieWire). "The idea of making a movie for a certain budget, it was just this brilliant idea of being able to take a risk on telling a story that there is an audience for, you just have to make it to be able to find that audience... And then obviously it took off."

The actress recognizes that if the movie were made today, the part of Brandon Teena should be played by a trans actor.  Swank told Variety, "Twenty-one years later, not only are trans people having their lives and living, thankfully, [although] we still have a long way to go in their safety and their inclusivity, but we now have a bunch of trans actors who would obviously be a lot more right for the role."