Tilda Swinton

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Tilda Swinton
Viennale 2018 Suspiria 15 Tilda Swinton (cropped).jpg
Katherine Matilda Swinton

(1960-11-05) 5 November 1960 (age 60)
London, England
Alma materNew Hall, Cambridge (BA)
Years active1984–present
Full list
Children2, including Honor

Katherine Matilda Swinton (born 5 November 1960) is a British actress. Known for her leading roles in independent films and supporting roles in blockbusters, she is the recipient of various accolades, including an Academy Award and a British Academy Film Award, in addition to nominations for three Golden Globe Awards and five Screen Actors Guild Awards. For her performance in the 2007 film Michael Clayton, she received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role.

Swinton began her career by appearing in experimental films starting with Caravaggio (1986), followed by The Last of England (1988), War Requiem (1989), and The Garden (1990). Swinton won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her portrayal of Isabella of France in Edward II (1991). She next starred in Sally Potter's Orlando (1992), for which she received a nomination for the European Film Award for Best Actress.

Swinton was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance in The Deep End (2001). She followed this with appearances in Vanilla Sky (2001), Adaptation (2002), Constantine (2005), Michael Clayton (2007), Julia (2008), and I Am Love (2009). For the 2003 film Young Adam, she won the British Academy Scotland Award for Best Actress. Additionally, she won the European Film Award for Best Actress and received a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the psychological thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011). Swinton is also known for her performance as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia series (2005–2010) and the Ancient One in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.

Swinton was awarded the Richard Harris Award by the British Independent Film Awards in recognition of her contributions to the British film industry. In 2013, she was given a special tribute by the Museum of Modern Art.[1] In 2020, Swinton was awarded the British Film Institute Fellowship, the highest honour presented by the institution, for her "daringly eclectic and striking talents as a performer and filmmaker and recognises her great contribution to film culture, independent film exhibition and philanthropy."[2] That same year, The New York Times ranked her thirteenth on its list of the greatest actors of the 21st century up to that point.[3]

Early life[edit]

Katherine Matilda Swinton was born on 5 November 1960 in London, the daughter of Judith Balfour (née Killen; 1929–2012) and Sir John Swinton (1925–2018), the Laird of Kimmerghame House. She has three brothers.[4] Her father was a retired major general in the British Army, and was Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire from 1989 to 2000. Her mother was Australian.[5][6][7] Her paternal great-grandfather was a Scottish politician and herald, George Swinton, and her maternal great-great-grandfather was the Scottish botanist John Hutton Balfour.[8]

The Swinton family is an ancient Anglo-Scots family that can trace its lineage to the Middle Ages.[9] Swinton considers herself "first and foremost" a Scot.[10]

Swinton attended three independent schools: Queen's Gate School in London, the West Heath Girls' School, and also Fettes College for a brief period.[11] West Heath was a boarding school, where she was a classmate and friend of Lady Diana Spencer, the future Princess of Wales.[6] As an adult, Swinton has spoken out against boarding schools, stating that West Heath was "a very lonely and isolating environment" and that she thinks boarding schools "are a very cruel setting in which to grow up and I don't feel children benefit from that type of education. Children need their parents and the love parents can provide."[12] Swinton spent two years as a volunteer in South Africa and Kenya before University.[13]

In 1983, Swinton graduated from New Hall at the University of Cambridge with a degree in Social and Political Sciences. While at Cambridge, she joined the Communist Party;[14] she later joined the Scottish Socialist Party. It was in college that Swinton began performing on stage.[15][16]



Swinton at the 2009 Venice Film Festival

Swinton joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984, appearing in Measure for Measure.[17] She also worked with the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, starring in Mann ist Mann by Manfred Karge in 1987.[18][19] 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),[20] War Requiem (1989)[20] opposite Laurence Olivier, and Edward II (1991),[20] for which she won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 1991 Venice Film Festival.[21]

Swinton performed in the performance art piece Volcano Saga by Joan Jonas in 1989. The 28-minute video art piece is based on a 13th-century Icelandic Laxdeala Saga, and it tells a mythological myth of a young woman whose dreams tell of the future.

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 photo shoot. "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."[22]

Recent years have seen Swinton move toward mainstream projects, including the leading role in the American film The Deep End (2001), in which she played 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),[20] featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Vanilla Sky (2001), and as the archangel Gabriel in Constantine. Swinton appeared in the British films The Statement (2003) and Young Adam (2003). For her performance in the latter film, she received the British Academy Scotland Award for Best Actress.[23][24]

Swinton at the 2012 British Academy Film Awards

In 2005, Swinton performed as the White Witch Jadis,[25] 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.[26][27][28]

Swinton next appeared in the 2008 Coen Brothers film Burn After Reading. She was cast in the role of Elizabeth Abbott in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, alongside Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt.

