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Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton
File:Tilda Swinton at the Deauville Film Festival.jpg
Swinton at the 2013 Deauville Film Festival
Born Katherine Mathilda Swinton
(1960-11-05) 5 November 1960 (age 55)
London, England
Alma mater University of Cambridge
Occupation Actress
Years active 1984–present
Partner(s) John Byrne (1989–2003)
Sandro Kopp (2004–present)
Children 2
Parent(s) Sir John Swinton of Kimmerghame
Judith Balfour Killen

Katherine Mathilda "Tilda" Swinton of Kimmerghame (born 5 November 1960) is a British actress and fashion muse known for both arthouse and mainstream films. She has appeared in several films, including Burn After Reading, The Beach and The Chronicles of Narnia, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for her lead performances in The Deep End and We Need to Talk About Kevin.

In 2007 she won both the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role for her performance as lawyer Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton.

Early life

Swinton was born in London.[1] Her father is Major-General Sir John Swinton of Kimmerghame, KCVO, OBE, DL, and Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire from 1989 to 2000. Her mother, Judith Balfour Swinton (née Killen; 1929-2012), was Australian.[2][3][4] Her paternal great-grandfather was a Scottish politician and officer of arms, George Swinton, and her maternal great-great-grandfather was the Scottish botanist John Hutton Balfour.[5] The Swinton family is an ancient Anglo-Scots family that can trace its lineage to the Middle Ages.[6] The Swinton family is one of only three families (along with the Arden Family and the Berkeley Family) that can trace its unbroken land ownership and lineage to before the Norman Conquest.[7]

Swinton attended three independent schools: Queen's Gate School in London, the West Heath Girls' School and also Fettes College for a brief period.[8] West Heath was an elite boarding school where she was a classmate and friend of Princess Diana.[3] In 1983, she graduated from New Hall (now known as Murray Edwards College) at the University of Cambridge with a degree in Social and Political Sciences. While at Cambridge, she joined the Communist Party;[9] she later joined the Scottish Socialist Party.[10]


Arthouse work

Swinton joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984, appearing in Measure for Measure[11] She also worked with the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, starring in Mann ist Mann by Manfred Karge in 1987,[12][13] On television, she appeared as Julia in the 1986 mini-series Zastrozzi: A Romance based on the Gothic novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her first film was Caravaggio in 1986, directed by Derek Jarman. She went on to star in several Jarman films, including The Last of England (1987), War Requiem (1989) opposite Laurence Olivier, and Edward II (1991), for which she won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 1991 Venice Film Festival.

Swinton also played the title role in Orlando, Sally Potter's film version of the novel by Virginia Woolf. The part allowed Swinton to explore matters of gender presentation onscreen which reflected her lifelong interest in androgynous style. Swinton later reflected on the role in an interview accompanied by a striking photoshoot. "People talk about androgyny in all sorts of dull ways," said Swinton, noting that the recent rerelease of Orlando had her thinking again about its pliancy. She referred to 1920s French artist and playful gender-bender Claude Cahun: "Cahun looked at the limitlessness of an androgynous gesture, which I’ve always been interested in."[14]

In 1995, with producer and friend Joanna Scanlan, Swinton developed a performance/installation live art piece in the Serpentine Gallery, London, where she was on display to the public for a week, asleep or apparently so, in a glass case, as a piece of performance art. The piece is sometimes wrongly credited to Cornelia Parker, whom Swinton invited to collaborate for the installation in London. The performance, entitled The Maybe, was repeated in 1996 at the Museo Barracco in Rome and in 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[15] She also appeared in the music video for Orbital's "The Box". She has collaborated with the fashion designers Viktor & Rolf. She was the focus of their 'One Woman Show' 2003, in which they made all the models look like copies of Swinton, and she read a poem (of her own) that included the line, "There is only one you. Only one".[16]

Mainstream films

Recent years have seen Swinton move towards more mainstream projects, including the leading role in the American film The Deep End (2001), in which she plays the mother of a gay son she suspects of killing his boyfriend. For this performance she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She appeared as a supporting character in the films The Beach (2000), featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Vanilla Sky (2001) with Tom Cruise and, as the archangel Gabriel in Constantine (2005) with Keanu Reeves. Swinton has also appeared in the British films The Statement (2003) and Young Adam (2003), and sat on the jury of the 2004 Cannes Film Festival.

