'Trainwreck's' Tilda Swinton on How a "Tandoori Tan" and Carine Roitfeld Shaped Her Magazine Editor Character

Tilda Swinton Split - H 2015
AP Images/Invision; Courtesy of Universal Pictures

Tilda Swinton Split - H 2015

The Oscar-winning actress explains how she created Amy Schumer's character's boss and what her Dianna connects with in the fictional Amy.

In Amy Schumer's new movie Trainwreck, Oscar winner Tilda Swinton is nearly unrecognizable as Dianna, the men's magazine editor boss to Schumer's character, also named Amy.

Trading her normal porcelain skin and short platinum-blonde hair for a tanned exterior and wavy light brown bob with blonde highlights, Swinton, who's well-known for her dramatic roles in films like Michael Clayton and Snowpiercer, gets laughs for Dianna's indifference to both her S'Nuff employees' emotions and matter-of-fact attitude toward articles about things like "whether garlic makes semen taste any different."

Swinton tells The Hollywood Reporter that after talking with director Judd Apatow about the character, she went away for a couple of months to try to figure out, "Who on earth could this woman be who had started this magazine?"

"She felt like to me that she had to be so numb, really numb," Swinton adds, noting that magazines like S'Nuff really do exist.

"We turned up the volume a little bit on S'Nuff, but it's not that far off, the kind of landscape of spiritless cynicism that's out there," she says.

She also recognizes the role that S'Nuff and it's ethos play in the movie and in Schumer's character's journey.

"The magazine is kind of a really important engine in the story because it's sort of the seventh circle of hell where all of this cynicism and passionless-ness, kind of unfeelingness, resides," Swinton explains.

In creating the character of Dianna, Swinton says she started with her look, specifically her orange-y complexion.

"I think I started thinking about her tan, actually, because I wanted to make a sort of disguise for myself, and I started to think if I kind of had this tandoori tan, it just made me laugh," she explains. "I think the tan was the beginning of all of it. It all started in a bottle."

As she further nailed down Dianna's appearance and how her look affected her personality, Swinton invoked former French Vogue editor Carine Roitfeld and Victoria Beckham.

"I had this idea that she was styling herself on Carine Roitfeld … and that somebody once probably said she looked a bit like Carine, but she doesn't look anything like Carine," Swinton says. "She studied photographs of Carine and her eye makeup, and she's taken herself into hairdressers with the photograph of Carine and said make me look like that. And, of course, she doesn't look anything like Carine and this is not meant to be an insult to Carine. She's that woman. She's the woman who's trying to look like somebody who's the editor of French Vogue — and failing. And she dresses in Victoria Beckham. That was another kind of important moment when I realized that she had to dress like Victoria Beckham for some reason. She's wearing Victoria Beckham's designs because she thinks that she's that kind of high-performing, Teflon character."

In the film, Dianna seems to take a liking to Amy, despite dishing out what Swinton admits are "backhanded compliments" like calling her, "pretty-ish" and "approachable." And she's the one who assigns Amy the profile of Bill Hader's sports doctor, over her objections, that leads Amy and Hader's Aaron to meet.

"I think the touching thing, which is also kind of sad, [is that] there's something in Dianna that is so burned out and numb — and we've got no idea how she came to be that way but we can fantasize — [yet] she still has the spark to notice Amy," Swinton says of Dianna's attitude toward Amy. "To a certain extent I think she's a bit envious of Amy because I think she can see that Amy's not numb, Amy's still alive. … Maybe it's that old cliche that Amy reminds her of herself when she was younger. I think she really digs Amy. She sees that there's something going on there."

Swinton, who has since become close friends with Schumer, met the comedian on Trainwreck after being a "devoted fan of hers for as long as I could steal her shows and stand-up and see what I could." And she says that the combination of being able to work with Apatow, which she had long wanted to do, and that Trainwreck was Schumer's film was what made her want to get involved with the project.

Actually working with Apatow, and being part of his loose, improvisational process, Swinton says, was "really fascinating."

"There's something really molten on the set," she explains. "You have this sort of extraordinary script, which feels really tight and done, but then he kind of throws it around and encourages you to throw it around and improvise and basically amuse each other. … We had a really great time, and everybody was kind of alive. We were all having to think on our feet about what might be the next amusing thing to say or do and that was a real trip for me because I'd never worked in that way before, and certainly not with that kind of crowd. That was a pretty stellar group we had working in that office."

Trainwreck is currently in theaters. Watch a featurette about S'Nuff below.