LOS ANGELES — In the rematch between Hilary Swank and Annette Bening, Swank was the winner and still champion, taking the best-actress Oscar on Sunday for her portrayal of a feisty fighter in Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby.”
The film was the big winner of the night, earning Academy Awards for best picture, best director for Eastwood and best supporting actor for Morgan Freeman.
“I don’t know what I did in this life to deserve all this,” Swank said while clutching the statuette, her voice trembling. “I’m just a girl from a trailer park who had a dream.”
Toward the end of her lengthy acceptance speech, the orchestra began playing to prod her along, prompting her to cry out, “You can’t do that because I haven’t gotten to Clint yet! I saved him for the end!”
She then turned to her director and co-star sitting in the audience and said, “Clint Eastwood, thank you for allowing me to go on this journey with you. Thank you for believing in me.”
“You’re my Mo Cuishle,” she added, a reference to the Gaelic nickname Eastwood’s boxing-manager character gives her in the film. The name means “my darling, my blood.”
Swank had been the favorite, having already won Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild awards. But many expected a tight race between the 30-year-old actress and Bening, who gave a dazzlingly showy performance as a vengeful London stage diva in “Being Julia.”
Some Oscar forecasters picked Bening to win, figuring it was her turn this time after being upset in 2000 when she was nominated for her emotional roller coaster of a performance in “American Beauty,” that year’s best-picture winner.
A then-unknown Swank walked away with the prize for “Boys Don’t Cry,” based on the true story of murdered transgender teen Brandon Teena. Swank was devastatingly believable in the part, having lived for several weeks as a man to prepare before shooting.
“After doing ‘Boys Don’t Cry,’ I realized how few and far between the really great roles are,” she said backstage Sunday. “I’m beyond thankful for finding ’Million Dollar Baby’ and the producers for giving me this film five years later. I’m just really lucky that it’s only been five years.”
This time, Swank hugged and kissed her husband, actor Chad Lowe, before taking the stage in a barebacked blue gown that hugged her toned physique.
“I am going to start by thanking my husband, because I like to think I’ve learned from past mistakes,” she joked, referring to her previous Oscar acceptance speech in which she forgot him. She also thanked her trainers at Gleason’s Gym in Brooklyn, which she’s made famous through the film.
Backstage, Swank said she hoped her second Oscar would bring her more solid roles than her first one did. Her films after “Boys Don’t Cry” included the costume drama “The Affair of the Necklace” and “The Core,” in which she played an astronaut.
“I joked around with Clint because his next movie doesn’t have a woman in it. I said, ‘I’ve played a boy before,”’ Swank said.
© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.