VENICE — Stepping on the rooftop terrace of the St. Regis hotel here at sunset, with the city and its Grand Canal unfolding below and pink streaks elevating the natural spectacle in the sky, a sense of majesty and calm were a powerful force that on Monday could silence even the frenzy caused by Harry Style’s arrival at Lido.
The elegant figure of Tilda Swinton advancing on the terrace in her powder blue and white Chanel couture spring 2022 look matched the serene vibe. Yet Swinton took some artistic license, adding an unexpected twist by putting a neon yellow streak on a tuft of her slicked-back hairdo.
The actress touched down in Venice to present her latest movie “The Eternal Daughter,” directed by longtime friend Joanna Hogg. On the eve of the premiere on Tuesday, Swinton attended an intimate soirée hosted by Chanel at Harry’s Bar. Before heading to the location, she sat down with WWD to offer a preview of what to expect from the film and discuss why working with friends is the best way to do this job for her.
“This is such a special film for me,” said Swinton. “I’ve known Joanna for the longest in my life and she and I have been dreaming things up together for many, many years as children and as teenagers, as young filmmakers.”
Among these memories are trips to Venice around age 20, when the duo pretended “to be grownups and we would save all our money and have a Bellini at the Danieli. And here we are [now], we are pinching ourselves that we have our film, which is such a personal one about our mothers.”
In the movie Swinton plays filmmaker Julie Harte, a character that viewers of her previous works “The Souvenir” and “The Souvenir: Part II,” also directed by Hogg, are familiar with, as it was interpreted by the actress’ own daughter Honor Swinton-Byrne.
“This is Julie Harte, 25 years later, taking her mother Rosalind to celebrate her 75th birthday in a hotel, which used to be a house that Rosalind knew very well when she was a child. So it has this sort of emotional significance to take her back to this place. And it’s a few days between mother and daughter.”
Swinton teased of a dreamy dimension, but also used the same term to describe the filmmaking process “made in a kind of fever dream, because it was made during COVID-19.”
“We just decided to go for it and do it in this very small bubble, with a very small crew, in Wales, in a house,” she recalled, marveling over the fact they actually managed to do it.
Known for interpreting a wide spectrum of roles, each with a precise and striking aesthetic, Swinton underscored the role of clothes in communicating characters.
“There’s a sort of shorthand to the spirit of someone by demonstrating the choices that they make. And you have to work very fast with a film. You have 90 minutes, maybe two hours, so you have to work very quickly to introduce the audience to this person,” noted the actress, highlighting that every detail, from shoes and fabrics to color palette, facilitate the process.
“I think all costume designers will tell you that for the cinema it is very important to kind of lay down that code very early in a film. And so with ‘The Eternal Daughter,’ it was very important… also because in this film we’re looking at the relationship between mother and daughter, so we’re looking at the ways in which the daughter positions herself differently and similarly to the mother. And so that was a really interesting and deep game to play,” she added.
For the role of Harte, Swinton worked with costume designer Grace Snell, with whom she already collaborated on Hogg’s previous movies.
If her on-screen characters’ style has always made an impression, Swinton has proven she’s even more daring in serving memorable looks off-set and on the red carpet, with her bold choices standing the test of time. Yet the actress downplayed her “relationship with fashion as such,” pointing to the fortune of having “close friends who make very beautiful clothes and they sometimes let me wear them” instead.
With a collaboration that kicked off almost a decade ago, Chanel is part of this inner circle. Swinton said one of the pleasures of the tie-ups is the development of the relationship and of the codes through the years. “It is really a conversation, and to have it with a house like Chanel is extraordinary because the riches, the archive, the dedication to the new in within the kind of paradigm of the old is very exciting. And I love that it doesn’t feel like fashion,” she said.
Cue to her favorite piece from the brand: a boiler suit she was first introduced to many years ago on shoot with Tim Walker in Iceland. “It is what I wear all winter. If I’m not wearing a kilt, I’m wearing this boiler suit, because you can wear it over two pairs of trousers and three jerseys because it’s massive. It’s like a sort of canvas, a tent. I love it.”
After the premiere in Venice, Swinton will continue to work on two other films, including the long-standing project “The End,” a musical about the end of the world she’s been developing with Joshua Oppenheimer.
Another, likewise long-gestating project is a film “that I’ve been talking to one of my best friends about since 1986 and we’re finally going to make it,” said Swinton about a meditational film set in Fiji and directed by Cynthia Beatt.
Once again, friendly ties favor her choices when it comes to new projects. “I really don’t look for roles, I look for people and the conversations that we might have,” she said.
“I was very spoiled very early, I knew how great it was to work with friends and, and to create work with friends. So I’m very seldom in a position where a film comes to me and I’m choosing the role. Normally what happens is I’m talking with my friends and out of that conversation will come what I might do in it,” she continued.
“So it’s always the people and the curiosity. And the wonderful thing about working with friends is that you kind of spark each other on into the new, you follow your noses and what you’re curious about at the moment. Usually things that you don’t know how to do, you can approach with friends. With people you don’t know, then maybe you have to be a little more sure. And I don’t particularly enjoy being sure, I like following my nose, especially hand-in-hand with someone I love, and then we just figure it out. It’s an adventure,” concluded Swinton.