Tilda Swinton to receive BFI Fellowship

The award honours the actor’s daring as a performer and her great contributions to film culture, independent film exhibition and philanthropy. 

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Artwork by Katerina Jebb

Artwork by Katerina Jebb
Credit: Katerina Jebb

Tilda Swinton is to receive a BFI Fellowship at the BFI Chair’s annual dinner, hosted by BFI Chair Josh Berger on 2 March 2020 at The Rosewood Hotel, London. The award honours and celebrates Tilda’s daringly eclectic and striking talents as a performer and filmmaker and recognises her great contribution to film culture, independent film exhibition and philanthropy.

Revered by the avant-garde and British and World independent cinema, Tilda also seamlessly crosses over into studio films, winning the Best Supporting Actor Oscar and BAFTA for Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007). The BFI Fellowship is presented alongside a Tilda Swinton season at BFI Southbank in March (1-18 March), curated in collaboration with Tilda herself and featuring her work and her inspirations, including a special Tilda in Conversation event on Tuesday 3 March.

Swinton with Jaspar Newell in We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Swinton with Jaspar Newell in We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Tilda Swinton said:

“Fellowship and BFI are two of my favourite words. And the beginning and end of the reason I live my life in the cinema in the first place. I am very happy and touched by this honour. And I share it entirely with my beloved filmmaking playmates, living and departed.”

BFI Chair Josh Berger said:

“I am delighted that Tilda has accepted the BFI Fellowship. Tilda is enjoying the broadest of careers, stretching from her earliest acclaimed work with Derek Jarman through to her dazzling involvement in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It is a career full of courageous artistic choices that has earned her the deep respect of her peers, our industry and the admiration and enjoyment of audiences all over the world. Tilda inhabits the characters she portrays in the most compelling way. Her work is powerful and far-ranging and as such occupies a unique place in our collective film history; it captivates young filmmakers and actors, inspiring them to make bolder, braver and more profound work.”

Tilda’s fresh-eyed curiosity, anarchic spirit and instinct for collecting conspirators were all forged in the intensely creative collaboration she shared with artist and filmmaker Derek Jarman. Jarman gave Tilda her first film role in Caravaggio (1987) and she worked with him on a further six feature films including the anti-Thatcherite The Last of England (1987) and anthology film Aria (segment Depuis le jour, 1987).

Tilda has enjoyed a risk taking, unconventional career, relishing in make believe and shape shifting identities. She won great acclaim for playing the title role in Sally Potter’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1992), playing both the male and female roles and capturing the public and Hollywood’s attention.

Swinton in Orlando (1992)

Swinton in Orlando (1992)

Tilda has worked with a range of auteur filmmakers with big artistic visions and compelling world views, sustaining and developing these relationships by collaborating on a number of separate projects; including Luca Guadagnino (The Protagonists, 1999; I Am Love, 2009; A Bigger Splash, 2015; and most recently the re-make of Dario Argento’s Suspiria, 2018); Wes Anderson (Moonrise Kingdom, 2012; The Grand Budapest Hotel, 2014; Isle of Dogs, 2018); Jim Jarmusch (Broken Flowers, 2005; The Limits of Control, 2009; Only Lovers Left Alive, 2013; The Dead Don’t Die, 2019); Joanna Hogg (Caprice, 1986; The Souvenir, 2019); the Coen brothers (Burn After Reading, 2008; Hail, Caesar! 2016); Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, 2013; Okja, 2017) and Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin, 2011).

Tilda is well known to family and mainstream audiences for her scary turn as The White Witch in three films in The Chronicles of Narnia series (2005, 2008 and 2010), as Gabriel in Constantine (Francis Lawrence, 2005) and as The Ancient One in Doctor Strange (Scott Derrickson, 2016) and Avengers: Endgame (Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, 2019). Tilda’s talents as a comedy actress really shine through in films including Judd Apatow’s Trainwreck (2015) and most recently Armando Iannucci’s The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019).

Swinton in The Last of England (1987)

Swinton in The Last of England (1987)

Tilda has a great commitment to arthouse film exhibition, mounting pop ups and supporting mobile cinemas in Scotland (with filmmaker Mark Cousins, even dragging one along the road in her kilt), and supporting the BFI through her inspiring star turn at the BFI Luminous Gala, raising funds for the BFI National Archive.

The BFI’s Tilda Swinton season, programmed in partnership with the performer and filmmaker herself, will run at BFI Southbank from 1 – 18 March 2020, celebrating the extraordinary, convention-defying career of one of cinema’s finest and most deft chameleons. Alongside a programme of feature film screenings, shorts and personal favourites, the season will include Tilda Swinton in Conversation on 3 March, as well events featuring onstage appearances from some of her closest collaborators, details of which will be announced soon.

Swinton in The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Swinton in The Dead Don’t Die (2019)

Films screening in the season will include: Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986), The Garden (Derek Jarman, 1990), Man to Man (John Maybury, 1992), Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992), The Deep End (Scott McGehee, David Siegel, 2001), Michael Clayton (Tony Gilroy, 2007), Julia (Eric Zonca, 2008), I Am Love (Luca Guadagnino, 2009), We Need to Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011), Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013) and Snowpiercer (Bong Joon-ho, 2013). Alongside some of these screenings will be a rare big screen outing for work including Swinton’s operatic dog opera, Rompo i lacci (from Flavio) (Tilda Swinton, Sandro Kopp, 2018) which sees Swinton’s five springer spaniels romp around a Scottish beach to an aria from Handel’s opera Flavio; Joanna Hogg’s graduation film Caprice (1986), which starred a  then-unknown 25-year-old Swinton; and A Portrait of Ga (1952), Margaret Tait’s ‘miraculous portrait of her mother,’ and one of Swinton’s favourite films.

Tilda will be joining the distinguished ranks of other BFI Fellows including Derek Jarman, Vanessa Redgrave, Akira Kurosawa, David Lean, Judi Dench, Maggie Smith, Martin Scorsese, Stephen Frears, Steve McQueen, Peter Morgan, John Hurt and Jeanne Moreau.

Sight & Sound magazine will feature Tilda Swinton in their April 2020 issue. On sale 5 March and via www.bfi.org.uk/sightandsound.

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