December 24, 1999 at 05:00 AM EST

‘Boys’ Wonder

It’s practically a cliche: the seemingly innocent Beverly Hills, 90210 face who leaves her sparkling TV address behind in search of indie-film grit. But with her revelatory performance in the brutal drama Boys Don’t Cry (the true story of Teena Brandon, the Nebraska woman who passed as a boy before being murdered), Hilary Swank not only left the likes of Tori Spelling in the dust, she just won the Los Angeles Film Critics award for best actress and looks to be a safe bet for an Oscar nomination. It’s a fitting reward for the 25-year-old, who underwent as dramatic and swaggering a physical transformation as any actress in recent memory. ”I’m a very feminine girl, but when I first got my hair cut I was the spitting image of Matt Damon,” says the actress, heretofore known, if at all, for her turn as The Next Karate Kid and a one-season stint as single mom Carly on 90210. Should the Oscar nod materialize, Swank’s career track could start resembling Damon’s, too. ”I was lucky Karate Kid wasn’t a hit and no one noticed me from 90210,” she says. ”I was afforded this amazing opportunity because they didn’t want a famous person.” After Boys, obscurity is neither an issue nor a selling point.

Kimberly Peirce
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