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Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton

British actress and model
The basics
Occupations Actor Voice actor
Countries United Kingdom
Gender female
Birth November 5, 1960 (London)
Father: John Swinton
Height: 1.7907 m
Education University of Cambridge, Fettes College
Authority IMDB id ISNI id Library of congress id Musicbrainz id VIAF id
The details

Katherine Matilda "Tilda" Swinton (born 5 November 1960) is a British actress, performance artist, model, and fashion muse, known for her roles in independent and Hollywood films. She is the recipient of two BAFTA Awards, one BIFA Award, an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and has received three nominations for a Golden Globe Award.
She began her career in films directed by Derek Jarman, starting with Caravaggio (1986), followed by The Last of England (1988) and War Requiem (1989). Swinton won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her performance as Isabella of France in Edward II (1991). She next starred in Sally Potter's Orlando (1992), and was nominated for the European Film Award for Best Actress.
Swinton was 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), Young Adam (2003), and Constantine (2005). She then starred in the crime drama Julia (2008), I Am Love (2009), and the psychological thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011).
Swinton later starred in the dark romantic fantasy drama, Only Lovers Left Alive (2014). She is also known for her performances as the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia series (2005–10). Swinton won 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 (2007). Her other film appearances include Female Perversions (1996), Tim Roth's The War Zone (1998), The Beach (2000), Teknolust (2002), Thumbsucker (2005), Stephanie Daley (2006), The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Burn After Reading (2008), Moonrise Kingdom (2012), Snowpiercer (2013), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Trainwreck (2015), A Bigger Splash (2015) and Doctor Strange (2016).
In 2005, Swinton was given 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.

Early life

Swinton was born in London, the daughter of Judith Balfour (née Killen; 1929–2012) and Sir John Swinton. She has three brothers. Her father is a retired major general in the British Army, and was Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire from 1989 to 2000. Her mother was Australian. 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. The Swinton family is an ancient Anglo-Scots family that can trace its lineage to the Middle Ages. The family is one of only three families (along with the Ardens and the Berkeleys) that can trace their unbroken land ownership and lineage to before the Norman Conquest.

Swinton attended three independent schools: Queen's Gate School in London, the West Heath Girls' School and also Fettes College for a brief period. West Heath was an expensive boarding school where she was a classmate and friend of Princess Diana. 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." Swinton went to volunteer in Kenya during a break from college with an educational charity called Project Trust.

In 1983, Swinton 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; she later joined the Scottish Socialist Party. It was in college that Swinton began performing on stage.

Early work

Swinton joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984, appearing in Measure for Measure. She also worked with the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, starring in Mann ist Mann by Manfred Karge in 1987. 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."

Mainstream roles

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 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), 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).

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. 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." 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.

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. In 2012, she was cast in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, a vampire film which began filming in June 2012. She was joined by John Hurt and Tom Hiddleston. 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.

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

Swinton also portrayed the Ancient One in the 2016 Marvel Cinematic Universe film, Doctor Strange.

On 23 November 2015, Luca Guadagnino revealed during an interview to Italian website Daruma View that Swinton will be in his remake of Suspiria. Shooting begins in August 2016, and the film will be released in 2017.

Performance art

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.


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".

In 2013, Swinton was named as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50 by The Guardian, and often appears on International Best Dressed Lists. 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.

Other projects

Swinton at the 2009 Vienna International Film Festival

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

In July 2008, she founded the film festival Ballerina Ballroom Cinema Of Dreams. 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.

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.

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 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."

Personal life

Swinton and her former partner John Byrne have two children, twins Honor and Xavier Swinton Byrne (born 6 October 1997). She lives in Nairn, overlooking the Moray Firth in the Highland region of Scotland, with her children and her partner Sandro Kopp, a German-New Zealand painter.



