There’s no mistaking Swinton’s passion, even as the star of sixty films, to remove herself ever so slightly from the assumption that she’s an actress. Swinton, who lives on a remote farm on the remote north shore of Scotland, sees herself as a “deviser” of films, a producer, but “nothing executive” and certainly not a star. “Recently my name has been appearing on the screen because it means a little more apparently.”
The Academy Award winning actress (Best Supporting Actress – Michael Clayton) Swinton has co-starred twice each with Brad Pitt and George Clooney, also Leonardo Di Caprio, Keanu Reeves, Michael Caine, Meryl Streep, Nic Cage and even Marilyn Manson, says producing is her primary concern.
Swinton latest project is I Am Love, a cool romance set in 1970’s Milan which she made with her friend Luca Guadagnino. “We started talking about the depth charge of love, that revolutionary idea and the havoc it can release if people are at some kind of brink and not telling the truth about themselves.”
Swinton plays a Soviet Russian who lives with her aristocratic Italian husband’s family in a stultifyingly formal environment. “She is literally in disguise, like a play. She is painted and dressed and jewelled and doesn’t speak her own language and she doesn’t even have her own name. She is acting her socks off and there is a time when one wants to stop pretending and that time comes.”
That time comes in the form of a handsome young chef, her son’s best friend, with whom she begins an intense sexual affair. Their sex scenes are raw and steamy, and Swinton did not clear the set to shoot the scenes. She says actors who clear sets are in denial. “You’re attempting to look at something real and to pretend you’re not doing the thing. It’s completely practical, filmmaking. One of the great joys is making a film together. It needs certain particular attention. This coyness seems to be a kind of displacement activity. I really don’t understand it.”
“I’m like a farmer. I’m planting seed in one field and the field next door is coming up to that height and then its time to harvest that one. Something is always something bubbling away and something’s coming to the boil.”
Swinton founded the Ballerina Ballroon Cinema of Dreams Film Festival which has been staged in rural Scotland and China, with guest programmers like the Coen Brothers. Her purpose is to "reinject some romance into the film festival circuit" and to “escape the shackles" of release schedules”.
Swinton slept naked in a glass box for a week in London’s Serpentine Gallery and again in Rome’s Museo Barracco as part of an art installation called The Maybe in 1995.
Swinton can trace her family roots back to the ninth century. Her father, Major-General Sir John Swinton, once headed the Queen's Household Division and Lord-Lieutenant of Berwickshire.
Anne Brodie for Metro News Canada