Swinton in 2019
Katherine Matilda Swinton
5 November 1960
|Alma mater||New Hall, Cambridge|
|Height||1.8 m (5 ft 11 in)|
|Children||2 (including Honor)|
Katherine Matilda Swinton (born 5 November 1960) is a Scottish actress, known for her roles in both independent arthouse films and blockbusters. She won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the 2007 film Michael Clayton. She also won the BAFTA Scotland Award for Best Actress for the 2003 film Young Adam, and has received three Golden Globe Award nominations.
Swinton began her career in experimental films, directed by Derek Jarman, starting with Caravaggio (1986), followed by The Last of England (1988), War Requiem (1989), and The Garden (1990). Swinton won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the Venice Film Festival for her portrayal of Isabella of France in Edward II (1991). She next starred in Sally Potter's Orlando (1992), and was nominated for the European Film Award for Best Actress.
Swinton was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance in The Deep End (2001). She followed this with appearances in Vanilla Sky (2001), Adaptation (2002), Constantine (2005), Julia (2008), and I Am Love (2009). She won the European Film Award for Best Actress and received a nomination for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role for the psychological thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011). She is also known for her performance as the White Witch in The Chronicles of Narnia series (2005–2010) and the Ancient One in the Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise.
Swinton was given the Richard Harris Award by the British Independent Film Awards in recognition of her contributions to the British film industry. In 2013, she was given a special tribute by the Museum of Modern Art. In 2020, Swinton was named as a recipient of the British Film Institute Fellowship, the highest honour presented by the Institute which honours individuals in "recognition of their outstanding contribution to film or television culture".
Katherine Matilda Swinton was born on 5 November 1960 in London, the daughter of Judith Balfour (née Killen; 1929–2012) and Sir John Swinton. She has three brothers. Her father was a retired major general in the British Army, and was Lord Lieutenant of Berwickshire from 1989 to 2000. Her mother was Australian. Her paternal great-grandfather was a Scottish politician and herald, George Swinton, and her maternal great-great-grandfather was the Scottish botanist John Hutton Balfour.
The Swinton family is an ancient Anglo-Scots family that can trace its lineage to the Middle Ages. Swinton considers herself "first and foremost" a Scot. The family is one of only three British families (along with the Ardens and the Berkeleys) that can trace their unbroken land ownership and lineage to before the Norman Conquest.
Swinton attended three independent schools: Queen's Gate School in London, the West Heath Girls' School, and also Fettes College for a brief period. West Heath was an expensive boarding school, where she was a classmate and friend of Lady Diana Spencer. As an adult, Swinton has spoken out against boarding schools, stating that West Heath was "a very lonely and isolating environment" and that she thinks boarding schools "are a very cruel setting in which to grow up and I don't feel children benefit from that type of education. Children need their parents and the love parents can provide." Swinton spent two years as a volunteer in South Africa and Kenya before University.
In 1983, Swinton graduated from New Hall at the University of Cambridge with a degree in Social and Political Sciences. While at Cambridge, she joined the Communist Party; she later joined the Scottish Socialist Party. It was in college that Swinton began performing on stage.
Swinton joined the Royal Shakespeare Company in 1984, appearing in Measure for Measure. She also worked with the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, starring in Mann ist Mann by Manfred Karge in 1987. On television, she appeared as Julia in the 1986 mini-series Zastrozzi: A Romance based on the Gothic novel by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Her first film was Caravaggio in 1986, directed by Derek Jarman. She went on to star in several Jarman films, including The Last of England (1987), War Requiem (1989) opposite Laurence Olivier, and Edward II (1991), for which she won the Volpi Cup for Best Actress at the 1991 Venice Film Festival.
Swinton performed in a performance art piece, Volcano Saga, by Joan Jonas in 1989. The 28-minute video art piece is based on a thirteenth-century Icelandic Laxdeala Saga, and it tells a mythological myth of a young woman whose dreams tell of the future.
Swinton also played the title role in Orlando, Sally Potter's film version of the novel by Virginia Woolf. The part allowed Swinton to explore matters of gender presentation onscreen which reflected her lifelong interest in androgynous style. Swinton later reflected on the role in an interview accompanied by a striking photo shoot. "People talk about androgyny in all sorts of dull ways," said Swinton, noting that the recent rerelease of Orlando had her thinking again about its pliancy. She referred to 1920s French artist and playful gender-bender Claude Cahun: "Cahun looked at the limitlessness of an androgynous gesture, which I've always been interested in."
Recent years have seen Swinton move towards more mainstream projects, including the leading role in the American film The Deep End (2001), in which she played the mother of a gay son she suspects of killing his boyfriend. For this performance, she was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. She appeared as a supporting character in the films The Beach (2000), featuring Leonardo DiCaprio, Vanilla Sky (2001), and as the archangel Gabriel in Constantine. Swinton has also appeared in the British films The Statement (2003) and Young Adam (2003).
In 2005, Swinton performed as the White Witch Jadis, in the film version of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, and as Audrey Cobb in the Mike Mills film adaptation of the novel Thumbsucker. Swinton later had cameos in Narnia's sequels, The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian and The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.
