Childhood & Early Life
Katherine Matilda Swinton was born on 5th November 1960 in London. Her father John Swinton was a major general in the British Army and her mother was Judith Balfour. She has three brothers.
She studied at three different schools, one of them being an expensive boarding school named West Heath Girls’ School. She later described her experience at the school as bitter, and has said that boarding schools are very cruel and children don’t benefit from that kind of environment.
She later attended New Hall (now called Murray Edwards College) at the University of Cambridge, from where she received a degree in social and political sciences in 1983. During this time, she joined the Communist Party and later, the Scottish Socialist Party. It was also during this period that she began acting on stage.
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Tilda Swinton joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984, and appeared in the play ‘Measure for Measure’. Her first work in cinema was in the 1986 drama film ‘Caravaggio’ directed by Derek Jarman.
Her TV career also began in 1986, with a role in the mini-series ‘Zastrozzi: A Romance’ which was based on the Gothic novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley. From 1986 to 1990, she was seen in the TV series ‘The Open Universe’.
She continued to work with Jarman in some of his other works, such as ‘The Last of England’ (1987), ‘War Requiem’ (1989) and ‘Edward II’ (1991), for which she received the Volpi Cup at the 1991 Venice Film Festival in the ‘Best Actress Category’.
During the late 1990s, she appeared in the movies ‘Female Perversions’ (1996), ‘Conceiving Ada’ (1997), and ‘The War Zone’ (1999).
In 2000, she was seen in the Canadian film ‘Possible Worlds’, which was adapted from a play of the same name. She was next seen alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in the drama thriller film ‘The Beach’. The film was a commercial success, though reviews were mostly negative.
She starred with Tom Cruise in the 2001 sci-fi psychological thriller ‘Vanilla Sky’. It was a commercial success and reviews were mostly mixed.
In the ensuing years, she appeared in films like ‘Adaptation’ (2002), ‘Young Adam’ (2003), ‘Constantine’ (2005), ‘Stephanie Daley’ (2006) and ‘The Man from London’ (2007).
She was seen in the legal thriller ‘Michael Clayton’ (2007), which was a commercial and critical success. Directed by Tony Gilroy, the film was nominated for seven Oscars, including the one for Best Picture. The sole win went to Swinton in the ‘Best Supporting Actress’ category. She also won the BAFTA Award for ‘Best Supporting Actress’.
In 2008, she was seen in the lead role in the crime drama film ‘Julia’. She next played a supporting role in ‘The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian’, which was a commercial success and was met with mostly positive reviews.
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She appeared in the black comedy film ‘Burn After Reading’ in 2008. Her next work was a minor role in David Fincher’s fantasy romantic drama film ‘The Curious Case of Benjamin Button’ which was nominated for thirteen Oscars, including Best Picture.
Her other important works include ‘I am Love’ (2009) where she also served as the executive producer. The film was a critical and commercial success. In 2011, she played the lead role in the psychological thriller film ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin’. Her performance earned her nominations for the BAFTA Award and the Golden Globe Award in the ‘Best Actress Category’.
In the 2010s, she continued appearing in successful films, such as ‘Moonrise Kingdom’ (2012), ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’ (2013), ‘Snowpiercer’ (2013), ‘The Grand Budapest Hotel’ (2014) and ‘Hail, Caesar’ (2016).
In 2016, she appeared in the superhero film ‘Doctor Strange’, playing ‘The Ancient One’, the mentor of the titular character. The film was a success, financially and critically. Her most recent works are ‘Okja’ (2017), ‘War Machine’ (2017) and ‘Isle of Dogs’ (2018).
'Michael Clayton,’ a 2007 legal thriller film, is undoubtedly one of Tilda Swinton’s most significant works. The film was directed by Tony Gilroy, and it also starred George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and Sydney Pollack.
The film did well financially, earning more than $90 million on a $25 million budget. It was also much praised by the critics. Swinton’s role won her an Oscar for ‘Best Supporting Actress’ and also the BAFTA Award in the same category.
Swinton was seen in the lead role in the 2011 psychological thriller film ‘We Need to Talk About Kevin.’ Directed by Lynne Ramsay, it was adapted from a novel of the same name by Lionel Shriver. The film was an average success financially, earning more than $10 million on a $7 million budget. Swinton earned nominations for the Golden Globe Award, Screen Actors Guild Award and also the BAFTA Award for her performance.
She is also known for her role of ‘The Ancient One’ in the superhero film ‘Doctor Strange’. Directed by Scott Derrickson, the film was based on the popular Marvel Comics character of the same name. Other actors in the film included Benedict Cumberbatch, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Rachel McAdams and Benedict Wong. The film was a huge success commercially and was also met with mostly positive reviews.
Tilda Swinton dated playwright John Byrne from 1989 to 2003. They have two children, twins Honor and Xavier Swinton Byrne, who were born in 1997.
Her current partner is Sandro Kopp, a German painter.
Other than acting, Tilda Swinton is also known for various other works. She opened the new Screen Academy Scotland production centre in Edinburgh and founded the film festival ‘Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams’.