Katherine Mathilda "Tilda" Swinton (born 5 November 1960) is an English actress known for both arthouse and mainstream films. She has appeared in a number of films including Burn After Reading, The Beach, The Chronicles of Narnia, and was nominated for a Golden Globe for her performances in The Deep End and We Need to Talk About Kevin. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance Michael Clayton in 2007.
Swinton was born in London. Her father is Major-General Sir John Swinton, KCVO, OBE, DL, and Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire from 1989 to 2000. Her mother, Judith Balfour, Lady Swinton (ne Killen), was Australian. Her paternal great-grandfather was Scottish politician and officer-of-arms George Swinton, and her maternal great-great-grandfather was Scottish botanist John Hutton Balfour. The Swinton family is an ancient Anglo-Scots family that can trace its lineage to the Middle Ages.
Swinton attended three independent schools, Queen's Gate School in London, the West Heath Girls' School where she was a colleague of the future Princess of Wales Lady Diana Spencer, 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. While at Cambridge, she joined the Communist Party.
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 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. 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 Ive always been interested in.
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 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".
ecent 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.
Swinton at the 2008 British Academy Film Awards. 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 dont 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. Several critics praised her performance and some claimed it should have won her an Academy Award.
She stars in the new film adaptation of the novel We Need to Talk about Kevin, released in October 2011. She portrays the mother of the title character, a teenage boy who commits a high school massacre. She has joined the cast of Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, a vampire film which will start filming in June 2012. She is joined by John Hurt and Tom Hiddleston.
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 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.
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.
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.
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 Zealander painter. John Byrne, father to their twins Honor and Xavier (b. 1997), lives in Edinburgh with his partner Jeanine Davies.
In 2013, Swinton was named as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50s by the Guardian. In 2015, she appeared in the comedy film, "Trainwreck" alongside Amy Schumer.
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