Year Film Role Director Notes
1986 Egomania – Insel ohne Hoffnung Sally Christoph Schlingensief
1986 Caravaggio Lena Derek Jarman
1987 Aria Young Girl Derek Jarman Segment: "Depuis le jour"
1987 Friendship's Death Friendship Peter Wollen
1988 Last of England, TheThe Last of England Derek Jarman
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 Derek Jarman
1990 Garden, TheThe Garden Madonna Derek Jarman
1991 Edward II Isabella Derek Jarman
1991 Party - Nature Morte, TheThe Party - Nature Morte Queenie
1992 Orlando Orlando Sally Potter
1993 Blue Derek Jarman Voice
1993 Wittgenstein Lady Ottoline Morrell Derek Jarman
1994 Remembrance of Things Fast: True Stories Visual Lies
1996 Female Perversions Eve Stephens Susan Streitfeld
1997 Conceiving Ada Ada Augusta Byron King, Countess of Lovelace Lynn Hershman Leeson
1998 Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon Muriel Belcher John Maybury
1998 Herlizeares Diera (voice)
1999 The Protagonists Actress Luca Guadagnino
1999 War Zone, TheThe War Zone Mum Tim Roth
2000 Possible Worlds Joyce Robert Lepage
2000 Beach, TheThe Beach Sal Danny Boyle
2001 Vanilla Sky Rebecca Dearborn Cameron Crowe
2001 Deep End, TheThe Deep End Margaret Hall Scott McGehee & David Siegel
2002 Adaptation Valerie Thomas Spike Jonze
2002 Teknolust Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive Lynn Hershman Leeson
2003 Statement, TheThe Statement Annemarie Livi Norman Jewison
2003 Young Adam Ella Gault David Mackenzie
2005 Constantine Gabriel Francis Lawrence
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 Andrew Adamson
2005 Absent Presence Operator Short
2005 Broken Flowers Penny Jim Jarmusch
2005 Thumbsucker Audrey Cobb Mike Mills Also co-executive producer
2006 Stephanie Daley Lydie Crane Hilary Brougher
2007 Sleepwalkers Violinist Mick Garris Short
2007 Faceless Voice
2007 Strange Culture Hope Kurtz Lynn Hershman Leeson Documentary
2007 Man from London, TheThe Man from London Camélia Béla Tarr & Ágnes Hranitzky
2007 Michael Clayton Karen Crowder Tony Gilroy
2008 Julia Julia Erick Zonca
2008 Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian, TheThe Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian Jadis, the White Witch; Centaur Andrew Adamson Cameo
2008 Burn After Reading Katie Cox Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
2008 Curious Case of Benjamin Button, TheThe Curious Case of Benjamin Button Elizabeth Abbott David Fincher
2008 Derek Narrator Isaac Julien Documentary
Also writer and executive producer
2009 Limits of Control, TheThe Limits of Control Blonde Jim Jarmusch
2009 The Invisible Frame The Cyclist
2009 I Am Love Emma Recchi Luca Guadagnino Also producer
2010 Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, TheThe Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Jadis, the White Witch Michael Apted
2011 We Need to Talk About Kevin Eva Khatchadourian Lynne Ramsay Also executive producer
2011 Genevieve Goes Boating Narrator Video short
2012 Moonrise Kingdom Social Services Wes Anderson
2013 The Stars (Are Out Tonight) David Bowie's wife Cameo
2013 Only Lovers Left Alive Eve Jim Jarmusch
2013 When Björk Met Attenborough Narrator Louise Hooper Documentary
2013 Snowpiercer Mason Bong Joon-ho
2013 The Zero Theorem Dr Shrink-Rom Terry Gilliam
2014 The Grand Budapest Hotel Madame Celine Villeneuve Desgoffe-und-Taxis Wes Anderson
2015 Trainwreck Dianna Judd Apatow
2015 A Bigger Splash Marianne Luca Guadagnino
2016 Hail, Caesar! Thora Thacker
Thessaly Thacker
Joel Coen
Ethan Coen
2016 The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger Herself Bartek Dziadosz, Colin MacCabe,
Christopher Roth, Tilda Swinton
Also director, writer and executive producer
2016 Doctor Strange Ancient One Scott Derrickson
2017 Okja Nancy Mirando Bong Joon-ho Post-production
Also co-producer
2017 Suspiria Madame Blanc Luca Guadagnino Filming
2017 War Machine David Michôd Post-production
2018 Isle of Dogs (voice) Wes Anderson 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

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Early life Performance art Fashion Other projects Personal life Filmography Awards and nominations
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