Tilda Swinton on Only Lovers Left Alive
Only Lovers Left Alive takes the vampire genre and puts a fresh spin on same. As envisioned by Jim Jarmusch creatures of the night are like rock and roll lovers crossing paths along an elevated plane of eternity. Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston star as Adam and Eve, a centuries old couple who reunite. Only these blood-drinkers don’t like to actually suck hemoglobin from the neck of victims so much as cosign high tech labs to provide them with their nectar of life.
The life fluid of the human race by and large is too diseased to provide these eternal souls with the nutrition they crave. When we meet Eve she’s living in Tangier and decides to fly (by night) to meet her mate (Hiddleston) who lives in Detroit.
“We’re friends,” Swinton told Free Press Houston in a sit down interview at last month’s SXSW about working with Jim Jarmusch. “For my money it’s the best kind of working relationship you can have. It’s the way I started making films – with my friends.
“The first time we met was backstage at a rock concert, and he then sent me the script for Broken Flowers in a post, I wasn’t part of the development,” said Swinton. “And then Limits of Control was the next film we worked on. Only Lovers Left Alive we’ve been chewing over the last eight or nine years. He rang me up one New Year’s Eve and said ‘Hey man, let’s make a vampire film.’ And we’ve been drip, drip, drip, drip, rebooting our enthusiasm ever since. It’s just a kind of palship, which means as far as I’m concerned constantly encouraging him. Setbacks inevitably happen when you’re making a film like this. It’s new, never been tried before.”
Only Lovers Left Alive doesn’t operate on the premise that a vampire movie has lots of gore and horror. Instead these cats lounge around, write music and philosophize on the wisdom of the ages.
“We don’t live in the same town, so we either talk on the phone or it’s me showing up in New York and asking where are we now?” said Swinton about the evolution of the film. “And it’s about getting the band together and then getting the money to make it; it’s always about chasing the money. Money doesn’t come until the bands really there.”
On shooting in Morocco, Swinton stated, “Tangier is absolutely magical. Detroit was always going to be a location in the film but we wanted an old civilization. For a while it was going to be Rome but at a certain point it shifted. At one point we felt it needed to be Africa and then Tangier just felt right. Have you ever been there?” Swinton asked.
“Friends of mine who know Tangier well told me the film got it right. It’s like a space station for all these different cultures. It’s like a hive and always slightly molten,” said Swinton adding, “It was also magical shooting in Detroit I have to say.”
Swinton explained the motivation of her character and their quest for a purified blood supply. “We’re immortals, we’re evolved but we’re also trying to draw as little attention as possible. We’ve lived in this cul-de-sac environment for so long that suddenly there’s the possibility that we may die.”
Swinton elaborated on how some of the premiere screenings of Only Lovers Left Alive were followed by a concert with music from the movie and even performances by Jarmusch’s band Sqürl. OLLA debuted at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival and is now rolling out in limited venues. Only Lovers Left Alive opens this weekend at the River Oaks Three.
You meet a lot of people when you interview actors and directors and it sounds natural to say that this person or that person is cool. But Katherine Matilda Swinton is the quintessential cool cat. Her path in movies might not have ever happened. Swinton explained how she wasn’t really interested in pursuing an acting career in studio films, which she refers to as “industrials.” That was changed when she played the part of Lena in the movie Caravaggio (1986) for director Derek Jarman.
“I met Derek in 1985 when we shot Caravaggio, which was the first film I ever made. Over the next nine years I worked pretty much exclusively with him. He was the first filmmaker I ever worked with; he was like my home. It was also the first film for costume designer Sandy Powell and composer Simon Fisher-Turner. We were young kids just out of art school. It was like working in an experimental environment,” said Swinton. Subsequently Swinton has worked on films large and small but prefers the family type atmosphere of working with directors like Luca Guadagnino (I Am Love) and Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, The Grand Budapest Hotel).
For Budapest Hotel Swinton went through five hours of make-up every time she played Madame D. About working with Anderson, Swinton noted: “It’s the best fancy dress party you ever got invited to, and the costumes are provided.”
When asked where she keeps the Oscar® that she won for Michael Clayton, Swinton just smiles as she said she gave it to her agent.