In 2005, Swinton performed as the White Witch Jadis, in the film version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and as Audrey Cobb in the Mike Mills film adaptation of the novel Thumbsucker. Swinton later had cameos in Narnia's sequels,The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.

In 2007, Swinton's performance as Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton earned her both a BAFTA award for Best Supporting Actress as well as the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role at the 2008 80th Academy Awards, the film's sole win.[17][18][19] Swinton next appeared in the 2008 Coen Brothers film, Burn After Reading. Swinton said of the film, in which she plays opposite George Clooney, "I don’t know if it will make anybody else laugh, but it really made us laugh while making it."[20] She was cast for the role of Elizabeth Abbott in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, alongside Brad Pitt.

She had a starring role as the titular character in Erick Zonca's Julia, which premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival and later saw a limited U.S. release in May 2009. Several critics praised her performance and some claimed it should have won her an Academy Award.[21][22][23]

She starred in the film adaptation of the novel We Need to Talk about Kevin, released in October 2011. She portrayed the mother of the title character, a teenage boy who commits a high school massacre.[24] In 2012, she was cast in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, a vampire film which began filming in June 2012. She is joined by John Hurt and Tom Hiddleston.[25] The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 23 May 2013, and was released in the US in the first half of 2014. She also played Mason in the 2014 sci-fi film Snowpiercer.[26]

Other projects

In 1988 she was a member of the jury at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival.[27] In 1993 she was a member of the jury at the 18th Moscow International Film Festival.[28] In August 2006, she opened the new Screen Academy Scotland production centre in Edinburgh.[29]

In July 2008, she founded the film festival Ballerina Ballroom Cinema Of Dreams.[30] The event took place in a ballroom in Nairn on Scotland's Moray Firth in August. Swinton has collaborated with artist Patrick Wolf on his 2009 album The Bachelor, contributing four spoken word pieces.[31]

Swinton appeared at the 2009 Academy Awards, helping to present the 2009 Best Supporting Actress Awards. In 2009, Swinton and Mark Cousins embarked on a project where they mounted a 33.5-tonne portable cinema on a large truck, hauling it manually through the Scottish Highlands, creating a travelling independent film festival. The project was featured prominently in a documentary called Cinema is Everywhere. The festival was repeated again in 2011.[32][33]

In 2012, Swinton appeared in Doug Aitken's SONG 1, an outdoor video installation created for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. In November of the same year, she and Sandro Kopp made cameo appearances in episode 6 of the BBC comedy Getting On.

In February 2013, she played the part of David Bowie's wife in the promotional video for his song, The Stars (Are Out Tonight), directed by Floria Sigismondi. In March of the same year, she presented her live art work, entitled "The Maybe", at the New York Museum of Modern Art.[15] In May 2013 it was announced that Swinton would be the face of the Chanel Pre-Fall Paris-Edinbourg collection. This collection was inspired by Scottish traditional fashion and fabrics. In July of the same year, Swinton appeared photographed in front of Moscow's Kremlin holding a rainbow flag in support of the country's LGBT community, reportedly releasing a statement: "In solidarity. From Russia with love."[34]

Personal life

Swinton lives in Nairn, overlooking the Moray Firth in the Highland region of Scotland with her twins and her partner Sandro Kopp, a German/New Zealand painter. John Byrne, father to their twins Honor and Xavier (born 1997), lives in Edinburgh with his partner Jeanine Davies.[35]

In 2013, Swinton was named as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by The Guardian.[36]



