Tilda Swinton (born 5 November 1960) is a Academy Award-, BAFTA-, and
Volpi Cup winning British actress known for both arthouse and mainstream
Swinton was born in London, England. Her mother, Judith Balfour (née Killen), was Australian, and her father, Major-General Sir John Swinton of Kimmerghame, Berwickshire, KCVO, is Scottish. The Swinton family is an ancient Anglo-Scots family that can trace its lineage to the ninth century.
Swinton attended West Heath Girls' School (the same class as Diana, Princess of Wales), and also Fettes College for a brief period. In 1983, she graduated from New Hall (now known as Murray Edwards College) at Cambridge University with a degree in Social and Political Sciences. She has two Honorary Doctorates: one from Napier University in Edinburgh, received in August 2006 and one from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama (RSAMD) in Glasgow, received July 2006. She was a contributing editor to the literary magazine Zembla.
Swinton worked with the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, starring in Mann ist Mann by Manfred Karge, and the Royal Shakespeare Company before embarking on a career in film in the mid-1980s. She appeared as Julia in the 1986 television mini-series Zastrozzi: A Romance based on the Gothic novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her early film work included several film roles for director Derek Jarman, notably War Requiem (1989) playing a nurse opposite Sir Laurence Olivier as an old soldier. In 1991, Swinton won the Volpi Cup Best Actress award for her role in the postmodern film Edward II. Swinton also played the title role in Orlando, Sally Potter's film version of the novel by Virginia Woolf. In 1995, with producer and friend Joanna Scanlan, Swinton developed a performance/installation art piece in which as a live exhibit in the Serpentine Gallery, London, 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 credited to Cornelia Parker, whom Swinton invited to collaborate for the installation in London. The following year, the performance, entitled The Maybe, was repeated at the Museo Barracco in Rome. 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".
Recent years have seen Swinton move towards more mainstream projects, including the leading role in the American film The Deep End (2001), for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She appeared as a supporting character in films such as The Beach (2000), featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, and 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 a cameo in Narnia's sequel.
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. Swinton's appearance at the Oscars was remarkable in that she chose to wear very little makeup, though she did wear a silk Lanvin gown. Of Swinton's au naturel appearance, friend and sometimes stylist Jerry Stafford remarked, “This is skin born of the Scottish highlands, so why hide it? Why the hell put foundation on it and all this garish lipstick?”
Swinton next appeared in the newest 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." She is due to star in the upcoming film adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin.
Swinton has recently collaborated with artist Patrick Wolf on his forthcoming album The Bachelor, contributing four spoken word pieces.
Swinton appeared at the 2009 81st Academy Awards helping to present the 2009 Best Supporting Actress Awards. She was announced and appeared along with Eva Marie Saint, Goldie Hawn, Anjelica Huston and Whoopi Goldberg, all past Best Supporting Actress award winners. Swinton was the one who announced the winner for Best Supporting Actress, which Penelope Cruz won.
In August 2006 she opened the new Screen Academy Scotland production centre in Edinburgh.
On July 2008 she founded the film festival Ballerina Ballroom Cinema Of Dreams. The event took place in a ballroom in Nairn in the Scottish Highlands in August.
Swinton lives in Nairn, in the Highland area of Scotland, with Scottish painter John Byrne. With Byrne she has her twin son and daughter, Xavier and Honor. She travels with her partner Sandro Kopp, a German/New Zealand painter, while continuing a polyamorous (but platonic) relationship with Byrne. She has been with Kopp since 2004 and the relationship has Byrne's blessing. In an interview, Swinton commented on her domestic situation: "It’s the way we have been for nearly four years. I’m very fortunate. It takes some extraordinary men to make a situation like that work."
This Tilda Swinton Biography Page is Copyright © 2004 - 2009 Chuck Ayoub