Tilda Swinton’s life is as intriguing on-screen as it is in real life. The unique beauty talks to Josh Jackson about her unconventional film roles and how she openly loves two men at the same time
She attended boarding schools in England and Scotland before graduating from Cambridge University in 1983. Two years later, she met playwright and painter John Byrne, who moved to London in 1990 to be with her. After Tilda gave birth to twins, Xavier and Honor, in 1997, the couple moved to Nairn, Scotland, just north of Inverness.
While John remains her companion at home, she’s begun travelling with another love, her boyfriend, German-born artist Sandro Kopp, whom she met on the set of Narnia, where he played a centaur. The 32-year-old has been on her arm at most of her public appearances and he’s quietly at her side here at our lunch. The unusual situation has the apparent blessing of John and Sandro has even spent time with the family back home in the Highlands.
“The whole concept of romantic love,” she says, talking about the film, but also, you sense, explaining her non-traditional lifestyle, “that whole concept that there is one person who will complete you, who you are not complete without. And then this person arrives – and then again, there is only one. Ever. And they complete you and, therefore, you are never complete without them. And, at the same time, you are somehow finished with them. There’s some kind of Saran Wrap [plastic wrap] around you as a unit. It feels so unhealthy, the pressure."
“And when you think of people really being, I would go so far as saying ‘indoctrinated’, in the feeling that that’s the only way to conduct their lives, they will not be able to be viable human beings unless they find this person to complete them. And then they have to stick to it. That’s it – that sort of hanging on for dear life. What do they do when they do feel lonely on a Wednesday morning?”
Instead, Tilda professes love for two men, for her 12-year-old twins and for the many film-makers who call her muse. Such as Scottish auteur Lynne Ramsay, with whom Tilda says she’s been developing an adaptation of Lionel Shriver’s novel, We Need To Talk About Kevin. She’ll play the mother of a teenage boy who has murdered his classmates – “another alien”.
She may have entered the world of acting half-heartedly, but she’s found her vocation since that first conversation with Derek Jarman, searching, as she says of her mentor, for “that loose corner where we might prize up the carpet and uncover the rich slate of something we might recognise as spirit underneath, something raw and dusty and inarticulate, for heaven’s sake”.
Read more of this story in the October issue of The Australian Women’s Weekly.