Swinton takes the plunge at Q&A

By Jack Foley

TILDA Swinton, star of the superb psychological thriller, The Deep End, has impressed critics on both sides of the Atlantic with her affecting portrayal of a mother battling to protect her son from the clutches of evil, get-rich-quick blackmailers, fronted by ER's Goran Visjnic.

She recently attended a Q&A session at BAFTA that was hosted by Alan Morrison and Indielondon have chosen the highlights from the session to give readers a greater insight into this cracking little movie.

On the surface it looks like unusual casting because if you are thinking of an actress to play an American woman who has a teenage son you don't automatically think of you. What was the edge that Scott and David made to you that made you believe yeah, they think I'm the right person for this?

It true that whenever I'm in LA these days I'm sort of in fear of my life because since this film opened I think of all the actresses from 32 up, who with good reason complain about their parts. The thing that made me want to do this film was David and Scott. They sent me a script and that was enough for me to want to meet them. And what made me want to do it was partly because of the dialogue that we'd started to have together. We shared so many references and ideas, and the whole landscape of the film started to buzz between us.

We started to talk about a place in the sun within the first five minutes. It was important that our references were similar, and even though I had never met them before, we became very fast friends very quickly so I knew that we were going to be able to have a dialogue for however long it was. And I was right - we continued and we continue to do so. In fact we're trying to make another film together.

Its interesting for people to see this film when it has the Twentieth Century Fox logo at the beginning as they might think it's a studio picture but of course its not. You were still be quite involved talking with Scott and David through that whole period after the film was made and it was picked up; Can you tell us more about that now.

Well I am really, really happy about the release of this film. Filmmakers who are still literate, but who really do want more than five and a half people to see their films, and who are interested in going back to their roots to look at, and really try and work out how they worked, but not in a fashionable slick way but in a really educated and consequent way.

One of the things we are all very happy about with this film, was that it was made for under $2 million, and that was entirely privately raised by Scott and David and my partner Rob with their own independent company based in San Francisco.

I can't even begin, and wouldn't want to begin to describe to you the difficulties of making this film, and it was then picked up by Fox Searchlight for a lot of money and a lot of people world-wide are thinking of it as a Hollywood film. And at the same time that you're getting a lot of brainpower, you're getting a very old fashioned story. Something very conventional, but its actually quite power-driven.

I know you're been working with Spike Jonze recently on his follow-up to Being John Malkovich, but what have you got coming up?

The reason that I have made all of those films is because the filmmakers asked me and they came up with ideas that seemed to be better than other ideas, but they were all to do with personal contact. Spike Jonze asked me specifically to go and provide what can be described as a kind of Mascot presence in his film.

He thinks more highly of the kind of British Cinema that I was involved in the 80's and 90's. I think he really knows it, and he's seen it, and one of the good things about having worked for a while is that I know that people can research what they're getting from me.

I am preparing to make what I suppose you could call a British film, but I think of it as a Scottish film as it's based in Glasgow. It's an adaptation of Alexander Trockies Young Adam, which David Mackenzie, who's a first time feature filmmaker, is going to make. We're very proud of that project and we hope to make it in the spring.


Q: Did the filmmakers refer to original film when making this one?

TS: The fact is that we, I don't want to say it was like a ghost because that makes it sound like it was a threat of some kind, but we all knew the original film, and we knew it intimately. This is not a remake of The Reckless Moment because they were both inspired by the same book. Funnily enough, it was The Reckless Moment that made Scott and David go back to the book, so they were great fans of the film already.

However, the script that they wrote as their adaptation of The Blank Wall is profoundly different. For example, this small point of the child is question, the eldest child being a girl in The Blank Wall and in The Reckless Moment, Beau is a girl, and the blackmail point is about letters that have been sent from an 18-year-old girl to a older man and they felt, and I think with very good reason, that letters from an 18-year-old girl to an older man is not exactly a potentially world shattering event for Margaret. So they have this very interesting idea of changing the gender of the child to be the boy so you bring in the whole question of homosexuality.

Then there is the integral shape with the father, the naval officer, and the very fact that Margaret finds herself capable of doing these extraordinary things with a dead body and potentially breaking the law, and dealing with outlaws and villains. But the one thing she can't do is say to her husband, "We have a gay son and he's having some problems". Everything has to shift round that problem for her.

In the film The Reckless Moment - and in the book The Blank Wall - she is a very different character. She much more withdrawn in our version, and she's much more isolated. In The Reckless Moment you have this whole relationship with the daughter. Margaret is almost entirely surrounded by men and she's very isolated. She isn't a communicator, she's very subdued, she's nice Mrs Wall. Joan Bennic is much more red lipstick, she's much more in the whole Mildred Pierce mode that sort of 40's mother.

The other detail again which has changed in ours is that there is no black maid, Sybil, who's a wonderful character in the book and in the first film. Sybil is the confidant, so Margaret in the book and first film communicates with her. In this film, Margaret communicated with the audience, as the Sybil character doesn't exist. It's a very subtle thing, but it's actually very profound.

Q: Why do you think Margaret chose to put the body in the lake, and not to bury the body?

TS: I know what the filmmakers would say because I've heard them address this sort of question many times, and I feel like I speak for them with impunity. They would say that first of all, psychologically, the reason that she doesn't want to bury the body is that she just wants to get it away from the house.

I would say two other things; first of all it wouldn't be a film. The film would be different if she buried the body in that lake, because if you chuck a body in that lake you'll never find it.

The other reason, which I personally find the most interesting rational response, is that the unconscious is an extraordinary thing, and on some level she does something that is drama and brings Margaret Wall alive in a way in which she hasn't been alive for years, and she doesn't really want to lose it.

I think the best reason is that simply the story would not follow the trajectory that it does if she lost the body for good.

I'll tell you something even more peculiar, is in the book the character Lucia takes the body to a little island where she leaves it on the beach, and the body is laying there with its eyes open, and at the last minute she gets a handkerchief out of her pocket and she ties one end of it to a piece of marine grass and the other end to another piece of marine grass across its eyes. What I'm saying is that somewhere deep in the heart of the myth of this, even in the novel, she does not lose the body, she just lets it away again, and this is something about this character.

I'll take you to another point in the film, at which she talks about going to the police when she's already off the hook. On the one hand one can see this as an uncomfortable choice, but for my money this is something very unfashionable in the cinema, but actually very real, which is a person who believes in justice and the police. It's the idea that she's trying not to be sneeky, she just trying to lop it off and wipe it out

I think of her as being a very original mother who finds herself in the plot of a film noir. The truth is that most mothers find themselves in the plot of a film noir on a weekly, daily, hourly basis.

Q: Why was Goran Visjnic chosen for the role of Alex?

TS: He was just knocking about. He's a wonderful Croation. There is something very old fashioned about him. There aren't many actors who could do that; look a bit sleezy at the beginning and turn out to actually want to save their soul, very innocent thing going on with him. He's a really wonderful guy.

Click here for the review of the film.