Queer fave Tilda Swinton plays mom to a gay kid (again) in ‘I Am Love’

LAWRENCE FERBER | Contributing Writer lawrencewferber@hotmail.com

Tilda Swinton

TILDA END OF TIME | Swinton spent 11 years getting ‘I Am Love’ to the screen; it opens at the Angelika today.

Playing an uber-shady corporate exec in Michael Clayton, Tilda Swinton snagged an Oscar for best supporting actress, but she grabbed the gay community’s devotion long before claiming Hollywood’s.

In I Am Love, Swinton portrays Emma, a matriarch who has an affair with a sexy young chef at the same time she learns of her daughter’s homosexuality. It’s an otherworldly film rich with references to a diverse roster of cinematic masters.

En route to a location, Swinton discussed Love, gay children, and how a man called Oscar affected her life.

Opens Friday at the Angelika Film Center Mockingbird Station.

Dallas Voice: I Am Love is not easy to describe. It’s like a film from the other side. Swinton: I hope you’re going to write that verbatim! A film from the other side, I love that. We were trying to distill the work of all those great masters to some sort of lowest common denominator, boil down the soup to its basic ingredients. The thing those filmmakers all have in common is they’re kind of sensational, meaning sense-sational. They’re all about whether you’re on the edge of your seat with Hitchcock, or having your heart broken by Douglas Sirk or having your eyes burned by the beauty of Visconti. Whatever it is, you’re really awake in a sensual and sensory way. You have to experience it.

What does the role of Emma represent to you as far as your body of work to date? She has a relationship to Margaret in The Deep End and a relationship in a way to Orlando because she transforms. I love looking at stories of people who have transformations, when they actually morph into some other state. One of the things I love about Emma is, she’s genuinely quiet in a way I feel I haven’t had an opportunity to show before, which is maybe something my family and friends would recognize more in me.

You’ve played a mother to young gays a couple of times now. Somebody’s got to do it. I would rather it was me. I love the coming out scene in this film. It’s the dream coming out scene.

How should a mother react to their child coming out? I have a personal difficulty understanding why it would be a problem for a mother. So that for me is a bit of an adventure to imagine what those challenges might be because naturally I don’t get it. Apart from anything else, the whole question of one’s child being honest enough with one that they would share that development, one should be grateful.

You’re a mother of twins. And if one or both came out? I have either a little bit of my brain missing or extra — I don’t get why it would be a problem.

Did winning the Oscar change your life and career? The only real change the Oscar brought to me is that people ask me what change it has brought me about three times a week. I struggle to find any other thing except that, because every [project] I’ve done since then I was going to do anyway. But if more people see I Am Love than would’ve before I got the Oscar, or if we found out we got the money for our new film because it was bumped along by the Oscar, then I will take that and be grateful and have no complaints.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 25, 2010.