RT Interview: Tilda Swinton on Julia

The Oscar-winning actress on tackling alcoholism on screen.

by | May 11, 2009 | Comments

RT Interview: Tilda Swinton on Julia

One of the most diverse and celebrated talents of her generation, the directors on Tilda Swinton‘s CV represent a veritable who’s who of independent cinema and include David Fincher, Spike Jonze, Cameron Crowe, the Coen Brothers and Jim Jarmusch. Few who’ve seen Sally Potter‘s adaptation of Orlando, with Swinton in the title role, will forget the power of her performance, a power she brings to every role she tackles, from Constantine to Burn After Reading. Her supporting role in Michael Clayton earned her an Oscar, but her performance in Julia, out now on DVD, went largely unnoticed despite its impact on those who saw it. Out now on DVD, Swinton sits down with RT to talk about the film.


Julia

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What was it about Julia as a character that made you want to play her?

Tilda Swinton: She reminds me of so many of the great drunks I have known and loved in my life, who have always felt so unlike the kind of loser character often put forward in cinema portrayals.

Is there a particular appeal to exploring characters as unglamorous and as unrelentingly real as Julia?

TS: It certainly does one good to notice how extreme ‘unrelenting realness’ very often is; how far from any concept of good taste or subtlety. When we were developing this film, we went out of our way to be clear with ourselves just how far we needed to go. People like Kate del Castillo‘s character really are that unhinged, desperate people with guns and insanely ferocious dogs do shout that loud, people like Julia do drink that much and that often, the effort to appear sober the morning after drinking as much as she does does involve that much overacting, look that forced and feel that wierd to be around.

Julia

Tilda Swinton in Julia

What are the real challenges and areas of consideration when you’re taking on a character afflicted by something like alcoholism?

TS:The responsibility of going far enough. The resistence to stopping short of the mark for the sake of modesty.

What was the experience of working with Erick Zonca like?

TS: Exhilarating. Multilingual. Random. Addictive. He has to be the least cerebral filmmaker I have ever worked with; he directs outside of any formal or literary concerns whatsoever. He directs energy – nothing less – and is not interested in anything except the authentic. His constant request is for ‘something of different’, ‘something of fantasy’ and, of me in particular, ‘more ugly, Tilda, make more ugly faces’. His allergy to generica and his passion are truly infectious and a tonic to be around. I’d work with him again in a heartbeat.

Continue onto the next page as Tilda Swinton talks about working with children and on location and tells us more about her upcoming reteaming with Jim Jarmusch.

RT Interview: Tilda Swinton on Julia


Julia

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Aidan Gould is remarkable as Tom, what are the joys and challenges of working with children?

TS: I can only think of joys. That they know the proper value of play. That they are up for the practical artifice of pretend; I’ve yet to meet a child of nine burdened with any concept of a method, or the pressure of taking their character home with them or all that displacement stuff. That they are in touch with the fun of making things up. That they are in no screwed-up battle with their dignity all the while. Altogether, in combination with the need for children to work restricted hours, it’s grace.

There’s an incredible amount of location work involved here and some striking locations — do you prefer working on location?

TS: Possibly. It makes for a completely different texture to what you actually shoot, let’s face it, and in the land of realness, or semi-realness, as in Julia, there is a kind of ease that comes with walking into real places surrounded by energies other than that of the film. Real walls, real pavement, real sky all help hold down the make believe and pin it into place.

Julia

Tilda Swinton in Julia

We’re soon to see you in another Jim Jarmusch film, could you tell us a little about your character and the film itself?

TS: Pretty much nothing, I’m afraid. Isaach de Bankole wears sensational shiny suits. I wear a white wig and cowboy hat. Paz de la Huerta wears – mainly – not a stitch. We are all in Spain. Isaach meets us there, on an unexplained mission, as he does Bill Murray, Gael Garcia Bernal, John Hurt, Youki Kudoh and others. We hand him cryptic messages in matchboxes and expound on art, music, science, hallucinogenics and sex. My subject is cinema. Isaach keeps moving. It’s a mystery story with a protagonist so calm, so opaque, that we can rest in his company – go along for the ride in blissful ignorance, perhaps even give up on impatience in the beauty of this landscape, under the umberella of this soundtrack. Credit crunch, eco-friendly, existential travel for the price of a cinema seat and minimal carbon footprint.

Julia is on DVD now.

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