Oscar post mortem; Interviews with the snubbed: Tilda Swinton


After two years of getting six out of six right, I slipped up in my predictions this year, getting one wrong. In this case I didn't follow my thesis far enough and allowed for one non-Harvey Weinstein candidate to win: Martin Scorsese for Best Director rather than Michel Hazavinicius. So in the end Weinstein took four of the six top categories - Best Picture, Director, and Actor for "The Artist," and Best Actress for Meryl Streep in his "The Iron Lady." Not to mention Best Documentary for "Undefeated." The only big loss was with Berenice Bejo in the Best Supporting Actress category and I think he probably wrote that one off.

So much for that. Time to move on. To do so I'm going to run the transcripts of interviews I had with a couple of actors who were snubbed and were not even nominated, though deserving. Here's Tilda Swinton, star of "We Need to Talk About Kevin,"  which received no nominations, whom I talked to at the Toronto Film Festival in September.

I must thank Roger Ebert for the opportunity to conduct this interview while in bed with Ms. Swinton. Well, sitting in it anyway. The legendary critic was waiting in the lobby of the hotel for his interview and asked for a chair. So they gave him the only one in Tilda's suite, and she generously invited me to sit next to her on the bed while she served tea.

PK: Is this a movie you are going to let the kids see? [Swinton has twins, a boy and a girl, born in 1997] 

TS: I suppose they can see it one day can't they? Not quite yet.

PK: What is it rated? Is it rated at all?

TS: It will be kind of up there, I think, but I don't know yet. I never know quite how it works - there's no, there's no violence in the piece though. Just tomatoes. You know no tomatoes were injured in it..

PK: It looked like you are enjoying yourself.

TS: It's um - it's a - quite a thing. The smell. Even now I don't think I'll ever be able to look at another tomato. Most of those several thousand people there were drunk since the day before so the smell of rancid tomatoes, sweat, piss and, let's face it, testosterone- was quite a heavy mix. We're going to bring it out as a scent.

PK: I don't think I've ever heard of his festival.

TS: It happens every year. It's a fake traditional festival that's only been going for a few years, and it's mainly populated not by Spaniards, but by drunk English and Australian men who travel across the world to just get drunk and pop themselves with rotten tomatoes.

PK: It sounds like an off-shoot of reality TV.

TS: Though not very inspiring. Maybe it will morph into something.

PK: It seems a key scene. It's supposed to embody Eva's - well we really you don't get much of a sense of her career...

TS: Do you did you read the book?

PK: I didn't read the book, no.

TS: Well then you know that her life, well the book has more made of this obviously, because it has a lot more pages than we have time to shoot. But in the book you have more of a sense of her not really wanting to be in the United States, of her wanting to be and taking great pride in being a world traveler, as a really important part of her resistance. So we shot that scene. Actually, it was the last scene we shot, we shot that several months after it was wrapped, and it was as I say t was one take. You can't ask all those people to come back and do it again.

PK: So that embodied her wild side?

TS: It was really her identity. It was her sense of herself. Before she got together with Frank D. she was kind of keeping it going with her relation ship with Franklin [John C. Reilly] , but then when she got pregnant- she got had to drop it.

PK: But Franklin is a dud

TS: He is a dud. He is a dud, he is a dud dad.  From the laissez faire school of parenting. It serves his son just as badly I would suggest as his mother's disconnection. They're both pretty much you know, missing out.


PK: As a mother yourself, what would you advise them to do?

TS: Him to do?

PK: The mother. Get another father maybe?

TS: What would I advise the mother to do? Um, first of all, don't listen to anybody's advice because nobody knows anything, and- umm- you know, stop acting.

PK: Stop acting?

TS: Stop acting. Get real with your child and connect with this irrevocable fact that you are now in this relationship. She...  it's like she is constantly looking over the shoulder of her life to some far off Patagonian hill, and the person who, of course, sort of picks that up first is her son. That first scene, that first scene of them together, she's holding him as he's screaming and she's smiling because she read in a book that you have to smile at your child.

PK: It doesn't work does it? 

TS: It seems not to work. And that's advice that can't be given out.

PK: Do you think that's part of Kevin's problem is that he senses completely that his mother doesn't want him? Or maybe wants him too much?

TS: I think that, well one of the tragedies in the story is how close the apple falls from the tree. The worst thing for her is not that she looks at his misanthropy and his violence and his alienation and thinks "I don't know what this is" as if this is truly foreign. The worst thing is that she looks at him and knows it a little too well because it's hers, and she's repelled by it, because she's repelled by herself. I think that they are so lonely; both of those people are so lonely. The child is - what a nightmare. Especially to be locked in all day with someone who is trying to get away from you the way that she is. And her too, what a nightmare for her to be locked in a room all day with her, with so's like two magnets turned the wrong way around.

