Friends give Tilda Swinton alcoholic inspiration


June 18, 2010 Updated May 5, 2009 at 9:11 AM EDT

* Swinton wins rave reviews for performance in "Julia"

* Says Oscar helps her with independent films

* No interest in stage roles

By Michelle Nichols

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British actress Tilda Swinton
says drinking just makes her sleepy or sick so when seeking
inspiration to play a loud, hard-partying alcoholic in her
latest film, she turned to her friends.

The self-confessed "art world freak," who won a best
supporting actress Oscar last year for "Michael Clayton," plays
a 40-year-old flamboyant, lying alcoholic in "Julia," which
opens in some U.S. theaters on Friday.

"I'm so aware very often when you see alcoholism in films,
people tend to emphasize something that I don't really
recognize in the alcoholics I know and love, which is a kind of
loser quality," Swinton told Reuters in a recent interview.

"I don't think of alcoholics as losers, particularly.
Alcoholics tend to number the most energetic and fantastic
people I know. So I was always thinking it would be nice to
look at that kind of portrait," she said.

Swinton, 48, confessed that due to her own drinking
experience -- "If I get drunk, I throw up or I go to sleep,"
the actress said -- she was concerned as to whether she could
successfully "stagger around being drunk" in the film.

"But once I started, I realized that I've actually been
doing that for years because my friends are drunk and I pretend
to be drunk," said Swinton, who lives in the Scottish Highlands
with artist John Byrne and their 11-year-old boy and girl

The film directed by Erick Zonca, which premiered at the
2008 Berlin International Film Festival, was released last year
in Britain and some European countries. It follows Julia as she
commits a crime after a chance encounter with a Mexican woman.


Swinton's performance received strong reviews, with The
Telegraph newspaper in London saying she was "unmissable,"
London's Metro newspaper that she gave a "powerhouse
performance" and The Mirror newspaper said it was "truly

"I wanted a woman full of life," French director Zonca told
Reuters. "I always thought about (Tilda Swinton). I love the
way she appears in movies. What I really like is her energy and
her body ... She was really my first choice."

Despite roles in Hollywood films including "Michael
Clayton" and "The Chronicles of Narnia" series, Swinton says
independent films like "Julia" are where she feels most at

"This constituency is where I live really. Me being in big
Hollywood movies is such a recent development. That's not where
I live, that's a tourist destination for me," said Swinton, who
also appears in director Jim Jarmusch's "The Limits of
Control," which opened in some U.S. theaters last week.

She says winning an Academy Award has helped her career in
independent films as the industry struggles amid the financial
crisis. "I won a big prize and that apparently for some strange
reason makes it easier for people to give money to independent
films I'm involved with," she said.

But there is one place you are unlikely to find Swinton any
time soon -- the stage.

"I'm not one of those performers who says the theater is my
great love," she said. "It really isn't. I'm not really
interested in the theater at all to be honest. I don't go to
it. I find it really boring."
(Reporting by Michelle Nichols, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and
David Storey)

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