Wednesday, November 18

Leading Ladies #1- Tilda Swinton and that, well just that...

Recently, I've found myself fielding questions from friends who wonder or are sometimes even alarmed at some of my choices of favourite actresses. Bulge-eyed amazement giving way to a shake of the head and a peripheral glance of worry is not an unusual reaction. I do not mind. In a pretentious way, I like having a quirky taste in actresses which does not conform to the word-on-the-street trend. For instance, I do not see what all the hoopla is about Megan Fox. I barely noticed her in the first Transformers instalment, even though I did find her more attractive for being less vampish; in the second Transformers her sexiness was a belaboured as the boring movie itself.

I'll be the first to acknowledge the strangeness of some of my choices seeing as they are too old to fall into the category of bootylicious bombshells headlined by your Scarlett Johanssons and those Gossip Girls. I'll also admit that being turned on automatically by red hair has that 'serial killer' ring to it. However, my more unusual screen loves are easy to explain. This is why I am kickstarting this brand new weekly comment on some of the women who make my cinema experience so much the sweeter. I present to you Leading Lady numero uno: 49 year-old Tilda Swinton, the crop-haired, gender-bending Cambridge graduate with a flair for the bizarre.

I assume she was born Matilda Swinton. Perhaps she wasn't and her parents were fully aware that not even they, flush with the powers of circumscription afforded any parent over their child, could straitjacket this fiery-headed woman into the type of, what may I call it- sweet simplicity that that name suggests. Even if they didn't know beforehand, they would have cottoned on when she burst out on Guy Fawkes Day no less. Bonfire Night. She is now noted for her iconic portrayal of the White Witch in the Chronicles of Narnia and her Oscar-winning turn in Michael Clayton- both mainstream characters- but it is her working partnership with the gay experimentalist director Derek Jarman and her willingness to play men (Mozart, Orlando) that provided her with her reputation as a left field performer willing to take on daring roles without ever compromising her true identity be it as a thesp or in her personal life.

Maybe it was news that she keeps a lover at the same time as (and to the full knowledge of) the father of her twin children, a bit in the Michael Gambon mould, that pricked my antenna and tuned them fully into her mystery. Nontheless, I have admired her austerity and frozen wit since I saw her play a rogue angel Gabriel with stumps for wings in the playful blockbuster Constantine opposite another strange choice of favourite, Keanu Reeves. And snarling roles as entirely unseductive affairees in Burn After Reading and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button only served to enhance her appeal to me. I love a woman who exudes sexy without having to try. She has those suffer-no-fools eyes and that regal gait, that beanpole body and nuanced fashion sense (to be kind), and altogether that combination prods at my nerve-endings with frissons of excitement. Of the kind that delights in being far away from the bandwagon.

Tilda Swinton appears in an adaptation of the critically acclaimed novel We Need To Talk About Kevin  (in pre- production). Until then, catch her in The Limits Of Control by Jim Jarmusch alongside Bill Murray, John Hurt, Gael Garcia Bernal and the screen force that is Isaach De Bankole (see Casino Royale).

TRIVIA: Swinton garnered acclaim for her 1995 art installation 'The Maybe'. She has sat on the juries of both the Venice and Sundance Film Festivals.

NEXT WEDNESDAY: Cate Blanchett and that voice

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