TILDA SWINTON 'IT SEEMS A BIT OF A WASTE TO PUT ONESELF IN A BOX'
Total Film|February 2022
Unclassifiable and unique, Tilda Swinton has effortlessly gone from arthouse to Narnia and the MCU and back again. As she prepares to launch new movies Memoria and The Souvenir Part II, Total Film meets the Scottish star you simply can’t pin down.
JAMES MOTTRAM

It’s the very final day of Cannes 2021, when Tilda Swinton swings by a suite in the Majestic hotel wearing a bright multi-coloured jumpsuit. Her hair a shock of blonde, she looks bright-eyed and bushy-tailed. “I actually did sleep well last night,” she reveals, which is surprising given she attended the midnight premiere of Gaspar Noé’s latest movie Vortex. “It’s always nice to see the very last film,” adds the actor, who arrived at this year’s festival with three new movies and a trunk full of statement outfits by Chanel.

Needless to say, the style press swiftly dubbed the Scottish siren ‘the Queen of Cannes’ for her quirky red-carpet chic. But fashion and frivolity has always been a sidebar for Swinton, who is a cineaste first and foremost, right back to her early days when she was the late Derek Jarman’s muse. While she won an Oscar for her conflicted lawyer in Michael Clayton and even popped up in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as the mystic Ancient One in Doctor Strange, she’s primarily a flag-waver for arthouse auteurs, whether she’s worked with them or not.

Fiercely loyal, Swinton has repeatedly reunited with directors. The French Dispatch, one of her three Cannes flicks, marked her fifth film with Wes Anderson. Jim Jarmusch and Luca Guadagnino, whose career Swinton practically launched when she starred in his 2009 Milanese melodrama I Am Love, have both notched up three films each with Swinton; the Coen Brothers have come to her twice, for Burn After Reading and Hail, Caesar! But then she’s also simmered some relationships on the stove for years, allowing them to come to the boil at just the right moment.

In the case of the mysterious Memoria, her second Cannes competition movie of 2021, in which she takes the lead, she first met its Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul 17 years ago, when she was on the Cannes jury that awarded his 2004 film Tropical Malady a prize. They swiftly became friends. “We came together knowing that we wanted to make work together,” says Swinton. That it took so long for them to find a subject was not something to bemoan.

“I try to stay in the slow, slow camp,” she nods. “First of all, it’s the most enjoyable bit… to build or to prepare something. Also the main event, believe it or not, is not figuring out what film you’re going to make. It’s figuring out your relationship so that when you do come to hop up onto that tightrope, you can work really seamlessly with almost no communication, because at that point you haven’t really got time to talk about all the important stuff, like rhythm and existential situations.”

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