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Tilda Swinton: A life in pictures

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Tilda Swinton is one of Britain's most dynamic and experimental actresses. From her early ground-breaking work with Derek Jarman to her Oscar-winning performance in Michael Clayton, her career has spanned over 25 years. Stylist looks back at her life in front of the lens...

Only Lovers Left Alive is out on 21 February

Words by Dipal Acharya

  • Tilda Swinton 1986

    Born Katherine Mathilda Swinton in 1960, she was the daughter of Major-General Sir John Swinton of Kimmerghame House and Lady Swinton. She attended West Heath School for Girls (and was a classmate of the late Princess Diana), before going on to read Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge.

    Swinton first drew critical attention to her acting talent through the film Caravaggio, directed by Derek Jarman (pictured here in the role of Lena).

  • Tilda Swinton 1990

    It was to be the first of many projects working with Jarman, with Swinton citing the director as "the only real reason I am in a cinema context at all." Here she is pictured playing the role of Madonna in the 1900 surreal film The Garden.

  • Tilda Swinton 1992

    Never one to shy away from a controversial role, Swinton played the gender-bending protagonist of Orlando, an adaptation of Virginia Woolf's fantasy novel directed by Sally Potter.

  • Tilda Swinton 1992

    The film sees the eponymous hero transform through history, from an male Elizabethan courtier to a woman in modern day Britain.

  • Tilda Swinton 1993

    In another feted Derek Jarman collaboration, Swinton played the flamboyant Lady Otteline Morrell in Wittgenstein. Shot in a style that would become a Jarman trademark, the actress's depiction was praised for its wit and irreverence.

  • Tilda Swinton 1995

    In 1995, Swinton became a living piece of art at 'The Maybe' exhibit by artist Cornelia Parker at the Serpentine Gallery. Encased in a glass box, she slept for eights hours everday for a week, eventually contracting shingles from the experience. The exhibit had 22,000 visitors and was restaged at an art show in Rome.

  • Tilda Swinton 1996

    After a brief period of rest following the Serpentine exhibit, Swinton made her way back to the indie film circuit. One of her more controversial roles was in Female Perversions, which shows her playing a psychologically complex lawyer in search of sexual satisfaction.

  • Tilda Swinton 2003

    As a muse to Dutch designers Viktor & Rolf, 2003 saw the label centre their Autumn/Winter collection around Swinton's iconic style. Sending an 'army of Tilda's' down the catwalk, the collection was androgynous with strong tailoring and couture accents.

  • Tilda Swinton 2003

    Swinton starred in the dramatic thriller Young Adam in 2003, directed by Scottish film maker David Mackenzie (of Hallam Foe fame). The film was nominated for eight BAFTAs and won the Best New British Feature award at the Edinburgh Film Festival.

  • Tilda Swinton 2004

    Swinton was invited to sit on the judging panel of the 57th International Cannes Film Festival. Other judges that year included (from left to right) Kathleen Turner, Quentin Tarentino, Emmanuelle Beart and Tsui Hark.

  • Tilda Swinton 2005

    After a little off-screen persuasion, the actress took on the role of Jadis, the White Witch in Andrew Adamson's adaptation of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Discussing the role, Swinton said: "It was really easy and I can't quite work out why. Maybe it was my revenge on people who had been unkind to me as a child".

  • Tilda Swinton 2006

    As one of the inaugural recipients of the Diamond Award at the Edinburgh Film festival, Swinton was praised for her 'outstanding contribution to world cinema'.

  • Tilda Swinton 2006

    In the same year, the actress was presented with an honorary doctorate by the Royal Scottish Academy of Drama and Music alongside Annie Lennox and comedian Billy Connelly.

  • Tilda Swinton 2007

    In 2007, Swinton played the role of the carnivorous lawyer Karen Crowder in the thriller Michael Clayton opposite George Clooney and Sydney Pollack.

  • Tilda Swinton 2008

    The film earnt a haul of award nominations and wins over the following year, including a BAFTA award for Swinton in the 'Best Supporting Actress' category.

  • Tilda Swinton 2008

    This accolade for Swinton was swiftly followed by an Oscar for the same role for 'Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role'. The actress fought of stiff competition in the category that year, up against Cate Blanchett (for her role in I'm Not There) and Saoirse Ronan (for her depiction of Bryony in Atonement).

  • Tilda Swinton 2008

    Tilda Swinton was reunited with her Michael Clayton co-star George Clooney in the dark comedy Burn After Reading. Directed by the Coen brothers, she plays the promiscuous wife of an ex-CIA agent. Swinton is pictured here on the red carpet at the Venice Film Festival, with George Clooney and Brad Pitt.

  • Tilda Swinton 2008

    Swinton continued a strong year in acting with her role in Eric Zonca's french thriller Julia. As the eponymous heroine, she played an alcoholic who wakes up with memory loss and becomes embroiled in a kidnapping scheme.

  • Tilda Swinton 2009

    Swinton's personal style has reverberated throughout the fashion industry. Her Scottish heritage and striking looks made her the ideal face of the newly reinvented Pringle of Scotland, under the creative direction of Ryan McGinley.

  • Tilda 2009

    In 2009 Swinton was part of an all-star cast for Jim Jarmusch's drama The Limits of Control. Although not a huge commercial success, the director and Swinton have gone on to colloborate on various other projects, including an upcoming vampire movie alongside Michael Fassbender.

  • Tilda Swinton 2010

    Seven-years in the making, Swinton produced and starred in I am Love in 2010, collaborating with long-time friend Luca Guadagnino. In the sumptuous melodrama the actress portrays the Russian wife of a Milanese industrialist, and Swinton delivered her entire performance in word-perfect Italian.

  • Tilda Swinton 2011

    A regular face at London Fashion Week, Tilda sat front row at the Pringle Spring/Summer 2012 show (pictured here with actress Rosario Dawson).

  • Tilda Swinton 2011

    As an unswerving ambassador for British culture and talent, Tilda Swinton was one of the headlining participants of the Istancool festival in Turkey this year. Other headliners included Sam Taylor-Wood, Terry Gilliam and Kirsten Dunst

  • Tilda Swinton 2011

    Swinton, alongside John C. Reilly, in the film adaptation of We Need to Talk About Kevin, the 2003 novel by Lionel Shriver. The actress plays the grieving mother of a disturbed teenage boy.

  • Tilda Swinton 2014

    In new film Only Lovers Left Alive, Tilda Swinton plays a vampire who lives in Tangier, but leaves Morocco after her husband, played by Tom Hiddleston (swoon), is clearly finding it hard living in Detroit.