Year Film Role Notes
1986 Egomania – Insel ohne Hoffnung Sally
1986 Caravaggio Lena
1987 Aria Young Girl
1987 Friendship's Death Friendship
1988 Last of England, TheThe Last of England
1988 Cycling the Frame The Cyclist Short
1988 Das Andere Ende der Welt
1988 Degrees of Blindness
1988 L' Ispirazione Short
1989 Play Me Something Hairdresser
1989 War Requiem Nurse
1990 Garden, TheThe Garden Madonna
1991 Edward II Isabella
1991 Party - Nature Morte, TheThe Party - Nature Morte Queenie
1992 Orlando Orlando
1993 Blue Voice
1993 Wittgenstein Lady Ottoline Morrell
1994 Remembrance of Things Fast: True Stories Visual Lies
1996 Female Perversions Eve Stephens
1997 Conceiving Ada Ada Augusta Byron King, Countess of Lovelace
1998 Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon Muriel Belcher
1998 Protagonists, TheThe Protagonists Actress
1998 Herlizeares Diera
1999 War Zone, TheThe War Zone Mum
2000 Possible Worlds Joyce
2000 Beach, TheThe Beach Sal
2001 Vanilla Sky Rebecca Dearborn
2001 Deep End, TheThe Deep End Margaret Hall
2002 Adaptation Valerie Thomas
2002 Teknolust Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive
2003 Statement, TheThe Statement Annemarie Livi
2003 Young Adam Ella Gault
2005 Constantine Gabriel
2005 Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, TheThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe Jadis, the White Witch
2005 Absent Presence Operator Short
2005 Broken Flowers Penny
2005 Thumbsucker Audrey Cobb
2006 Stephanie Daley Lydie Crane
2007 Sleepwalkers Violinist Short
2007 Faceless[citation needed] Voice
2007 Strange Culture Hope Kurtz Documentary
2007 Man from London, TheThe Man from London Camélia
2007 Michael Clayton Karen Crowder
2008 Julia Julia
2008 Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, TheThe Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Jadis, the White Witch; Centaur Cameo[37]
2008 Burn After Reading Katie Cox
2008 Curious Case of Benjamin Button, TheThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button Elizabeth Abbott
2009 Limits of Control, TheThe Limits of Control Blonde
2009 The Invisible Frame The Cyclist
2009 I Am Love Emma Recchi
2010 Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, TheThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Jadis, the White Witch
2011 We Need to Talk About Kevin Eva Khatchadourian
2011 Genevieve Goes Boating Narrator Video short
2012 Moonrise Kingdom Social Services
2013 The Stars (Are Out Tonight) Cameo
2013 The Next Day Cameo
2013 Only Lovers Left Alive Eve
2013 When Björk Met Attenborough Narrator Documentary
2013 Snowpiercer Mason
2013 The Zero Theorem Dr Shrink-Rom
2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel Madame D.
2015 Trainwreck Dianna
2016 Hail, Caesar! Filming


Year Film Role Notes
1986 Zastrozzi: A Romance Julia TV miniseries
1986–1990 The Open Universe Carla
1990 Your Cheatin' Heart Cissie Crouch TV series (6 episodes)
1992 Shakespeare: The Animated Tales Ophelia (voice) TV miniseries
1992 Screenplay Ella/Max Gericke TV series (1 episode: "Man to Man")
1994 Visions of Heaven and Hell Narrator TV series
2005 The Somme Narrator TV movie
2006 Galápagos Narrator BBC Documentary

