I read a funny comment about her, in a generally positive review of her performance in “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” The reviewer states that Swinton can be cast in absolutely any role as long as it’s not human.
I think I agree. I don’t know what it is exactly—-maybe her cold-eyed stare or the set of her mouth, but I find her to be one of the most alienating actresses I have ever seen. She’s talented. She gives very detailed performances and she knows how to use her voice, which is something that many other actors cannot do. Still, it doesn’t matter. When I watch her in a film, she gives off hostile vibes.
They used to say this about James Woods too, until he started showing some range in films like “True Believer.” I am hearing that she is powerful in “Julia,” a film I have not seen yet. I saw the trailer and she seemed just as hard-assed as ever, but that might be the role.
She is having great success now so, perhaps, I am being unfair, but I have never had this reaction to this degree with any other performer.
I love her. Somebody asked me a couple months ago who I thought the best actress working today was. I didn’t have an answer…until I saw Julia. That performance blew my mind. The comparisons to A Woman Under the Influence are correct (although Cassavetes’ film is obviously much better). I think she’s just a really fascinating actor to watch, completely compelling. Even in The Man From London, where her dialogue was dubbed over by someone else (at least I’m pretty sure – it sure as hell didn’t sound like Swinton), she commanded the screen. I thought she was very effective in Michael Clayton and loved her in The Statement. I’ve been meaning to see Orlando since it’s considered her breakout role.
She does have an interesting look to her but I think that’s to her advantage because it sets her apart from a lot of actors. She reminds me of a young Meryl Streep in that she’s not afraid to take daring roles and she’s clearly not relying on the cliched male interpretation of beauty to get parts. Julia is a very risky part because the character is so unlikable and yet she brings something to that character that makes the audience sympathize with her. She allows the audience to go on this journey.
Here are a couple quotes I wrote down a couple months ago from an interview I read:
“I like the length of time it generally takes to make an independent film…of looking under every stone you can find, digging deeper and deeper, re-mortgagging, developing the concept through another delay.”
“For cinema to be really nourishing we have to really take care of it; we can’t make it a way to sell popcorn or advertising, it has to be understood to be something cultural rather than tied to the market. Otherwise, we’re wasting something that’s really profound.”
“When you have a character like Julia, you’re dealing with people who do despicable things, and what Zonca (the director) does is really test the audience. He wonders: are you going to stay with this person, are you going to be able to not judge them eventually?”
I liked her scenes with Brad Pitt in BB quite a bit. I liked her in The Man From London to a lesser degree. The cold-eyed stare thing worked in Michael Clayton though she was a little over the top. Actually, even in BB she was, intentionally, cold. She may be in serious danger of becoming a parody of herself the way that Juliette Lewis did in the 90’s.
Oh yeah, Benjamin Button! I forgot about that. She was the best part of that movie.
And of course, she was AWESOME in Broken Flowers. That was a great little part.
How wonderful is it that she would do films like Narnia and Button but also Man From London and Julia. Fearless actor.
Personally, I find her fascinating, but I can certainly understand your reaction, Howard, and also the reviewer’s comment, which I think I’ve seen similar to elsewhere.
Obviously she is a very serious actress-intellectual who thinks a great deal about what she does for a living. Intent is not everything, however. I, too, find her fascinating. She bothers me when I watch her and that can throw me out of the film, but I do pay attention to her.
Tilda Swinton is my favourite working actress today. She is incredibly powerful and has tremendous comic timing in addition to her obvious dramatic ability. Her performance in Derek Jarman’s Wittgenstein, although small, was the best thing about the film and so different to her other collaborations with him. These themselves also show great early promise, although be careful if you are watching these films for her alone as she often has little screen time and the films are heavy going (War Requiem and The Last of England moreso than Caravaggio).
The otherworldliness that you refer to is definitely understandable and most obvious in Narnia or Vanilla Sky, but her human performances in Julia, BB, Clayton and The Deep End (an otherwise forgettable film) show that she isn’t a one-trick pony. Julia is an amazing tour de force, and her timing in Burn After Reading is another shining example of her ability to do mainstream roles with great verve.
Plus, her work to promote cinema in Scotland is fantastic. Just as everything else about her is. I hate to gush, but she is truly superlative.
Brilliant in at least 3 films…Orlando, The Deep End, Michael Clayton (her performance in that last one was sooo great, has anyone ever played a character so turned inside out as good? Perhaps Shirley Knight in The Rain People, but beyond that, it’s a one-of-a-kind performance)
She was perfect as Orlando. someone needs to write another great script for her. Where are those these days?
I have not seen any Derek Jarman film, but I think she was a gay/lesbian icon because her misterious voice and androgynous face (Orlando and other british extravagance)
Now she is a great actress. The best.
She’s a little too “classy” and British for me. I always want her to loosen up a little. A bit too mild and underwhelming. But her work for Jarman is probably good, and I liked her as the Hollywood rep in Adaptation — it was such inspired mis-casting.
I love him. He’s my favorite actor.
She really bothered me to the point that it was distracting and I couldn’t figure out why, but I’ve had a bit of a turning point. What did it for me were her roles in The Limits of Control and Burn After Reading. It was nice to see her jump head first into such a weird, random character in a film that was risky and stylized and wonderful, and then to see that she does have rather nice comedic timing. I don’t know, I still find her rather off-putting and I don’t agree with her Oscar for Michael Clayton (but who ever agrees with those?) but I now find myself intrigued…
>absolutely any role as long as it’s not human.
