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UPI Spotlight: Tilda Swinton says David Bowie was an inspiration for her 'Bigger Splash' singer

"She is not just any old rock star. She's for real. She's one for the ages," Swinton said of playing fictional recording artist Marianne Lane in the film.

By Karen Butler
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UPI Spotlight: Tilda Swinton says David Bowie was an inspiration for her 'Bigger Splash' singer
"A Bigger Splash" star Tilda Swinton arrives at a photo call for "Only Lovers Left Alive" during the 66th annual Cannes International Film Festival on May 25, 2013. File Photo by David Silpa/UPI | License Photo

NEW YORK, May 4 (UPI) -- British actress Tilda Swinton reveals David Bowie was one of the artists she looked to when creating her latest character Marianne -- an occasionally androgynous, pop-music icon fond of glittery makeup and jumpsuits for the stage -- for the film A Bigger Splash.

"He was, of course, one of the artists that I thought about. Not the only one at all because I don't want to mislead anybody to think that he was a particular reference, but anybody who wears a sequined jumpsuit for the rest of time is going to be riffing on David Bowie, no question," the 55-year-old movie star told UPI at a recent roundtable interview with reporters in New York.

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"[Bowie] wrote the book about placing a persona out there when he created Ziggy Stardust. That was distinct from himself and, of course, that is a great tradition. And that is a way to go as an artist. Not only a musical artist, but it is a way to go and he really, par excellence, exemplified the health of the distance between that and his domestic life. Penelope says at one point to Marianne, 'You are very domesticated for a rock star.' And we wanted to show that [Marianne] was one of those consummate artists who managed to place something up in the sky, far away from her authentic self as a construct. He was definitely a master of that."

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The film follows Marianne to a remote, Italian island, as she recuperates from throat surgery and enjoys a simple life with her handsome, young boyfriend Paul, played by Matthias Schoenaerts. Their holiday is disrupted by the arrival of Marianne's bombastic, hedonistic, record-producer, ex Harry, played by Ralph Fiennes, who refuses to respect the fact that Marianne must rest her voice if she ever wants to sing again. Accompanying Harry is Dakota Johnson's Penelope, the gorgeous adult daughter Harry only recently learned he fathered.

So, what was it like to play an artist whose instrument is failing her, causing her to stare into a bleak future of possibly not doing what she loves?

"I can't imagine what it is to be an artist who has an instrument," Swinton replied. "I mean, imagine that and needing to protect it. I know artists. I know musicians who have that task, you know, that treasure that they have to look after and I've also known musicians who have had that operation and been on that precipice and wondered whether it was ever going to come back. Yeah, it was really interesting. It's an interesting thing with musicians. Musicians and dancers. They have a thing that they must protect and without that thing, they have to think again. We, cinema artists, could probably do what we do if we lost our legs or our sight. We'd adjust."

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To illustrate how adored Marianne is, director Luca Guadagnino asked an Italian performer if the cast and crew could film a flashback scene before one of his concerts, essentially borrowing the 70,000 fans who were waiting at the stadium for him to take the stage.

"And then we come on and say, 'Ahem, we're making a movie and I'm going to play Marianne Lane and will you please do us the favor, when I come out, of being pleased to see me and shouting my name?' And they could have done anything," Swinton acknowledged. "They could have booed or they could have thrown stuff and our 15 minutes would have been spent that way, but they were so kind and they went for it. So, that's real what you hear -- Marianne Lane! Marianne Lane! Marianne Lane! It was a very interesting gesture because we wanted to find something that indicated the legend that she is. She is not just any old rock star. She's for real. She's one for the ages."

Loosely based on the French film La Piscine, A Bigger Splash is in theaters now.

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