Michael Clayton's Most Chilling Female Executive

Production Company: Samuels Media, Castle Rock Entertainment, Mirage Enterprises, Section Eight
Distributor: Warner Bros. Pictures
Producers: Sydney Pollack, Steven Samuels, Jennifer Fox, Kerry Orent
Director / Writer: Tony Gilroy
Cinematographer: Robert Elswit
Music Composer: James Newton Howard
Designer: Kevin Thompson

Michael Clayton: George Clooney
Arthur Edens: Tom Wilkinson
Karen Crowder: Tilda Swinton
Marty Bach: Sydney Pollack
Barry Grissom: Michael O’Keefe

What would the legal eco-thriller, Michael Clayton, be without the British actress from Cambridge University graduate, Tilda Swinton? Potentially dull. It is Swinton that plays the chilling, devious, corporate American Vice-President in Michael Clayton. Her character is contemptible. Her deeds are despicable. The audience hates the character. She is scary. She is remembered for her role as the queen of grim and evil in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe.

Yet, the spell-bounded audience always adores the actress. Swinton is enigmatic and mysterious. She is voraciously and fiercely intelligent. She is a rebel. She thirsts for the quirky, the unique, the abject and the off-centered roles. With her crisp voice, absence of vanity and fearlessly giantess stature, she could be mistaken as a man. She once noted, “The other day, I was going through the airport security and I was searched by a male security guard. I’m very often referred to as ‘Sir’ in elevators and such. I think it has to do with being this tall and not wearing much lipstick. I think people just can’t imagine I’d be a woman if I look like this.” Experimenting with identity, she has found interest in gender-bending roles, such as the angel Gabriel in Constantine and the Elizabethan nobleman in Orlando. Swinton is ghost-white pale and striking. Despite this disillusion, she is a true goddess.

Swinton acted briefly with the prestigious Royal Shakespeare Company before pursuing a film career. However, she never truly held a fondness for theatre, and would later learn that her acting career belonged in the world of film. The film repertoire of this Golden Globe Award-nominated actress is tastefully balanced between the bizarre arthouse and mainstream blockbuster films, such as Vanilla Sky, Adaptation and The Beach. Some of her unique arthouse film roles include those in the films Wittgenstein, Aria, The Last of England, and Love is the Devil: Study for a Portrait of Francis Bacon.

The film, Michael Clayton, is worth the engagement largely due to Swinton’s gripping performance. Swinton’s most stunning scenes involved her miserable speech rehearsals in front of a lonely mirror in her underwear and fat sags. Desperately ambition to the point of being driven to murder, the evil vice-president prepares her corporate speeches no differently than preparing for a war battle. She even rehearses her grin in front of the mirror. It is eerily chilling. Swinton is one of Hollywood’s most brilliant and gifted actresses. We must pray that that she will win next year’s Oscar award for “Best Supporting Actress.” From the raw core, Swinton exists in Hollywood as a true goddess and a true artist.

Vongova: Who would you credit as your acting teacher(s)?
Swinton: School bullies, Jacques Tati, the donkey in Bresson’s ‘Au Hasard, Balthasar’

Vongova: What did you most appreciate from your work experience with Derek Jarman?
Swinton: I most appreciate the valuing of process above product, the endless conversation, the emphasis on shared responsibility and self sufficiency, and the pricelessly good company.

Vongova: Who are your favorite actors?
Swinton: Roger Livesey, Margaret Rutherford, Delphine Seyrig, and Judy Holliday.

Vongova: What are your favorite films?
Swinton: Powell and Pressburger’s ‘I Know Where I’m Going’, Henry Hathaway’s ‘Peter Ibbetson’, Rossellini’s ‘Viaggio in Italia’, and Richard Linklater’s ‘School of Rock’.

Vongova: What are your favorite works of fiction literature?
Swinton: ‘Great Expectations’, Graham Greene, Muriel Spark, and Anton Chekhov.

Vongova: What are your favorite works of non-fiction literature?
Swinton: Jonathan Coe’s biography of B.S Johnston, the travel writing of Robert Byron, the poetry of Hafiz, and my children’s letters.

Vongova: You are clearly known for your collaborative attitude, and certainly not for holding a Hollywood mentality. Why are you so different from most Hollywood celebrities?
Swinton: Beats me.

Vongova: You are always willing to work on smaller Indies for artistic rather monetary rewards. Why?
Swinton: Life is too short.

Vongova: Why do you love film over theatre?
Swinton: I love the capacity of the camera to witness the un-watched; the smoke and mirrors of film; the practicality, the technicality, the science, the scrutiny, the privacy, the democracy possible on a healthy film set; the long range forecast.

November 13, 2007
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