Paul Fischer: Do you need to be empathetic towards a character who is primarily unsympathetic?
Tilda Swinton: You know it’s hard to imagine a human being whom one can’t find some sympathy for. But I’m not a performer who needs to love my characters or whatever they say. That’s not an issue for me. I mean all a character is, is a set of behaviours and a set of actions so you can pick up the story. I think that she has looked at a lot of photographs of Condoleezza Rice and probably took a photograph of her into the hairdresser in the Hilton Hotel in Manhattan at the very end of the film when she’s putting together her power look and said ‘I want that one’. You know, she’s an officer, a solider and she wears a uniform. And women in those jobs unashamedly conform to a type. They have to, because you can virtually get sacked for wearing the wrong shoes in that kind of world. So I walked around uptown New York and looked into various offices and saw what the vibe was.
Paul Fischer: This is a film about power and ambition —
Tilda Swinton: I suppose it is, but I feel that more accurately it’s about a kind of addiction. That’s what I feel having seen it again last night, because thinking about it, you know, addiction is a very important subtext to the film. Not only do we have Clayton and his gambling addiction and his brother with his drug and alcohol addiction, but you also have the addiction of someone like Karen Crowder or Tom Wilkinson’s character, Arthur Edens, or Sydney Pollack’s character, Marty Bach, who are to be addicted to the idea that it’s a good thing to deal in billions of dollars. These are campaigns that human beings can go into without actually wrecking their souls. That’s an addiction, so I think the film is not so much about the power as anaesthesia, about how these people, and we all wonder this, particularly those of us who don’t work in those worlds, you sort of think ‘How is it possible for those people to do the things they do, to bandy around billions of dollars, to strike deals which write-off people’s lives?’
Paul Fischer: This is a film about addiction and there was a time when you were probably addicted to the idea of acting and that was your passion. Have your priorities changed now as a mother? Are you less passionate about the profession that you might have once been?
Tilda Swinton: You see I was never addicted. I’ve never been addicted to acting. Acting is something that I have relatively little interest in. If I’m addicted to anything I would say, I’ve always been a paid up film fan and the idea of being able to make film is still truly thrilling to me. That hasn’t changed at all. If anything, and my modus operandi has not only not changed but it’s crystallized, because I was, as you know, spoiled very early. I started working with one filmmaker, Derek Jarman, for nine years on seven films and I learned very early to get a really low pain threshold and work with my friends, and I feel happy while working. And I have never, fortunately, had to move outside of that, even with the death of Derek Jarman, on it goes for me. I’m so blessed. I keep running into people who become new friends and that family atmosphere. I wouldn’t call it an addiction, but those are my terms of engagement and fortunately I am still able to keep them going even with people I’ve never met before.