Tilda Swinton has ‘zero regrets’ about reaching out to Margaret Cho years ago

Duke and Duchess of Cambridge tour of Scotland

Tilda Swinton covers the latest issue of Variety to promote her five (!!) films premiering at this year’s Cannes Film Festival, which was pushed back from May to July. I like Tilda a lot, I enjoy her as a person and as an actress, but even I have to admit that Tilda has some giant blind spots when it comes to race and her own privilege specifically. One could argue that her heart is in the right place, and for what it’s worth, I respect the fact that she has continued to address issues of race and privilege for years following the Doctor Strange/Margaret Cho catastrophe. But holy hell, she definitely is an aristocratic white woman who tends to shrug off having any kind of self-awareness about her own privilege. You can read her full Variety piece here. Some highlights:

Working with Wes Anderson: “The people he invites are so spectacular. It’s not always a great thing that people look like they’re having quite as much fun as we are. One should maybe try and tone it down a little.” Swinton describes “The French Dispatch” as a “love letter to American internationalism” and journalists like James Thurber, Rosamond Bernier and James Baldwin. “I was hanging out with the Fonz!” she says of Henry Winkler, who plays one-half of the “Uncles” in the movie, alongside Anderson regular Bob Balaban. “They were there in their homburg hats every day, and we just sat at their knee and had such fun. There is always a surprise.”

She doesn’t like working on streaming projects or TV: “I’m a cine-nerd. I’m really, really, really devoted to the cinema, and this is another thing that makes me so happy about the prospect of Cannes. These films that I’m privileged enough to be taking are cinema films — they were not made for television. It’s not like something going down a drain, and the screens get smaller and smaller, and then you disappear forever. We’re just in a sort of flux at the moment, and it’s all transitioning. The pandemic came along, and our relationship with live cinema shifted — we got a little screwed. But we’re not settled yet.”

Would she work with the streamers again? “I’m devoted to the big screen. And to be honest, the more it’s under scrutiny, or I feel that it’s not being valued highly enough, the more devoted I am to it. So I wouldn’t hold [your] breath.” What we really need, Swinton muses, is for streamers “like Netflix, who tell us avowedly that they are dedicated to big-screen cinema and filmmakers, to put some of that incredible wealth into building, developing and resuscitating great cinemas in every city on the planet that they rule.”

How Kevin Feige admitted that they should have done her Doctor Strange character differently: She is “very, very grateful that he said that. I remember at the time having a question mark in my own mind, and being attendant to the public response to the idea that a Scottish woman will be playing this character, and being aware that there was no resistance at all — there was widespread welcome — which shifted at a certain point, for very good reasons with which I had an enormous amount of sympathy.”

Reflecting on the Margaret Cho episode: “I made a questionable decision to reach out to somebody in a certain way, which was naive and clearly confusing, because their misunderstanding came about because of it. I was embarrassed that I had maybe gone up a blind alley in starting the correspondence in the first place — maybe I had confused matters — but beyond that, I have zero regrets.” Nonetheless, it was a “hot moment,” she admits. And for some, those moments are hotter than others. “But the way in which people get listened to is by speaking up and getting hot. And sometimes, it needs to get messy.”

On cancel culture: She is disappointed that “there seems to be a lack of faith in debate — the capacity to say, ‘Oh, interesting that you think that, because I think something different.’” It has to be possible to affect each other, Swinton posits, “and to just have a sense of trust that maybe you don’t know best, and maybe somebody else might be able to help you out with your understanding in something.”

[From Variety]

She really doesn’t regret the Margaret Cho correspondence? She should. It was so very telling that Swinton reached out to, like, the first Asian-American woman she could think of and expected Cho to educate her. Only in the correspondence between Cho and Swinton, it became clear that Swinton just wanted to whitesplain why she was playing the part in Doctor Strange and she was hellbent on talking past Cho. “But the way in which people get listened to is by speaking up and getting hot. And sometimes, it needs to get messy.” She’s speaking about herself. She’s the one who thought she needed to speak up and get hot… about playing a whitewashed character.

Also, she sounds annoyingly privileged about streaming companies and television.

Cover and IG courtesy of Variety.

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42 Responses to “Tilda Swinton has ‘zero regrets’ about reaching out to Margaret Cho years ago”

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  1. Who ARE These People? says:

    She sounds annoyingly privileged about everything and full of herself. I don’t believe she had a question mark about anything in Dr Strange except the paycheck.

    • BlinkBanana says:

      I adore her, one of my favourite actors, but she comes across as really shitty here. She is very very privileged, and there are so many like her in this industry – well-meaning Lefty Liberals who think they’re inclusive, but when it comes to listening to someone from a “marginalised” group, their ego gets in the way. Shame. And her snobbery regarding TV and streamers is baffling. They’re making some of the best work right now. She needs to check herself.

      • Amy Bee says:

        Is she a lefty or liberal? She sounds like a Tory to me.