Awards and nominations


  1. "Tilda Swinton Biography". Biography. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  2. Judith Swinton obituary retrieved 2/21/2015
  3. 3.0 3.1 Hattenstone, Simon (22 November 2008). "Winner takes it all". The Guardian (London). Retrieved 23 May 2012. 
  4. "Tilda Swinton Biography". Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  5. Judith Grey (22 May 2013). "At 52, Actress Tilda Swinton Is The New Face Of Chanel". Seattle P-I; Hearst Seattle Media. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  6. "Tilda Swinton, one of our most unique actors, talks to Gaby Wood". London: The Guardian. 9 October 2005. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  7. Burke, Sir Bernard. A Genealogical & Heraldic Dictionary of the Landed Gentry of Great Britain & Ireland, 18th Edition, Volume 1.
  8. Dunlop, Alan (11 June 2009). "Fettes College Preparatory School, Edinburgh, by Page\Park Architects". London: Architects Journal. Retrieved 18 June 2012. 
  9. Gray, Sadie (2005-11-27). "Profile Tilda Swinton White Witch takes a red and pink ride to stardom". The Times (London). 
  10. Tilda Swinton: 'I was expected to marry a duke!', The Independent, 3 April 2010
  11. "Measure for Measure". AHDS. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  12. "Tilda Swinton". Leiron Reviews. 2009. 
  13. "Man to Man Park theatre". Culture Whisper. Retrieved 26 February 2015. 
  14. Diane Solway (August 2011). "Planet Tilda". W magazine. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  15. 15.0 15.1 "Tilda Swinton sleeps in glass box for surprise performance piece at Museum of Modern Art". Daily News (New York). 2013-03-23. Retrieved 2013-03-23. 
  16. Elle 'the muses' Tilda Swinton[dead link]
  17. Ebert, Roger (2007-10-05). "Michael Clayton". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 
  18. "Hollywood Foreign Press Association 2008 Golden Globe Awards". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. 2007-12-13. Archived from the original on 2007-12-14. Retrieved 2007-12-15. 
  19. "Winners Announced" (Press release). BAFTA. 2008-02-10. Retrieved 2008-02-10. 
  20. Diane Solway (September 2008). "Social Studies". W magazine. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  21. Karina Longworth (2010-01-06). "Why the Academy Will Ignore Nicolas Cage and Tilda Swinton's Oscar-worthy Turns". Vanity Fair. Retrieved 2010-01-06. 
  22. Nathaniel Rogers (2010-02-03). "Oscar Noms: Ten Talking Points". Retrieved 2010-02-03. 
  23. Anna Robinson (2009-12-22). "Tilda Swinton Best Performer of 2009 – indieWIRE Poll". Alt Film Guide. Retrieved 2009-12-22. 
  24. Editors (2009-03-18). "Producer Says Tilda Swinton to Star in "Kevin," Adaptation of Lionel Shriver Novel". New York Times Blogs. Retrieved 2009-03-21. 
  25. Macnab, Geoffrey (16 May 2011). "Swinton, Fassbender and Wasikowska line up for Jarmusch's vampire story". ScreenDaily. Retrieved 16 May 2011. 
  26. Christina Radish (June 2014). "Tilda Swinton Talks SNOWPIERCER, Creating Her Outrageous Character, Playing a Character Originally Written as a Man & the Film’s International Production". Collider. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  27. "Berlinale: 1988 Juries". Retrieved 2011-03-04. 
  28. "18th Moscow International Film Festival (1993)". MIFF. Retrieved 2013-03-09. 
  29. "Sir Sean Connery Named Patron of Screen Academy Scotland". 2006-11-02. Retrieved 2008-04-25. [dead link]
  30. "Ballerina Ballroom". 2008-08-23. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  31. "'Tilda Swinton to appear on Wolf's new album". 2009-01-12. Retrieved 2011-02-11. 
  32. "Our gal Tilda and her magical perambulating film festival" 5 August 2009, Sun Times
  33. "Entertainment | Actress Swinton hauls cinema". BBC News. 2009-08-04. Retrieved 2012-02-02. 
  34. "Tilda Swinton: From Russia, With Pride". 5 July 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2014. 
  35. Graeme Thomson (19 March 2011). "theartsdesk Q&A: Artist/Dramatist John Byrne". Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  36. Cartner-Morley, Jess; Mirren, Helen; Huffington, Arianna; Amos, Valerie (28 March 2013). "The 50 best-dressed over 50s". The Guardian (London). 
  37. "Swinton happy to make Narnia cameo". United Press International Entertainment News. 19 May 2008. 

External links

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