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getting a real job

May 12, 2009

MO’R: I noticed in a recent interview you talked about your love of poetry, and even about wanting to be a poet. Do you have a favorite poet?

TILDA SWINTON: Well, I have this sort of awful guilty secret, which is, Meghan—which is that I was a poet, and I actually went to university as a poet. I originally studied social and political science. I got in—my entrance was quite unorthodox. I was given, granted an entry as a poet. But I stopped writing pretty much the second I arrived to Cambridge, and I’ve always felt very ashamed of it. I’ve started writing again since, but I’ve not written poetry. I’ve yet to creep back up onto poetry. My favorite poets. Oh, Lord. At the moment I would say Sorley MacClean, Matthew Smith, John Donne, William Carlos Williams. I’m rubbing my head as I’m speaking because I’m ashamed.

MO’R: No, no, no. You needn’t be full of shame. It’s not as if you’ve been doing nothing in the intervening years.

TILDA SWINTON: This is one of the reasons I find it uncomfortable to call myself an actor, because it feels like a distraction from what I really feel I should be doing. I feel that I have failed my original identity, which is to be a writer. And I’ve been hugely distracted by performing. But I’m trying not to. I’m trying to write and trying to get off the drug and go back to getting a real job as a poet.

MO’R: Oh, yes, those real jobs as poets. There are so many of them.

TILDA SWINTON: I do think it’s interesting that I became able to perform at the point at which I stopped writing. You know, particularly writing poetry. I mean, I think that the experience I had when I was 10 and I was sitting on the train—that was a screen performance realization, that realization that one can never know beyond someone’s face what he or she’s really experiencing. But I think it’s also a poet’s realization. And maybe I need to stop being a screen performer to write poetry again.

MO’R: Or maybe, as you’ve been saying about your own characters, you could have a multiplicity of identities.

TILDA SWINTON: Yes, Doctor, maybe I could. (Laughter)

(read interview)

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. May 13, 2009 6:22 am

    this is so interesting! i love her. she is one of my favourite actresses (together with Emma Thompson). and what she says about continuous transformation vs. fixing oneself in a single identity… i have always wanted to act- but it would have been impossible, i cannot sing or dance. which is, i think, a sine qua non.

  2. May 13, 2009 9:48 am

    Yes, the comments about identity and transformation are quite interesting, i debated which excerpt to post, so here is the other:

    TILDA SWINTON: Well, I don’t consciously seek out any roles. I consciously seek out conversations with filmmakers. I consciously seek out material, and very often that material will be about identity. Not gender identity, but I do realize, as time rolls on and I try to find the lowest common denominator of all my work, that I’m constantly thinking about transformation. I’m intrigued by the idea of pressures that people put themselves under (and are put under by society) to fix themselves in a single identity and not transform. I’m interested to take that position and place it within a story where that identity is challenged—where a precipice, if you like, is presented to that person. You transform, or you fail or you fall. You either change or you know you will perish, as it were. Maybe because I am a performer; maybe because I am an artist; maybe because I’m a freak, I don’t know. But it’s always occurred to me that transformation is inevitable and constantly available. And it’s never occurred to me to hang on to any identity for dear life and fight off anything else.

    (ps. i don’t think very many actors these days can sing or dance, so i wouldn’t let that stop you…)

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