      • Jo73c says:

        Enough of the ‘lefty liberal’ rubbish – this is nothing about political leanings. She is from a very privileged background in a not overly diverse country. This has allowed her the indulgences of being an ‘artiste’ and shielded her from having to think deeply about any other people at all, whether they are foreign, queer, or just poor.

      • y says:

        She’s definitely not lefty. She seems more like a liberal who dines with marginalised artists to feel bohemian and then votes Tory lmao

        I love her as an actress, but make no mistake. I wouldn’t last five minutes in a room with her without wanting to slap her. She’s a full Karen.

    • hindulovegod says:

      I agree. My impression of her has always been that she does what feels right to her without much consideration. If it feels right to her, she assumes it is fine. She’s not edgy and interesting so much as she’s selfish and insular.

      • twoz says:

        Also, people seem to have forgotten she signed the petition supporting Polanski.

      • Mtec says:

        @TWOZ, i for one will never forget that, and the fact she’s never addressed it since.

      • The Artist Formerly Known as Valiantly Varnished says:

        Exactly this.

      • y says:

        As much as it pains me to admit it, this interview has been an eye-opener and this:

        “She’s not edgy and interesting so much as she’s selfish and insular.”

        is spot-on.

  2. Amy Bee says:

    If she doesn’t like streaming or TV, does that mean that everytime one of her movies gets streamed or aired on TV she doesn’t accept the residuals?

  3. Mcmmom says:

    I really, really, REALLY don’t like Wes Anderson’s movies. They are twee and self-indulgent. His filmmaking reminds me of Woody Allen’s in that the movie seems designed to remind you of how clever he is.

    • EnormousCoat says:

      Spot on. So much navel gazing. I can’t watch his movies. They are pure self-indulgence on his part. And I think it all just gets back to the fact that we are dealing with people who won’t stop and consider others at any juncture. They think people should see the world their way because their way is right. Swinton’s answer about Margaret Cho says it all: it was Cho’s misunderstanding and Swinton shouldn’t have allowed herself to get caught up in that. The arrogance and condescension is insufferable.

    • Sally says:

      Oh God, this! I will never understand the love this man gets, so many people I know adore his films while I MAYBE can stand the Royal Tenenbaums and that’s it. They’re all poster childs of style above substance and I even find the style annoying!
      I’ve made my peace with Tilda, she’s a boomer artiste who has done some amazing work and said and done some stupid things. She’s pushed boundaries for female/gender representation on screen and is a privileged aristocratic lady, these things can co-exist. I’m ok with her, not gonna applaud everything she does, but I’m not gonna hold her to impossible standards either or discredit the cool things she’s done.

      • Ana170 says:

        I know I saw The Royal Tenenbaums but I can’t remember much about it. For me his only watchable movie is The Fantastic Mr. Fox. The stop motion animation works with his style in a way that makes it far less annoying.

    • Freddy says:

      Amen!!! I stopped long ago trying to “get” Wes Anderson’s film-making…at least Woody Allen’s “Midnight in Paris” was imaginative and pretty damn funny…and Owen Wilson was adorable.

    • Lex says:

      Just watched The Grand Marigold Hotel the other day for the first time and it was so delghtful!

    • Thirtynine says:

      I agree about Wes Anderson movies- except Darjeeling Limited. Whether I saw it at one of those critical turning points in my life, I don’t know- but it’s always meant a great deal to me. I thought I would love his others too, but found them disappointing. Maybe it was Owen Wilson’s heart and vulnerability in Darjeeling that lifted it apart from the others. And Tilda Swinton in this interview is coming across as being completely confident in the ignorance of her entitlement. IMO.

  4. Lena says:

    Surprised by her take on streaming mainly because those from across the pond always have worked across TV, theater, movies and commercials whereas it only stopped being a stigma for movie actors to do TV and commercials in the US relatively recently.

  5. D says:

    Less important than her comments about race for sure but the way she talked about the “cinema” is nauseating

    • FHMom says:

      She is a snob. About everything, evidently.

      • Thirtynine says:

        Yes! ‘Snob’ sums it up perfectly!

        Actually, she reminds me of Cate Blanchett.

    • AlpineWitch says:

      Agree. Some of the best stuff in is the streaming services.

      She sounds really snobby and artsy-fartsy… maybe that is why she always rubbed me off the wrong way…

  6. Eurydice says:

    I don’t think she sounds privileged about TV and streaming. To me, she sounds like a person who is concerned about the death of cinema and I don’t see what’s wrong with that. TV and streaming are different, how those products are produced, delivered and viewed is different – and I think it’s ok if she doesn’t like that experience or prefer that environment. Plenty of other people do and that’s fine, too.