She had a starring role as the eponymous character in Erick Zonca's Julia, which premiered at the 2008 Berlin International Film Festival and saw a .S. release in May 2009.[29][30][31]

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.[32]

In 2012, she was cast in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive.[33] The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 23 May 2013, and was released in the U.S. in the first half of 2014. She played Mason in the 2014 sci-fi film Snowpiercer.[34]

In 2015, she starred in Luca Guadagnino's thriller A Bigger Splash, opposite Dakota Johnson, Matthias Schoenaerts and Ralph Fiennes.[35]

Swinton also portrayed the Ancient One in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, appearing in the 2016 film Doctor Strange and the 2019 film Avengers: Endgame.[36][37][38][39]

Swinton starred in Luca Guadagnino's 2018 remake of the horror film Suspiria.[40][41][42] She played several roles, and was credited as Lutz Ebersdorf.

Performance art[edit]

In 1995, with producer 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, titled The Maybe, was repeated in 1996 at the Museo Barracco in Rome and in 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.[43]


Swinton 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".[44]

In 2013, she was named as one of the 50 best-dressed over 50 by The Guardian.[45] She was ranked one of the best dressed women in 2018 by fashion website Net-a-Porter.[46]

Other projects[edit]

In 1988, Swinton was a member of the jury at the 38th Berlin International Film Festival.[47] In 1993, she was a member of the jury at the 18th Moscow International Film Festival.[48]

In 1996, she appeared in the music video for Orbital's "The Box".

In August 2006, she opened the new Screen Academy Scotland production centre in Edinburgh.[49]

In July 2008, Swinton founded the film festival Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams.[50] The event took place in a ballroom in Nairn on Scotland's Moray Firth in August. She has collaborated with artist Patrick Wolf on his 2009 album The Bachelor, contributing four spoken word pieces.[51]

In 2009, she 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 titled Cinema Is Everywhere. The festival was repeated in 2011.[52][53]

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.

She co-founded Drumduan Upper School in Findhorn, Scotland in 2013 with Ian Sutherland McCook. Swinton and McCook both had children who attended the Moray Steiner School, whose students graduate at age 14. They founded Drumduan partly to allow their children to continue their Steiner educations with neither grading nor tests.[54] Swinton resigned as a director of Drumduan in April 2019.[55]

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.

Personal life[edit]

Although born in London and having attended various schools in England, Swinton describes her nationality as Scottish, citing her childhood, growing up in Scotland and Scottish aristocratic family background.[56] In 1997, Swinton gave birth to twins, Honor and Xavier Swinton Byrne, with her then-partner John Byrne, a Scottish artist and playwright.[57] She has lived in Scotland for over two decades, currently in Nairn, overlooking the Moray Firth in the Highland region of Scotland, with her children and partner Sandro Kopp, a German painter, with whom she has been together with since 2004.[58][59]

In a 2009 interview with The WIP, Swinton said, "I'm probably a woman. I don't know if I could ever really say that I was a girl – I was kind of a boy for a long time. I don't know, who knows? It changes." In her work, she has "played with the idea of transformative gender" and enjoys "walking the tightrope of identity, of sexual identity, of gender identity."[60] In July 2013, Swinton appeared photographed in front of Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral holding a rainbow flag in support of the country's LGBT community, reportedly releasing a statement: "In solidarity. From Russia with love."[61]

In a 2021 interview with Vogue, Swinton mentioned that she identifies as queer. She was quoted as saying "I'm very clear that queer is actually, for me anyway, to do with sensibility. I always felt I was queer – I was just looking for my queer circus, and I found it. And having found it, it's my world." She further stated that her collaborations with several creative visionaries helped her to find a sense of familiar belonging.[62]


In 2018, Swinton stated her support for Scottish independence.[56]

She signed a petition in support of film director Roman Polanski in 2009, calling for his release after Polanski was arrested in Switzerland in relation to his 1977 charge for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.[63]


Awards and nominations[edit]


