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Tilda Swinton: 'We Need Kamikaze Dedication'

Tilda Swinton

Tilda Swinton just killed Edinburgh's film awards, but some would kill to get her another Oscar.

On Wednesday, Edinburgh Film Festival curator Swinton vowed to quit giving out film awards there, but she's still a well-respected long-shot contender for a best actress Oscar for I Am Love, her odds upped this week by a London Film Critics nom for best actress.

"We need kamikaze dedication from distributors," Swinton says by phone from Scotland. "When you think of the competition -- Black Swan, let alone Social Network -- we're Daniel in the lions' den, David and Goliath. It's not a proper sport. It's not fair! It's a game."

She played and won for Michael Clayton in 2008, comparing her Oscar statuette's buttocks to her agent Brian Swardstrom's. She's dedicated to helping the new film she spent 11 years making, but doesn't know how to repeat the Oscar campaign feat. "I have no idea, but then who does? It's a complete magical mystery tour that there is no science to. It's like the fictional game they place on the BBC Radio 4 show I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue, where there are no rules, but everybody pretends there are and invent them, though they're all just nonsense. All this Oscarology -- I don't know if the Academy is affected by all this running and jumping. But someone's got to just take that leap off that rooftop and play that game."

The film, about a middle-aged mother's illicit, family-shattering love for a close friend of her son, is no game, however. "It's about passion as an option, a choice, and I suppose passionlessness as a choice." Swinton's character's husband stands for the sensible, nonsensuous marriage. "One can choose to live with passion or without it. I believe that there is something healthy about acknowledging that mothers grow too."

But Swinton high-mindedly refused to see I Am Love sold primarily as a romance. "We wanted it to be about a family, and how a family works. The whole story, nature in all its brutality, involving the death of a child, and torturous guilt. It was never highlit in marketing that it's a love story. We didn't want people to be misled. We wanted to hide some joker up our sleeve, if not two." Indeed, the film could have been titled with a quote from Freud: The Family Romance.

Swinton is happy to play the Oscar game to avoid repeating her experience with Julia, the 2008 Berlin Golden Bear and Cesar nominee that couldn't catch fire. "Magnolia was not in a position to make more than a handful of prints. We had audience resonse, but we just couldn't get people to see it."

"To my mind, this whole brouhaha, it's all about drumming up interest. If I were a distributor, I would put out my films at this time to give people a reminder when the Oscars come around."

Swinton says Oscar fever seldom scorches Scotland. "We don't get it. It's a spell that doesn't cross the oceans. It's not the Nobel Peace Prize. But  even the Nobel Peace Prize isn't the Nobel Peace Prize anymore. I like MacArthur grants, where the judges could be anybody and nobody knows until they've won." If she's home, she won't be watching the Oscars. "I don't have a TV."


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