A Magic Carpet Ride With Tilda Swinton

Scottish actor talks Derek Jarman and 'Herbie Rides Again'

A Magic Carpet Ride With Tilda Swinton
Photo by Jana Birchum

An outspoken supporter of global cinema, Tilda Swinton was ready to give up acting when she met Derek Jarman in 1985, and eight films later, the trajectory for her incomparable career was set.

During her Saturday panel, moderated by Eduardo Hernandez, the lovely and otherworldly actor paid tribute to her late friend and collaborator, who died 20 years ago last month. Swinton was in Austin for the first time promoting two films – Wes Anderson’s The Grand Budapest Hotel and Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive – and noted that the excitement and integrity of SXSW is palpable.

Often noted for her eccentric roles, the brilliant Scottish actor threaded throughout the hour funny, metaphoric mentions of travel and painting, plus 30 years of film experience. In addition to talking about her first encounter with artists (the commissioned painter of her aristocratic father’s portrait), her introduction to film (Herbie Rides Again), and more recent forays into the oddities for which she is revered – e.g., her performance art piece “The Maybe” at MOMA – Swinton summarized her passion for film:

“In a nutshell, what it is for me is this amazingly humane opportunity to put yourselves in the shoes of someone else. It’s no more complicated and it's no less powerful than that. You go in, it all goes dark, and you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and see through their eyes. … That’s just mega. That's so powerful. ... A painter, at one time, is showing you one frame, but a filmmaker can take you into an experience and an existential atmosphere that may be a trip for you. … It’s a magic carpet.”

Asked about her strangest role to date, Swinton responded with, “corporate lawyer” – the supporting role in Michael Clayton for which she won an Oscar – before lending sage advice to any creative person: “Plant your feet in your own ground. Be your own center.”

A Conversation With Tilda Swinton

Saturday, March 8, Austin Convention Center

Keep up with all our dispatches from SXSW at austinchronicle.com/sxsw.

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South by Southwest, SXSW, SXSW Film 2014, SXSW 2014, Tilda Swinton, Jim Jarmusch, Only Lovers Left Alive, Wes Anderson, The Grand Budapest Hotel, Derek Jarman, Michael Clayton

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