Tilda Swinton Interview

Fresh from winning her Oscar for Michael Clayton, Tilda Swinton reunites with George Clooney in the Coen Brothers' espionage comedy Burn After Reading. She plays Katie, a "cold hearted bitch" with a hatred for her husband (John Malkovich).

Q: Your character in Burn After Reading is so cold and her husband is so angry. They make a perfect couple, right?

A: Totally! They’re a very regular couple, let’s face it! I had this idea that she was very Washington, that she had this idea he was going to be JFK and she was going to be Jackie. So that’s why she dresses like she does and is furious with him because he never made it. I was also incredibly excited that they wanted me to play English and I immediately thought of her as a cross between Basil Fawlty and Sybil. There’s something about that passive-aggressive that I found funny.

Q: Although you get to bed George Clooney here, are you glad you’ve never really played the romantic lead?

A: I always avoided the romantic lead department. I kept my head down when I was Keira Knightley’s age. I kept under the radar, because I was so longing to be forty. Maybe it’s good I kept my head down in my twenties, so people aren’t sick of me quite yet. Maybe that’s a clue. Maybe it was a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Q: Yet with this film and Michael Clayton, you’ve really made the transition to Hollywood. How has that happened?

A: The transition has been really a case of the mountain coming to Mohammed, because I haven’t really moved anywhere. I think it tells you that the studios have been giving money to filmmakers who actually know who I am or even want me. That’s what that’s really about. It’s not about me. It certainly wasn’t never on my horizon as far as I was concerned to go to the Oscars. Frankly that feels like a bit of a red herring. I’m not complaining, if it helps make the films I want to make. I’m not going to mess with it. I don’t know if people aim themselves at that kind of thing.

Q: Was all this Oscar attention why you recently programmed your own glamour-free film festival, The Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams, up in Scotland – as a means of escape?

A: The film festival is so much more than a glamour-free film festival! It’s the most glamorous film festival I’ve ever been to, to be honest with you. We had a very serious dress code, at 10.30 on Sunday morning for Miss Marple, everybody was invited to wear pyjamas and they did. And for this incredible Iranian film called The Boot, everybody was invited to wear red footwear and 80 people turned up in red shoes.

Burn After Reading opens on October 17th.  

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