  1. ^ "Tilda Swinton Honored by NYC's Museum of Modern Art Film Gala on Her 53rd Birthday". The Hollywood Reporter. 6 November 2013. Retrieved 28 October 2015.
  2. ^ "Tilda Swinton to receive BFI Fellowship". BFI. 14 January 2020. Retrieved 27 September 2021.
  3. ^ Dargis, Manohla; Scott, A.O. (25 November 2020). "The 25 greatest actors of the 21st century (so far)". The New York Times. Retrieved 16 December 2020.
  4. ^ "Tilda Swinton Biography". Biography. Retrieved 9 September 2021.
  5. ^ Judith Swinton obituary retrieved 21 February 2015
  6. ^ a b Hattenstone, Simon (22 November 2008). "Winner takes it all". The Guardian. London. Retrieved 23 May 2012.
  7. ^ "Tilda Swinton Biography". Tiscali.co.uk. Archived from the original on 17 February 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ "Tilda Swinton, one of our most unique actors, talks to Gaby Wood". The Guardian. London. 9 October 2005. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  10. ^ Johnston, Trevor (12 March 1993). "Virginia Territory". The List. Retrieved 1 July 2019.
  11. ^ Dunlop, Alan (11 June 2009). "Fettes College Preparatory School, Edinburgh, by Page\Park Architects". London: Architects Journal. Retrieved 18 June 2012.
  12. ^ Schager, Nick (2 December 2016). "Tilda Swinton vs. Harry Potter: Hogwarts Might Not Be All It's Cracked Up to Be". Yahoo. Retrieved 3 December 2016.
  13. ^ James Mottram (2 April 2010). "Tilda Swinton: 'I was expected to marry a duke!'". The Independent. Retrieved 14 February 2016.
  14. ^ Gray, Sadie (27 November 2005). "Profile Tilda Swinton White Witch takes a red and pink ride to stardom". The Times. London.
  15. ^ Tilda Swinton: 'I was expected to marry a duke!', The Independent, 3 April 2010
  16. ^ Among these early performances was a participation of Swinton in one of the earliest sketches written by the yet-to-become famous comic duo stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie, during their Footlights collaboration years at Cambridge. As stephen Fry recalled, during a public talk he gave regarding his autobiography about those early career days, that was a sketch about an American courtroom, which was to be played by Emma Thompson, stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie themselves, and needed someone to be the judge... "and so we cast this girl who I – we all – thought was good actress and was a friend of ours, Tilda Swinton, so she played the judge...". see the video An Evening with Stephen Fry | Part 5 (around 4:57), as published in the official YouTube channel of The American Book Center of Amsterdam, which hosted that talk on 30 June 2011 (retrieved 15 October 2019)
  17. ^ "Measure for Measure". AHDS. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  18. ^ "Tilda Swinton". Leiron Reviews. 2009. Archived from the original on 3 January 2012.
  19. ^ "Man to Man Park theatre". Culture Whisper. Retrieved 26 February 2015.
  20. ^ a b c d "Tilda Swinton - Rotten Tomatoes". www.rottentomatoes.com. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  21. ^ Wiseman, Andreas (20 July 2020). "Venice Film Festival To Fete Tilda Swinton & Ann Hui With Golden Lion Lifetime Achievement Awards". Deadline. Retrieved 12 November 2020.
  22. ^ Diane Solway (August 2011). "Planet Tilda". W magazine. Archived from the original on 13 July 2011. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  23. ^ "Young Adam scores Bafta success".
  24. ^ "The BAFTA Los Angeles Britannia Awards in 2008". 6 November 2008.
  25. ^ "Tilda Swinton". www.writeups.org. 13 February 2015. Retrieved 5 November 2020.
  26. ^ Ebert, Roger (5 October 2007). "Michael Clayton". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  27. ^ "Hollywood Foreign Press Association 2008 Golden Globe Awards". Hollywood Foreign Press Association. 13 December 2007. Archived from the original on 14 December 2007. Retrieved 15 December 2007.
  28. ^ "Winners Announced" (Press release). BAFTA. 10 February 2008. Retrieved 10 February 2008.
  29. ^ Longworth, Karina (6 January 2010). "Why the Academy Will Ignore Nicolas Cage and Tilda Swinton's Oscar-worthy Turns". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on 28 February 2010. Retrieved 6 January 2010.
  30. ^ Rogers, Nathaniel (3 February 2010). "Oscar Noms: Ten Talking Points". TribecaFilm.com. Archived from the original on 6 February 2010. Retrieved 3 February 2010.
  31. ^ Robinson, Anna (22 December 2009). "Tilda Swinton Best Performer of 2009 – indieWIRE Poll". Alt Film Guide. Retrieved 22 December 2009.