In 2007, Swinton's performance as Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton earned her both a BAFTA award for Best Supporting Actress as well as the Oscar for Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role at the 2008 80th Academy Awards, the film's sole win.
Swinton next appeared in the 2008 Coen Brothers film, Burn After Reading. Swinton said of the film, in which she played opposite George Clooney again, "I don't know if it will make anybody else laugh, but it really made us laugh while making it." She was cast in the role of Elizabeth Abbott in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, alongside Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt.
She starred in the film adaptation of the novel We Need to Talk About Kevin, released in October 2011. She portrayed the mother of the title character, a teenage boy who commits a high school massacre.
In 2012, she was cast in Jim Jarmusch's Only Lovers Left Alive, a vampire film which began filming in June 2012. She was joined by Mia Wasikowska, John Hurt and Tom Hiddleston. The film premiered at the Cannes Film Festival on 23 May 2013, and was released in the US in the first half of 2014. She also played Mason in the 2014 sci-fi film Snowpiercer.
Swinton starred in Luca Guadagnino's 2018 remake of the horror film Suspiria. Shooting began in August 2016, and the film was released in 2018. She played several roles, and was also credited as Lutz Ebersdorf.
In 1995, with producer and friend Joanna Scanlan, Swinton developed a performance / installation live art piece in the Serpentine Gallery, London, where she was on display to the public for a week, asleep or apparently so, in a glass case, as a piece of performance art. The piece is sometimes wrongly credited to Cornelia Parker, whom Swinton invited to collaborate for the installation in London. The performance, entitled The Maybe, was repeated in 1996 at the Museo Barracco in Rome and in 2013 at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Swinton has collaborated with the fashion designers Viktor & Rolf. She was the focus of their One Woman Show 2003, in which they made all the models look like copies of Swinton, and she read a poem (of her own) that included the line, "There is only one you. Only one".
In 2013, she was named as one of the fifty best-dressed over 50 by The Guardian, and often appears on International Best Dressed Lists. She was ranked one of the best dressed women in 2018 by fashion website Net-a-Porter.
In July 2008, she founded the film festival Ballerina Ballroom Cinema of Dreams. The event took place in a ballroom in Nairn on Scotland's Moray Firth in August. Swinton has collaborated with artist Patrick Wolf on his 2009 album The Bachelor, contributing four spoken word pieces.
In 2009, Swinton and Mark Cousins embarked on a project where they mounted a 33.5-tonne portable cinema on a large truck, hauling it manually through the Scottish Highlands, creating a travelling independent film festival. The project was featured prominently in a documentary called Cinema is Everywhere. The festival was repeated in 2011. In September 2009, Swinton joined a petition of Hollywood stars in support of Roman Polanski, and calling for his release from custody after he was detained in relation to his 1977 charge for drugging and raping a 13-year-old girl.
In 2012, Swinton appeared in Doug Aitken's SONG 1, an outdoor video installation created for the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington D.C. In November of the same year, she and Sandro Kopp made cameo appearances in episode 6 of the BBC comedy Getting On.
In February 2013, she played the part of David Bowie's wife in the promotional video for his song, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)", directed by Floria Sigismondi. In July 2013, Swinton appeared photographed in front of Moscow's St. Basil's Cathedral holding a rainbow flag in support of the country's LGBT community, reportedly releasing a statement: "In solidarity. From Russia with love."
Although born in London and attending various schools in England, Swinton identifies her nationality as Scottish, pointing to her time spent in Scotland in childhood and Scottish aristocratic family background. Swinton and her former partner John Byrne, a Scottish artist and playwright, have two children, twins Honor and Xavier Swinton Byrne, born in 1997. She has lived in Scotland for over two decades, currently in Nairn, overlooking the Moray Firth in the Highland region of Scotland, with her children and partner Sandro Kopp, a German painter. In 2018, she stated her support for Scottish independence.
