NYFF: Tilda Swinton Talks Vampire Love In ‘Only Lovers Left Alive’

Tilda Swinton is one of those actresses that’s incredibly hard to pin down. From her striking looks to her various roles, Swinton has made her career by being a chameleon. Swinton has tackled a neglectful mother, a villainous white witch, and even took up residence at MoMA for a performance art piece. Going back to the realm of phantasma, Swinton can be seen in Jim Jarmusch’s Only Lovers Left Alive. For the film, Swinton is the center of androgyny as she plays Eve, one half of a vampire couple whose love has transcended centuries.

For Only Lovers Left Alive Swinton plays a “snobbish” vampire who spends her time listening to rock music, waxing poetic about her time with Lord Byron, and being in love with her vampire partner Adam (Tom Hiddleston). Through her deadpan nature, Swinton delivers a performance that’s truly refreshing for an otherwise tired vampire genre. The most interesting part of Only Lovers Left Alive is the story, which proves to be equal parts dark as it is funny. For this vampire-twisting film, the love between two vampires explores uncharted territory. We aren’t watching two vampires fall in love with each other, they’re already there, and have been there for years and years. They have seemingly gotten over the squishiness of love. What’s most enjoyable about this vampire tale is the daily nitpicking Eve does with Adam, and the banter they share. Oddly enough it’s because of this quality, that makes Only Lovers Left Alive pretty relatable, except for the whole drinking blood thing.

Tilda Swinton, although a little late, was on hand at the New York Film Festival for a press conference for Only Lovers Left Alive. The Inquisitr’s Niki Cruz attended the conference.

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On portraying romantic love that spans centuries

TILDA SWINTON: Those relationships are about rebooting one’s connection and the reasons to not get really depressed and sit in your underpants all day and do nothing else. Those relationships are about that feeling of being there in support. We were all so clear that what we wanted was a couple that really felt familiar, in a way that you do long after you’ve first been fancying each other and just end up in bed for a long time. It’s about people who have really, really talked constantly about everything.

On portraying a new love story for cinema

SWINTON: Eve says at one point, ‘You love telling me stuff about all the fancy people you used to know.’ That’s one of those things she’s learned to put up with and love. We talked about texture and a really, really long friendship. We also noticed that we hadn’t necessarily seen that; a man and a woman who obviously really fancy each other still, but really, really love talking to each other as well. So we kind of cut that off by the yard.

On the challenges of filming

SWINTON: The biggest challenge for us was that we wanted to make this film for quite a while, and we had to be really patient. But once we started shooting, as always, when you’ve been developing something for a while, it’s like cream. ‘Oh wow there’s a camera, there are colleagues, there’s a schedule with a call sheet, there’s catering.’ It’s just like Christmas every day. But it was a challenge having patience, and pacing our energies for the years Jim was talking to me about making this film. Personally, it’s a challenge for me to know that Jim isn’t making a film every year, because that’s what I want. So that is literally the only challenge I can think of.

On creating the specific look for the character

SWINTON: It was a real leap of the imagination to free ourselves from anything that felt tied to any one time. We were making a bouquet, so we wanted to make it look like they had lived through all of these times. So if you put too much of one flower in a bouquet, it tends to overwhelm. You just need to smörgåsbord all these references, but for them to never look fashionable. I mean, they are too snobbish to be fashionable, let’s face it, too snobbish to be snobs. Jim was really clear with us and Bina (Daigeler), the great costume designer, trying to kind of strip all the elements from any contemporary or any remotely fashion reference. Although it had to feel like it could have been at any time.