Mystery has always surrounded Tilda Swinton’s personal life, particularly in matters of romance. The actor prefers to keep it that way. Rumors that she and her two children lived with both her ex-partner, the artist John Byrne, and her more recent one, the painter Sandro Kopp, swirled for years before Swinton shut them down. (“It’s very boring and it’s important to rectify, because there’s some fantasy about us all living in a big hut together,” she said in 2010.)
But in a new interview with British Vogue, which accompanies a cover photographed by Kate Moss’s boyfriend, Nikolai Von Bismarck, Swinton got candid about her idnentity more generally. “I’m very clear that queer is actually, for me anyway, to do with sensibility,” she told the playwright Jeremy O. Harris. “I always felt I was queer—I was just looking for my queer circus, and I found it. And having found it, it’s my world.”
That world, Swinton continued, is chiefly in cinema: “Now I have a family with Wes Anderson, I have a family with Bong Joon-ho, I have a family with Jim Jarmusch, I have a family with Luca Guadagnino, with Lynne Ramsay, with Joanna Hogg.” She’s particularly comfortable with the latter, whom she allowed to cast her daughter Honor Swinton Byrne in The Souvenir, marking her cinematic debut.
Swinton’s own debut was the first of many collaborations with the director Derek Jarman, and thereby the first of many explorations of gender and sexuality. Her breakout role, in 1992’s Orlando, was as a person who suddenly transforms into a woman after spending hundreds of years living as a man. In a way, Swinton relates to the titular character: “I can categorically say that as Orlando does in the film: Yes, I’m probably a woman,” she said in 2009, describing identity as a “very personal matter.”
Not all of Swinton’s adopted family comes from film. “I did have this beautiful connection with Karl Lagerfeld,” she told Harris. “Which was kind of mysterious to me because I was a jumbo shrimp, as my friend once called me, and he was working in this whole different exotic empire. That’s what brought me into my relationship with Chanel, which continues to be really inspiring for me.”