    • BothSidesNow says:

      I see her point too in regards to the death of the cinema, as twisted as her response was. There is something magical about watching it on an enormous screen as opposed to your tv or your hand held device. But she apparently has dedicated herself to the cinema entirely, which is her right. As for everything else she spouted, she does sound extremely privileged and has an unhealthy look at the outside world. It would do her some good to actually do the work to understand the limits which Hollywood and every other industry strangles and ties to push down those who are BIPOD. Cho isn’t responsible in teaching Swindon. Educate yourself Tilda, otherwise STFU!

  7. GR says:

    The fact that she buys into the whole “cancel culture” lie is also pretty lazy.

  8. girl_ninja says:

    I really liked Tilda before the Margaret Choo incident. This interview really does fully shine the light on all of her snobbery and arrogance. From race relations to film on tv versus strictly movie theater presentation.

    Her expectation that “Accountability Culture” should have a debate and educate those that mess up sounds just like that Kelly Osborne girls take. Insufferable and full of herself.

  9. Nev says:

    Sit down Karen.

  10. CHIMES@MIDNIGHT says:

    Tilda Swinton’s Ancient One was not nearly as insensitive and offensive as Iron Fist. The whole show.

    • Ana170 says:

      There’s a whole bunch of reasons but basically it comes down to different people in charge.

  11. Izzy says:

    She is so far up her own ass, I doubt even surgery could correct it.

  12. Holland S says:

    Prime example why actors should speak less.

    • Eurydice says:

      Yes, it goes back to Socrates who said artisans think that because they’re good at one thing, they’re good at everything…paraphrasing here. That was 2,500 years ago and they’re still yapping.

  13. Chimney says:

    Hate the way white people, especially rich ones, respond when accused of acting racist and in bad faith. It’s like they’re so convinced of their inherent “goodness” that it must be that everyone else is hysterical and wrong and it was all a big misunderstanding. And forcing Margaret Cho to take time and listen to her bloviate about how she deserved the role is galling.

    Also Doctor Strange was garbage and not “true cinema” or whatever she thinks. It was basically people grunting and gnashing in front of a green screen for 3 hours. No better than what streaming services spew out.

  14. ooshpick says:

    hahaah. How old is she? This reminds me of how privileged young kids pretend to want to learn about others but really have way to much ego to listen. Margaret Cho is too good for this.

  15. CourtneyB says:

    Kevin Feige recently spoke out about the Dr Strange controversy too. He said basically that they patted themselves on the back for not going with the ‘wise old Asian man educating the white guy’ stereotype but now realize they could’ve done that and still gone a more representative and inclusive way. So they’re trying to do better like with Shang-Chi and how they’re handling the outdated and potentially offensive Mandarin character who is the hero’s dad.

  16. jferber says:

    All I have to say is I’ve worshiped Tilda as a goddess for years. She is an impeccable actress and she even learned Italian with a Russian accent for a movie. She’s a true artist. I can’t speak to this current issue, but I’ve seen her in SO many movies, all very different and she is an actress’s actress.

    • Eurydice says:

      She was brilliant in that movie. The plot didn’t make much sense, but she was amazing. I also loved her in Orlando.

    • y says:

      She can be a brilliant artist and an idiotic person. Those two ideas can coexist. And I say this as a fan of hers.

  17. Lyds says:

    I remember the Margaret Cho exchange very well. It wasn’t fair for Tilda to single her out (as they literally had no prior relationship or contact) and I could tell Margaret was caught off guard and answered the best she could. Remembering the email exchanges though, Tilda made some absolutely asinine arguments; I’m not going to find it and paste verbatim, but it was along the lines of: I’m a Scottish woman from a very specific town and I don’t expect to see the minutiae of that specific experience represented in media…which frankly is the most BS/ignorant thing in the world. All Margaret had to say was “we’re talking about ASIAN representation, not about seeing a real Monk from Bhutan onscreen, so your argument would only be valid if you said you didn’t see any WHITE representation, period,” so I was just surprised that she missed that point. It was extremely unfair of Tilda to put her on the spot and I wish she had opened up that discussion so more Asians could respond and put her in her place.

    • Bo Peep says:

      @LYDS ^This!!! Tilda reached out to an Asian-American stranger in hopes that she would educate Tilda about racism. Then after reading Margaret’s detailed reply, Tilda went onto justify why she took the role anyways.

      I’m sure Tilda had good intentions, but she’s completely unaware of her privilege and comes across as dismissive of any criticism holding her accountable for contributing to structural racism.

      It reminds me of times when my white friends would ask about how racism affected me, and then go on to justify why they weren’t responsible for any of these horrible things I experienced. Even though I was already using the most sensitive, non-confrontational language, even though I never accused of them of creating these institutions, the whole conversation would end up revolving around their feelings.

  18. y says:

    I love her as an actress, but I really need to stop reading her interviews. She’s incredibly privileged and up her own arse, and not nearly as smart as she thinks she is.

    Also, she signed the free Polanski petition and believes in cancel culture. She’s not “woke” and I wish she wasn’t as terminally anal as she actually is.