Tilda Swinton may be the most versatile actress in Hollywood. The British thespian has played everything from an elderly man to a robot to a vampire. She earned an Academy Award in 2008 for her performance in Michael Clayton. She may not have the name recognition of Meryl Streep or Nicole Kidman; however, she is no doubt considered one of the greatest actresses of her generation.
Early in her career, Swinton made a name for herself in independent art-house films like Orlando, where she played a forever young character who changes gender halfway through the movie. She’s carved out an excellent resume as a character actress, appearing in films such as The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Thumbsucker, and Trainwreck. She’s also had prominent lead roles, perhaps none more impressive than her turn as a grief-stricken mother in We Need to Talk About Kevin. Swinton also makes a bone-chilling villain. She played the evil White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia film series, the disturbing antagonist Mason in 2013’s Snowpiercer, and the half-breed hater of humanity Gabriel in Constantine.
Several notable directors, producers, and actors have publicly gushed over the talented Swinton. She’s earned a reputation as a true professional, a natural chameleon, and an all-around good person. Here’s what Swinton’s fellow acting peers and people she has worked with have said about her.
Swinton took on the role of the villainous evil White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia film series. She fought against the heroic Peter Pevensie in the movies, a role played by English actor William Moseley. The young Brit grew up over the five-year period in which he appeared in three different Narnia films.
Moseley discussed the acting prowess of Swinton:
In very simple terms, the first film was a children’s Narnia. This film is going to be an adult Narnia, and I say that with every implication as in we’re fighting adults this time, we’re not fighting mythical creatures anymore. Even Tilda Swinton as an actress is definitely a mythical creature! We’ve got a whole army of humans to fight this time.
- Photo: Suspiria/Amazon Studios
Luca Guadagnino Said Swinton Brings 'Passion, Intelligence, Commitment'
Italian director Luca Guadagnino and actress Swinton have worked together in four movies. However, even before their film collaborations, they bonded over their love of Dario Argento's 1977 horror film Suspiria. Their mutual dream of producing a Suspiria remake came true in 2018. “Several centuries we’ve been talking about it,” Swinton said. “It’s fantastically gratifying to be able to talk about it in the past tense.”
Swinton shows off her acting chops in the remake by playing three different characters, including an 82-year-old psychiatrist named Dr. Ebersdorf. The Call Me By Your Name director explains why there were only three male actors cast in Suspira and the decision process of Swinton taking on the role of an elderly man:
The bottom-line decision is that in a movie about witches and women in a sorority, maybe there was not the possibility for any men to be in it - just a community of women. Tilda is such an incredible filmmaker. She brings passion, intelligence, commitment. We spend time together. Life is life, and we are together.
The Italian auteur considers Swinton more than just an actress when she steps onto his film set. He said:
Tilda is a filmmaker, not just an actress. She has a great knowledge of the machine of the making of a movie and this is very profound, because it’s like working with my DP, it’s like working with someone who is actually contributing to the movie itself, not just adding her voice as a performer only, but adding her voice as a filmmaker.
Ralph Fiennes takes on the role of a talkative record producer in Guadagnino's 2015 thriller A Bigger Splash. In the film, his character Harry Hawkes makes a trip to a Sicilian island to visit his ex-lover, a famous rock star named Marianne Lane (Swinton).
Fiennes was asked about how he and Swinton worked together in order to develop their characters' backstory. He explained:
I think all of us sort of connected quite well as actors in our roles with each other. We knew who we were and what it was.
Ezra Miller was only 19 years old when he took on the role of a deeply troubled, mentally disturbed teenager in the 2011 psychological thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin. The haunting film centers on the complicated relationship that Kevin has always had with his mother Eva (Swinton), who is left to deal with the horrible act committed by her son.
The role earned Swinton a Golden Globe and Screen Actors Guild nomination. Miller discussed how much he learned by working with Swinton:
It was just mind-bending in the true sense of the word in that it completely transformed my image of the possibilities of how this art form can be achieved. Because she approaches it in this direct way of allowing herself to be a marionette to the puppet master of not only the director but to every individual moment within a scene. She's guided by her innermost forces and yet is able to completely oblige the wishes and directions of the outermost sources. And it was an incredible thing to watch and sort of a learning experience that I'll never be able to shake. And she's also just a wonderful human being who it was really lovely to be able to spend time with.