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Swank Goes Back To School
Hilary to star in The Freedom Writers

12 May 2005  |  Written by   

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You’ve just won your second Oscar and knocked Hollywood out with a killer left hook – what are you going to do next? Well, if you’re Hilary Swank, you’re going to sign up for The Freedom Writers, the story of an inspirational English teacher and her students.

The film is based on a book called “The Freedom Writer's Diaries: How a Teacher and 150 Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them” (and trying getting that on a book spine) written by both teacher and students. Erin Gruwell, a first-year qualified teacher, was given a difficult class for her English lessons.

On her first day, she discovered that none of them had heard of the Holocaust, and that racial tensions plagued the school. She immediately threw her curriculum out the window (not really – that would be littering and would probably have landed her in trouble with the school caretaker) and decided to devote the rest of her lessons to tolerance. Cue studying The Diary of Anne Frank and Schindler’s List, and even a meeting with Steven Spielberg for her students to discuss Schindler’s List (no word yet on whether that will appear in the film, nor whether the 'Berg will play himself).

She also got her students to write about their own experiences and lives, and it is these that form the core of the book. So expect a Dangerous Minds style film, with a maverick new teacher coming in and inspiring her pupils to better things. Let’s just hope that no one lets Coolio near the soundtrack. Incidentally, all of Gruwell’s ‘difficult’ students graduated and went to college, no mean achievement for an underachieving group from mixed backgrounds.

Filming is expected to start after Swank finishes work on The Black Dahlia and Stephen Hopkin's The Reaping. Richard LaGravenese will be directing. You may remember him as the director of such films as Living Out Loud and A Decade Under The Influence, or as screenwriter on The Fisher King, The Bridges of Madison County (which was of course directed by Swank’s sparring partner, Clint Eastwood) and The Horse Whisperer. So while his record to date is a little patchy, this could be Gravenese’s year, with another film called PS I Love You and a segment of portmanteau film Paris, Je T’Aime also in development.

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