I have great admiration for people who refuse to fit in, go against type and live by their own rules and convictions. I applaud those who are bold, provocative and fearless in their life and career choices.
That is precisely why I count myself a devoted fan of Tilda Swinton and her daring, unpredictable nature and work. She is refreshingly quirky, an individualist in every respect. From her alluring androgynous looks and platinum locks to her chameleon-like performances in a diverse body of movie roles, Swinton is “A Singular Artist” — words I used to describe her in the headline of Manori Ravindran’s compelling profile of a performer who rejects labels like “actor,” let alone “actress.”
She tells our international editor that she prefers to think of herself as a “colleague,” someone who is part of a collective, or a “kindergarten” where people come to learn. As Ravindran puts it, “Swinton doesn’t join a production; she joins a family.” Thai auteur and Palme d’Or winner Apichatpong “Joe” Weerasethakul, who directed Swinton in “Memoria,” which makes its debut at Cannes, says she “considers herself one of the workers in the film who shares responsibilities,” a participant in every aspect of “what’s in the frame. So in a sense, she’s a filmmaker as I am and as others are.”
Underscoring how prolific Swinton is, “Memoria” is only one of five movies at this year’s festival that feature her, each role as different as the next. “The French Dispatch” marks her fourth collaboration with another unique artist, director Wes Anderson, who is about as far from being a Hollywood creature as Swinton is. Anderson says that for “French Dispatch” he wrote the role of art critic J.K.L. Berensen specifically for her and that she “instantly knew this is more or less a part only she could play, and had to be for her.”
I first met and spoke with Swinton at a Cannes afterparty for her Netflix film “Okja,” an odd but moving work by Oscar-winning director Bong Joon Ho about a young girl who befriends an oversize pig. Swinton portrayed twin sisters, one who becomes a CEO after pitching her plan to breed the “super pig,” the other her power-hungry sibling who attempts to topple her.
I found Swinton to be engaging, soft-spoken, extraordinarily intelligent and poetically articulate.
Illustrative of her manner of speaking is a line from our cover story: “The films themselves are leaves that fall off the tree — but the tree is the conversation.”
There’s something indescribably ethereal and otherworldly about Swinton. “At 60, she exudes a sense of immortality,” writes Ravindran, responding to the answer Swinton gives when asked whether she believes there are signs of real change in Hollywood: “Ask me that in 100 years.”