Scottish actor Tilda Swinton turned sixty last November, although her age certainly doesn’t show. Her pale skin, short golden hair and green eyes give her an otherworldly appearance. Her thin, androgynous figure redefines conventional beauty standards, and her unique looks and enigmatic character have helped her distinguish herself in the film industry for over thirty years.


Katherine Matilda Swinton was born in the Scottish Lowlands into an aristocratic family. Her father was a British Army officer and Lord of the Kimmerghame House. Swinton attended West Heath Girls’ boarding school where she was bullied and felt homesick. She did, however, befriend the future princess Diana Spencer. 

After studying English at Cambridge University, Swinton joined the Royal Shakespeare Company as an actor. She also worked closely with director Derek Jarman, performing in a total of seven of his movies until his death in 1994. 


During her career, the actor has had a very special connection with fine art. She got her first role in Jarman’s movie Caravaggio, a historical drama about the life of the Italian artist, when she was in her twenties. In 1989, she married Scottish playwright and artist John Byrne, with whom she has two children. Since 2004 Swinton has been in a relationship with Sandro Kopp, a German-New Zealand visual artist, who is almost twenty years younger than she is.

Swinton’s breakthrough role finally came in 1992 with Orlando, directed by Sally Potter. The screen adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s novel about a young nobleman and poet who changes sex and lives for centuries seemed perfect for her. The novel and film tackle themes such as liberty and gender identity, but it is also a journey through four hundred years of English history. 

In 1995, Swinton performed in a conceptual art piece called The Maybe at the Serpentine gallery in London. For eight hours a day, the actor lay still inside a transparent box, apparently asleep.


In 2008, Swinton was awarded the Oscar for best supporting actress for her role in legal thriller Michael Clayton, also starring George Clooney. In the years that followed, she featured in many international productions. They include the psychological thriller We Need to Talk About Kevin, in which she played the mother of a teenage murderer, and Suspiria, a remake of Dario Argento’s classic horror movie; in this new adaptation by Italian director Luca Guadagnino, Swinton played three different characters —including an old man—, proving her incredible versatility as an actor. 

Her most recent appearance is in The Human Voice, a short film by Spanish director Pedro Almodóvar, adapted from a 1930 play by Jean Cocteau. The film premiered last September at the Venice International Film Festival, where Swinton won the prestigious Honorary Golden Lion award.