I just saw Michael Clayton, in which she’s phenomenal, as corporate counsel—a creature technically part-human.
Tilda Swinton = DIVERSE. So, let’s just replace the definition with a picture of her, in every role she ever played.
“We think you’re great.” -Valerie Thomas, Adaptation
for those who bash Swinton…let’s place her in front of starlets like Swank or Kidman or Theron or..or..or…
that Scottish gal is alongside Huppert and Mirren and Outinen and of a good deal more post-40’s actresses….one helluva goddess..
i would love to see her starring in a defining version of Flaubert’s Sentimental Education…
or she could portray a peculiar entity in Orlando Furioso…unfilmable but maybe my wish will come true,hehe.
I really think this is a case of an accent denoting false intelligence or class. She just doesn’t stand out or grab any of her roles by the balls. She can be so murky.
“She just doesn’t stand out or grab any of her roles by the balls”
I don’t think that’s fair at all. She completely possesses her roles in Michael Clayton and Julia especially, and although it is debatable whether these are her best roles, they certainly show her devotion to character.
She gets by with a mush-mouth quality and an ability to make her features look like they’re disappearing into her face. Look at her closely, you’ll see what I mean.
She is extraordinary. She was a Cambridge graduate, started out in Shakespearen theatre, has since said she has no interest in theatre, something of a rebel, lived with and starred for Derek Jarman for years, brilliant in his Edward II, also in Orlando, well she’s excelled in so many as mentioned above, and last i heard she was enjoying being the centre of a threesome with the father of her children and a younger man she’d fallen for. Who bashes her? She has a natural arresting statuesque presence so i’m surprised Justin thinks she’s too mild; being so striking she may feel the need to avoid the Katharine Hepburn (red head) feisty acting everyone off the screen bit, e.g in Man from London she plays an understated role but in some films it’s hard to take your eyes off her anyway. Seeing her, like Dimitris and others, as some sort of goddess, I can only wonder how she’s not being worshipped all over film sites like this.
Tilda is a total delight. The issue of a very highborn Scottiosh family, she went to school with Diana and was considered by the Windsors to first. They made “inquiries” and Tilda hasn;t stopped laughing.
Her father and all her borthers are in the military.he’s the thoroughly bohemina daughter/siter.
I first met her in the mid-80s whenshe and Dertek and Derek’s boytoy Sroing came to L.A. Went around town with them, Derek shot some footage of the wainscotting on L.A. buildings that was included in “The Last of England.”
Tilda considers herself a “performer” rather than an actor, and she credits Derek with teaching her everything there is to know about filmmaking. She did the “Sanctus” of “War Requiem” (a long take of her swaying back and forth while tieing her hair) all by herself. Derek was quite pleased.
Well, i’m no Royalist but Queen Tilda doesn’t sound such a bad idea. She does have a sparkle about her from what i’ve seen of her on TV
Tilda Swinton keeps me involved with her films even when I’m not fully in synch with the story line. I enjoyed her in the Jarman films and felt her character’s helplessness in the “Deep End.” Michael Clayton was more traditional but Tilda twisted it in an original way. I see her as a reflection of my generation’s Charlotte Rampling!
I want to first recognize that I think Swinton is a very good actress.
And now I’m going to say something that his horrible, but honest.
There are certain performers that I just can’t get into. It’s all in the face for me. I don’t mean that they need to be beautiful or anything like that. Swinton is someone that I just can’t enjoy, even when she’s obviously doing her job well. I like the comment Justin made about her features disappearing into her face. That’s how I’ve always felt about Kathrine Hepburn (I know there is someone reading this who wants to shoot me now). Both of these women are grate at what they do, and yet every time I see them they take me out of the picture. Kate Blanchett is another one (though I don’t find her quite as distracting as Hepburn and Swinton).
Please forgive me for saying this – I know it’s awful, but it is what it is.
Nathan – I don’t think it’s an AWFUL thing to say but it’s certainly bizarre and somewhat shallow. I’ve never been distracted by how an actor looks so it’s hard for me to connect with what you’re saying. But you’re definitely entitled to how you feel and if that’s the way it is, so be it (I think the loss is only yours since she’s in some really good films). For me, an actor is an actor and if they’re good, they dissolve into the role and I therefore interpret the character to look the way the actor looks (if that makes sense). So instead of their features taking me OUT of the picture, they pull me in.
I like your comparison to Blanchett because for a while I used to confuse her with Swinton. But I don’t have any problem with the way they look and think that not only are they amazing actors, but stunningly beautiful women. The same can be said of Meryl Streep in her younger days.
@Fredo – The loss is definitely mine here. I hesitated to even post the comment because there are very few performers who do this to me. The ones I’ve mentioned and Willem Defoe probably make up the whole club. I also want to be clear that this isn’t about thinking that any of these people are ugly, because they’re not.
Haha – Yeah, Defoe is an interesting looking fella. He certainly wouldn’t have been the first person that would’ve come to my mind when casting a movie about Jesus. Hopefully someday this issue will pass, for your own sake, because I have a feeling we’re in for some really great performances from Swinton over the next couple years.
I think the best thing I have seen her in so far is Constantine. She was perfect as the Archangel Gabriel.
She’s one of the COOLEST people in the world. Love her!
I have admired her ability to take on a role and make it her own. I am only familiar with her mainly from Adaptation and then her earlier work with the great Derek Jarman and also in Orlando – a role ideally suited to her style and talent. Needless to say, I have some catching up to do with this brilliant actress.
Thanks so much David, for the personal recollections – which I always enjoy from you. I am sure she would be a delight.