  32. ^ Editors (18 March 2009). "Producer Says Tilda Swinton to Star in "Kevin," Adaptation of Lionel Shriver Novel". New York Times Blogs. Retrieved 21 March 2009.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  33. ^ Macnab, Geoffrey (16 May 2011). "Swinton, Fassbender and Wasikowska line up for Jarmusch's vampire story". ScreenDaily. Retrieved 16 May 2011.
  34. ^ Radish, Christina (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.
  35. ^ "First still of "A Bigger Splash": Matthias Schoenaerts, Tilda Swinton, Dakota Johnson and Ralph Fiennes". imgur.com. 27 July 2015. Retrieved 28 July 2015.
  36. ^ Sampson, Mike (14 July 2015). "Tilda Swinton Explains Why She's "Really, Really, Really Excited" to Star in Marvel's 'Doctor Strange'". ScreenCrush. Retrieved 26 July 2015.
  37. ^ "Why Did 'Doctor Strange' and 'Ghost in the Shell' Whitewash Their Asian Characters?". Hollywood Reporter. 15 April 2016. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  38. ^ Ashley Lee (21 April 2016). "'Doctor Strange' Asian Whitewashing Controversy: Tilda Swinton Responds". Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  39. ^ Jess Denham (15 August 2016). "Doctor Strange: Tilda Swinton diplomatically responds to whitewashing claims". The Independent. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  40. ^ "A Bigger Splash – Abbiamo incontrato il regista Luca Guadagnino" (in Italian). darumaview.it. 23 November 2015. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  41. ^ "Suspiria, Luca Guadagnino: "Dakota Johnson e Tilda Swinton sono nel cast"" (in Italian). velvetcinema.it. 23 November 2015. Retrieved 5 December 2015.
  42. ^ Jacomina, Kristina (5 October 2016). "Doctor Strange Movie: Tilda Swinton Supports Film's Whitewashing?". Morningledger.com. Retrieved 12 January 2017.
  43. ^ "Tilda Swinton sleeps in glass box for surprise performance piece at Museum of Modern Art". Daily News. New York. 23 March 2013. Retrieved 23 March 2013.
  44. ^ Elle 'the muses' Tilda Swinton Archived 20 February 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  45. ^ Cartner-Morley, Jess; Mirren, Helen; Huffington, Arianna; Amos, Valerie (28 March 2013). "The 50 best-dressed over 50s". The Guardian. London.
  46. ^ "Best Dressed 2018". Net a Porter.
  47. ^ "Berlinale: 1988 Juries". berlinale.de. Retrieved 4 March 2011.
  48. ^ "18th Moscow International Film Festival (1993)". MIFF. Archived from the original on 3 April 2014. Retrieved 9 March 2013.
  49. ^ "Sir Sean Connery Named Patron of Screen Academy Scotland". 2 November 2006. Archived from the original on 29 September 2007. Retrieved 25 April 2008.
  50. ^ "Ballerina Ballroom". Spanglefish.com. 23 August 2008. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  51. ^ "'Tilda Swinton to appear on Wolf's new album". Kwamecorp.com. 12 January 2009. Retrieved 11 February 2011.
  52. ^ "Our gal Tilda and her magical perambulating film festival" 5 August 2009, Sun Times
  53. ^ "Entertainment | Actress Swinton hauls cinema". BBC News. 4 August 2009. Retrieved 2 February 2012.
  54. ^ Hicklin, Aaron (14 June 2015). "A sentimental education: inside the school that Tilda built". The Guardian. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  55. ^ Thompson, Lorna (3 September 2019). "School saved from closure". Forres Gazette. Retrieved 13 January 2021.
  56. ^ a b "Tilda Swinton defends her Scottishness against claim by fellow actress Kelly Macdonald". Press and Journal. Retrieved 13 May 2020.
  57. ^ Sperling, Nicole (19 January 2012). "Tilda Swinton, Lynne Ramsay birth a nightmare called 'Kevin'". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 13 February 2021.
  58. ^ Graeme Thomson (19 March 2011). "theartsdesk Q&A: Artist/Dramatist John Byrne". Retrieved 18 June 2013.
  59. ^ "Tilda Swinton Steps Out with Partner Sandro Kopp in Rare Sighting of Couple in New York City". People. 1 May 2019.
  60. ^ "Interview with Actress Tilda Swinton: "I am probably a woman"". thewip.net. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  61. ^ "Tilda Swinton: From Russia, With Pride". Out.com. 5 July 2013. Retrieved 11 August 2014.
  62. ^ ""I've Never Had Any Ambition As An Artist": Tilda Swinton Reflects On Her Enigmatic Career With Playwright Jeremy O Harris". Vogue. 12 January 2021. Retrieved 14 January 2021.
  63. ^ Shoard, Catherine; agencies (29 September 2009). "Release Polanski, demands petition by film industry luminaries". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 8 January 2018. Retrieved 29 August 2021.

External links[edit]