Hollywood’s Exquisite Alien

The famously otherworldly and enigmatic Oscar-winning Tilda Swinton talks to Amanda Fortini about her boozy new film, the joys of her open relationship, and why she would rather be a poet.

  1. Tilda Swinton is a paradox, a contradiction, a still point at which opposites converge. Her chameleon face is at once Victorian and futuristic, extraterrestrial yet earthly—her finely etched features appear to be carved out of clay. From one angle she is a handsome, somewhat masculine woman. From another, a handsome, slightly effete man. She seems to straddle time, eras. She often looks ageless; at other moments, all of her 48 years. It is likely this protean quality that has made her a favorite of directors—the Coen brothers, David Fincher, Danny Boyle, and Jim Jarmusch, among others—who no doubt understand her power to seduce an audience: Viewers want to watch her, to solve the puzzle of her face.

    On a recent Friday evening, at that dusky hour when the light turns blue, Tilda Swinton sits poolside at a table at the Avalon, a retro-chic hotel in Beverly Hills. “Are you cold? I just want it a bit warmer, if that’s possible,” she says, in a clipped British accent, angling a heat lamp t...

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