|Egomania – Insel ohne Hoffnung||Sally||Christoph Schlingensief|
|Caprice||Lucky||Joanna Hogg||Short film|
|1987||Aria||Young Girl||Derek Jarman||Segment: "Depuis le jour"|
|Friendship's Death||Friendship||Peter Wollen|
|The Last of England||The Maid||Derek Jarman|
|1988||Das Andere Ende der Welt||Imogen Kimmel|
|Cycling the Frame||The Cyclist||Cynthia Beatt||Short film|
|Degrees of Blindness||Cerith Wyn Evans||Short film|
|L'Ispirazione||Derek Jarman||Short film|
|1989||Play Me Something||Hairdresser||Timothy Neat|
|War Requiem||Nurse||Derek Jarman|
|1990||The Garden||Madonna||Derek Jarman|
|1991||Edward II||Isabella||Derek Jarman|
|The Party – Nature Morte||Queenie||Cynthia Beatt|
|1993||Blue||Narrator (voice)||Derek Jarman|
|Wittgenstein||Lady Ottoline Morrell||Derek Jarman|
|1994||Remembrance of Things Fast: True Stories Visual Lies||John Maybury|
|1996||Female Perversions||Eve Stephens||Susan Streitfeld|
|1997||Conceiving Ada||Ada Byron King||Lynn Hershman Leeson|
|1999||The Protagonists||Actress||Luca Guadagnino|
|The War Zone||Mum||Tim Roth|
|2000||The Beach||Sal||Danny Boyle|
|Possible Worlds||Joyce||Robert Lepage|
|2001||The Deep End||Margaret Hall||Scott McGehee
|Vanilla Sky||Rebecca Dearborn||Cameron Crowe|
|2002||Adaptation||Valerie Thomas||Spike Jonze|
|Teknolust||Rosetta/Ruby/Marinne/Olive||Lynn Hershman Leeson|
|2003||The Statement||Annemarie Livi||Norman Jewison|
|Young Adam||Ella Gault||David Mackenzie|
|2005||Absent Presence||Operator||Martin R. Davison
|Broken Flowers||Penny||Jim Jarmusch|
|The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe||White Witch||Andrew Adamson|
|Thumbsucker||Audrey Cobb||Mike Mills||Also co-executive producer|
|2006||Stephanie Daley||Lydie Crane||Hilary Brougher|
|The Man from London||Camélia||Béla Tarr
|Michael Clayton||Karen Crowder||Tony Gilroy|
|Sleepwalkers||Violinist||Doug Aitken||Short film|
|Strange Culture||Hope Kurtz||Lynn Hershman Leeson||Documentary|
|2008||Burn After Reading||Katie Cox||Joel Coen
|The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian||White Witch; Centaur||Andrew Adamson||Cameo|
|The Curious Case of Benjamin Button||Elizabeth Abbott||David Fincher|
|Derek||Narrator||Isaac Julien||Documentary; also writer and executive producer|
|2009||I Am Love||Emma Recchi||Luca Guadagnino||Also producer|
|The Limits of Control||Blonde||Jim Jarmusch|
|2010||The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader||White Witch||Michael Apted|
|2011||Genevieve Goes Boating||Narrator (voice)||Lucy Gray||Short film|
|We Need to Talk About Kevin||Eva Khatchadourian||Lynne Ramsay||Also executive producer|
|2012||Moonrise Kingdom||Social Services||Wes Anderson|
|2013||Only Lovers Left Alive||Eve||Jim Jarmusch|
|The Stars (Are Out Tonight)||David Bowie's wife||Floria Sigismondi||Short film|
|The Zero Theorem||Dr Shrink-Rom||Terry Gilliam|
|2014||The Grand Budapest Hotel||Madame D.||Wes Anderson|
|2015||A Bigger Splash||Marianne||Luca Guadagnino|
|2016||Doctor Strange||Ancient One||Scott Derrickson|
|Hail, Caesar!||Thora Thacker / Thessaly Thacker||Joel Coen
|The Seasons in Quincy: Four Portraits of John Berger||Herself||Bartek Dziadosz
|Documentary; also co-director, writer and executive producer|
|2017||Letters from Baghdad||Gertrude Bell (voice)||Sabine Krayenbühl
|Also executive producer|
|Okja||Lucy Mirando / Nancy Mirando||Bong Joon-ho||Also co-producer|
|War Machine||German Politician||David Michôd|
|2018||Isle of Dogs||Oracle (voice)||Wes Anderson|
|Suspiria||Madame Blanc / Dr. Josef Klemperer / Mother Helena Markos||Luca Guadagnino||Credited as "Lutz Ebersdorf" for second role|
|2019||Avengers: Endgame||Ancient One||Anthony Russo
|The Dead Don't Die||Zelda Winston||Jim Jarmusch|
|The Personal History of David Copperfield||Betsey Trotwood||Armando Iannucci|
|The Souvenir||Rosalind||Joanna Hogg|
|Uncut Gems||Anne 'Adley's Auction Manager' (voice)||Safdie brothers|
|2020||The French Dispatch||J. K. L. Berensen||Wes Anderson||Post-production|
|2021||Pinocchio||The Fairy with Turquoise Hair||Guillermo del Toro
|The Souvenir Part II||Rosalind||Joanna Hogg||Post-production|
|1986||Zastrozzi: A Romance||Julia||4 episodes|
|1990||Your Cheatin' Heart||Cissie Crouch||6 episodes|
|1992||Screenplay||Ella / Max Gericke||Episode: "Man to Man"|
|Shakespeare: The Animated Tales||Ophelia (voice)||Episode: "Hamlet"|
|1994||Visions of Heaven and Hell||Narrator (voice)||Television documentary|
|1998||Love Is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon||Muriel Belcher||Television film|
|2005||The Somme||Narrator (voice)||Television documentary|
|2006||Galápagos||Narrator (voice)||3 episodes|
|2012||Getting On||Elke||Episode #3.6|
|2013||When Björk Met Attenborough||Narrator (voice)||Television documentary|
|2019||What We Do in the Shadows||Tilda||Episode: "The Trial"|
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