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10/13/2014 11:19 am ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

Hilary Swank in The Homesman at the Hamptons International Film Festival

Holding court after a sumptuous brunch honoring Hilary Swank for receiving Montblanc's Creative Impact in Acting award and Variety's "Class of 10 Actors to Watch" at the Maidstone in East Hampton, Swank, her dog Kai by her side, spoke about her role as Mary Bee Cuddy in The Homesman, Tommy Lee Jones' movie set in "the territories." You could say this is a dark How the West Was Won from a woman's point of view, with strong Coen Brothers influence. Based on Glendon Swarthout's novel, The Homesman has the mythic structure of Jones' directorial debut, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, with a star-studded supporting cast including John Lithgow, James Spader, Hailee Steinfeld, Tim Blake Nelson, and Meryl Streep, his Hope Springs co-star, the familiar faces a cushion for the movie's somber message. Hilary Swank said she took the role of a woman tasked with bringing three women gone mad back to their Iowa families from a Nebraska frontier, an arduous journey, because it was a feminist story.

Her character, a better "man" than most, is motivated by a sense of duty, near absent in our culture. She had to learn to ride a horse and drive mules, and it is truly heartbreaking to hear the lovely Swank, her character plain as a washboard, ask the curmudgeonly Jones character, George Briggs, to marry her. If life was as lawless as this unforgettable movie depicts, our country was founded on the survival of silly men over remarkable, forgotten women.

The Hamptons International Film Festival, often an east-end showcase for movies en route to the Oscars, also featured Foxcatcher, The Imitation Game, Wild, Time Out of Mind, and Alejandro Gonzales Inarritu's Birdman, which simultaneously closed the New York Film Festival, among this year's selections. Bennett Miller, Mark Ruffalo, Laura Dern, Patricia Clarkson (taking a break from The Elephant Man), Bob Balaban (fresh from A Delicate Balance rehearsals), Bruce Weber, Christie Brinkley (with her son Jack), Michael Barker (with his daughter), Song One director Kate Barker-Froyland, Oren Moverman, Amir Bar-Lev, and many others were spotted making their way from party to screening to panel at the festival. Lindsay Duncan was present for the Birdman screening, seeing the movie in which she plays a small role for the first time. When asked what she thought of this wild phantasmagoria, she gamely replied that, unlike most movies, "it's untethered."

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.