Swinton takes her bow in Berlin

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BERLIN -- British actress Tilda Swinton has emerged as an early front-runner for best actress in Berlin after her all-consuming performance as an alcoholic kidnapper in the competition title "Julia."

The movie, from French director Erick Zonca, unspooled here Saturday and got only a muted reception on its first press screening. But Swinton, her short hair swept back in a flame, was greeted with sustained applause and several cheers upon her entry at the subsequent news conference.

Despite her convincing portrayal as a lush, the actress said that real-life boozing was not part of her preparation for the role.

"I'm a completely hopeless drunk. I can't drink. I sleep. But I've been hanging out with drunks my whole life -- it's all the preparation you need," Swinton said. She added, "It's just dress up and play, not some sort of deep psychological exercise."

Swinton paid glowing tribute to Zonca as the kind of modernist filmmaker she wants to work with, describing his style as "compassionate amorality."

"I'm so happy to work with him. He makes a cinema of zoology. He puts the kind of cameras that zoologists put down a burrow when baby voles are being born. It's that observational," she said.

The other star of the news conference was 10-year-old Aidan Gould, who plays a kidnap victim, which involved being bound with duct tape, tied to radiators and having guns waved in his face by crazed Mexicans.

"Actors can be pretty scary sometimes, and Tilda's no exception, but I wasn't scared because it's a movie," Gould said with a self-assurance that impressed the gathered journalists.

As for his plans, Gould said: "I'll be 11 at the end of this month. I'm going to stay an actor. It started just to pay for college. People say I'm good at it, so I'm going to stay doing it."

Swinton also paid tribute to late director Derek Jarman -- the subject of the documentary "Derek," which screens in the Panorama section -- citing him as the kind of filmmaker that young cineastes of today should be aware of.

Swinton is being given a special Teddy Award -- the Berlinale's queer honor -- this year to mark her work with Jarman, with whom she made seven films.
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