PK: It's kind of like "The Omen" because from the very beginning you see him give her a very diabolical look.

TS: Well he- he has- well that's her fantasy you know the whole thing is narrated through her eyes so who knows really what he was. I mean Franklin would tell you, Franklin would tell you that he was just a little boy.

PK: Is Franklin never at home or is he just stupid?

TS: Well, you take your pick. But he would tell you he was a perfectly reasonable little boy.  And I'm not going to tell you who is right. Because, because it would be irrelevant, there is no right. It's all a mess.

PK: Do you think there would be a different movie if it were told from Kevin's point of view?

TS: Of course. Or if it was told from Celia's [the younger daughter] point of view it would be very different I would think. She's got a rough deal. But I think anyone who has an older brother or sister identify

PK: I have three older sisters.

TS: I have several brothers. Three

PK: You're the only girl?

TS: I am the only girl. You're the youngest?

PK: Second youngest.

TS: I'm the youngest.

PK: We have so much in common.  So what Greek tragedy would you say that this movie resembles?

TS: What's the tragedy? I think it's the Euripides that he never actually had the guts to write. "Medea"  gets close, in a sense, that disconnect. The possibility of a mother actually being that far away from her child, it's kind of looked at there. I think I had sort of already identified from  my own experience, from  my own observation before I read the book, what I thought was really worth looking. I have children, I have twins so, two-in-one, and I remember when I first met them, I was really happy to have them, I had a good pregnancy, I mean other than getting to grips with this mortality issue, I was sort of going down this...

PK: Mortality? Is  what you think about when you're pregnant?

TS: You don't think about mortality when you're pregnant? How can you not think about mortality? What else is there to think about?

PK: I'm just...

TS: No, no - you're tied to the wheel. You're really, irrevocably tied to the wheel. It's happening. It's happening. There's can't get out of this one, you can't get out! This is it. Part of the... you know you're tied onto the genetic folderol. It's you now. And however it comes out, either some body is going to die, or somebody is going to live. And then somebody is going to die. The die is cast. And I was you up for it. Pretty much as up for it as you could be at that point. But then when my children were born I remember noticing, in the first instant, how much I really liked them, I was really interested in them and I was ready for them. But at the very moment, I noticed that I was relieved that I felt that way. Which was a surprise to me because I think that I probably assumed that I would be naturally inclined to like them. But what I hadn't realized was that it might have gone another way, something in my unconscious noticed that it might have gone another way. It was possible to look at your child and not have the glue on the back of the envelope. I remember going, "Ha, that is really interesting." And then I sort of put it aside until I read Lionel Shriver's book. And I realized, of course, that what she's doing in that book is taking that disconnect and blowing it up large. Though she doesn't have a child herself. But listen, we all we don't have to have children to know that it's possible. Many people who have had that experience, not only as parents but as children,  know there are such mothers.

PK: Are there any studies about how often the bonding doesn't work?

TS: I am sure they have, I am sure they have. I think that in many senses there is a horrible situation - if we are going to get social realist,  which we shouldn't because this is not social commentary this is an entirely imaginary piece - in that, as I understand it,  the statistics for post partum suicide for mothers- have never been higher.

PK: And mothers are killing their children.

TS: And mothers are killing their children.

PK: That really makes people mad. But she's the victim here, and so there was one thing about the movie that didn't seem plausible, that the whole town would turn against here in that way.

TS: I'm afraid it is.  It's very interesting this recent massacre in Norway. I was tracking the moment when people starting asking questions about his mother, which was really, really soon.

PK: So this is the third part of what you're calling the  "Motherlode Trilogy." [including "I Am Love" (2011)


and "Julia." (2009)]

TS: Or you could extend the triptych and bring in "The Deep End" [2001].

PK: Is that it though?

TS: Yeah, that's it. I'm shutting up shop now.

PK: How is that Eight-and-a Half Foundation going? [her organization for donating films to children

TS: It's going really well. We're planning it in Scotland. The Scottish government is giving us money to run it in Scotland and at some point we would love it to be Europe-wide, and of course eventually we would like it be global. We would like to include children in Mogadishu, and Abu Dhabi, and Haifa- and wherever to dial in and tell us when their 8 ½ birthday is.

PK: Do you have a favorite children's film?

TS: How great- my favorite? At the moment- is a movie by Mohammad- Ali Talebi called "Bag of Rice." [1998] He's an Iranian film-maker.

PK: Yeah, Iranian children's movies are always-

TS: Well, it's very interesting when you have these restrictions put on cinematography on things you can't show, when you go- you go in and you perfect and explore a world of children's cinema.

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