Tilda Swinton talks filmmaking and knighthood

Tilda Swinton prefers not to be called an actor.

Despite the fact that she commands the screen any time she appears, Swinton considers herself more of a filmmaker.

In an interview with Salon.com about her latest movie I Am Love, which Grace Chu reviewed last week, she explains that acting is a relatively minor contribution compared to everything she brings to the movie.

“This is something that was put together with paper and string by a group of people who made it happen in a very self-determining way. I suppose my main contribution to this film is as co-generator and producer. The fact that I’m in it feels like it’s taken up much less of my time, and — to a certain extent — less of my attention. It describes much more my activity in relation to this film that I co-produced it.”

I Am Love is the first movie in which she has a producer credit, but certainly not the first time Swinton has been the catalyst for a film. She was, after all, the muse of queer director Derek Jarman. But Swinton and director Luca Guadagnino have been working on I Am Love for 11 years. Why so long?

It’s not actually that exotic for a film like this to take a long time. Of course, … we’re talking having an idea originally, kicking it around over a bottle of wine for about four years, and gradually getting up the courage to think it might be something you can do. This kind of slow farming, as I think of it, with the seed in the ground for a very long time, is pretty much par for the course for me.

To Swinton, I Am Love is a new kind of film.

I call it sense-ational, something that’s cinematic in that you are taken out of your own experience, and not only with a 3-D pair of specs. I love the way in which 3-D can put you into a place, and this is sort of lo-fi 3-D — that’s the idea we’ve been talking about for 11 years.

The film accomplishes that goal by “placing the audience in the camera.” In one scene, for example, guests are arriving at a banquet when the camera zooms in on the woman taking their coats. It’s a non-linear movement, but makes sense — as the camera, you are watching the guests, then turn to see the coats being put away, then go back to the guests.

The trailer gives us a glimpse of the intimacy that results.


Swinton’s approach to filmmaking seems to be similar to her approach to her career: she sees what she wants to do and then does it. She told Cinematical, however, that she’s not all that methodical about her career path.

I love the idea that I’m planning my own course. I almost want you to keep that fantasy in your mind. I don’t want to tell you the truth, which is that I’m absolutely making everything up as I go along and I’m not aware of having a career at all, let alone a career path. I’m aware of having a life and I’m very invested in my life.

The investment certainly has paid off in a marvelous, if unconventional, slate of films. And she has no intention of letting convention intrude at this point in her life. Case in point: Cinematical mentioned that she seemed destined to be a Dame, joining the great British women actors honored by the Queen. She said:

A dame? I’d so much rather be a knight… I think Sir Tilda sounds so much better.

I have to agree. One thing Tilda Swinton is not, is a dame.