Million dollar booby

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Hilary Swank and one of her two Oscars

Yesterday we took a look at Hilary Swank‘s big, ugly Chechen payday in 2011 – and her inability afterwards to take responsibility for her own actions.

Here’s more. After the story broke of her nauseating performance for Putin-backed warlord Ramzan Kadyrov, a “source close to the affair” told the Independent that “Hilary values her liberal credentials and is close to Michelle Obama. She’s really upset by what happened.” Break that down: for Swank, it wasn’t about principles but about image, about “credentials”; she wasn’t upset by what she’d done but by how it looked afterwards – and how it might affect her career and her connections.

First Lady Michelle Obama greets actress Hilary Swank and other guest mentors in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House during an event celebrating Women's History Month, March 30, 2011. Mrs. Obama brought the distinguished group of volunteers together to visit schools and share their experiences with students across the Washington, D.C. metro area. (Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy) This official White House photograph is being made available only for publication by news organizations and/or for personal use printing by the subject(s) of the photograph. The photograph may not be manipulated in any way and may not be used in commercial or political materials, advertisements, emails, products, promotions that in any way suggests approval or endorsement of the President, the First Family, or the White House.
Hilary Swank with First Lady Michelle Obama

Her conduct after her return to Hollywood, in short, was as shabby and irresponsible as was her original acceptance of Kadyrov’s invitation. Her publicists at a firm called 42 West, feeling that she was trying to shift some of the blame for her actions to them, actually dropped her as a client – a rare event indeed for a star of her magnitude.

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Akhmed Zakayev

Four months after the debacle, the Independent reported that no charities had yet “come forward to publicly acknowledge receipt of Swank’s promised financial donation.” Human-rights groups were “starting to wonder what, exactly, has become of” all the dough she’d collected from Kadyrov, and exiled Chechen official Akhmed Zakaev penned an open letter to Swank demanding that information. “We really expect, when someone apologises, and promises publicly to do something, and says they will try to fix a big mistake, to be able to see that it actually happens,” wrote Zakaev, reasonably enough. “Hilary Swank said that she would transfer the money. But after four months, nobody knows if she has kept her word.”

Hilary Swank Insolence
Does this really need a caption? From an actual perfume campaign

A spokesperson for Swank refused to answer Zakaev’s question, saying that “Hilary has been working directly and privately with various human rights organisations and other charities, giving both her time and financial resources. At the request of such organisations, and consistent with Hilary’s longstanding practice of donating anonymously, she will not be publicly acknowledging her contributions and efforts.” Under the circumstances, this statement was, to say the least, outrageously tone-deaf.

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Vladimir Putin, Ramzan Kadyrov

The one good thing that can be said about Swank’s conduct during this episode is that by apologizing, she at least came out smelling a little better than her fellow sellouts. Jean-Claude Van Damme, Vanessa Mae, and Seal, all of whom also appeared at the Kadyrov event, refused to apologize at all; Seal, for his part, tweeted defiantly: “I played music for the Chechen people. I’m a musician and would appreciate if you leave me out of your politics.” (He added, bemusingly: “You sit there under the umbrella of democracy and never once stop to think how it keeps you dry.”)

Four years later, Hilary Swank has yet to disclose what she did with Kadyrov’s money.

Hilary Swank’s big, ugly payday

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Hilary Swank onstage in Grozny

Hilary Swank has won two Academy Awards for Best Actress and gets several million dollars a film. For some people, this would be enough. It wasn’t enough for Hilary, though.

Back in 2011, the Putin-installed puppet president of Chechnya, Ramzan Kadyrov, offered several entertainers princely fees (reportedly in the mid six figures) to take part in an event in Grozny. Several human-rights organizations got wind of these invitations, and contacted the performers in question, explaining to them that Kadyrov was guilty of torturing and killing political opponents and promoting the abuse of women who dress “immodestly.” Some of those invited, including actor Kevin Costner, actress Eva Mendes, and singer Shakira, turned Kadyrov down; among those who chose to take his money and travel to Grozny were actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, violinist Vanessa Mae, singer Seal – and Swank.

Appearing onstage before Kadyrov and an audience of his lackeys, Swank gave what the Guardian aptly described  as a “gushing” speech in which she said she had toured the city earlier that day and “could feel the spirit of the people, everyone felt so happy…it was nice to be around….Really, truly, for me this is a great honor to learn more about you and your country and what you’re building….I hope someday when you have your opera house built, I will have a film premiere here.” She closed by saying, “Happy birthday, Mr. President.” Asked by the event’s MC how she knew it was Kadyrov’s birthday, Swank boasted: “I read. I do my research.”

Thankfully, the human-rights groups didn’t let her off the hook for this shameless display. Returning to Hollywood, she saw reports of her infamy all over the media. A video of her appearance in Grozny was posted on You Tube. Her response? Instead of taking responsibility for her own actions, she blamed her team – including her longtime friend and manager and two of her agents at CAA – and fired them all instantly, even though one source said that her manager hadn’t even known anything about the Chechnyan booking.

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Swank spinning away on Leno

She also issued an apology – described by the showbiz news website TMZ as possibly the “biggest BS apology EVER”– in which she dropped her claim to have done her “research” down the memory hole. The apology didn’t really make any sense: “If I had a full understanding of what this event was apparently intended to be,” she stated, “I would never have gone.” She seemed not to grasp that the problem wasn’t the nature of the event but the nature of the man who was paying her to be there. And then she went on the Tonight Show, where she told Jay Leno that she’d donated her hefty fee to “charity” and that she hadn’t known anything about Kadyrov or Chechnya when she accepted the invitation – a curious claim, given that she did, somehow, find out that it was Kadyrov’s birthday. Leno, characteristically, didn’t ask any tough questions.  

What happened then? We’ll get to that tomorrow.