In director Luca Guadagnino’s latest film, A Bigger Splash (2016), Tilda Swinton plays main character Marianne Lane, an iconic rockstar who is rendered nearly mute after undergoing a vocal surgery. Marianne is on vacation on the island of Pantelleria with her partner, Paul (Matthias Schoenaerts), when her ex-love and former record producer, Harry (Ralph Fiennes), arrives with his captivating daughter, Penelope (Dakota Johnson). A Bigger Splash is a nuanced character study that dives into the complexity of relationships, the difficulty of communication and the ways in which behavior is colored by desire. 
At a roundtable interview prior to A Bigger Splash’s release, Tilda Swinton discussed A Bigger Splash, the evolution of her working relationship with Italian director Luca Guadagnino, and her idea to change her character (Marianne) from an English actress learning an American accent to a rockstar who lost her voice.

On her character change (from an English actress learning an American accent to a rock star who’s lost her voice):

“It doesn’t take only lines to make a movie. I personally think the less lines the better, in general. [The character change] just felt like a way of ramping up the volume on this story about communication and how incredibly difficult it is…Harry (Ralph Fiennes) is just so voraciously [the] center of attention, grand standing, never stops talking, annoying…When you want to be quiet on an island and you want to leave him and everything that he represents behind, he really pushes it for [Marianne]. It was an interesting experiment and I’m so grateful that Luca and Dave were up for it. When we presented this idea to [David Kajganich], he had to reconfigure. But I personally am really pleased that we did it. It makes, for my money, a more interesting film.”


Tilda Swinton and cast in Luca Guadagnino's I Am Love (2010)

On I Am Love and the luck of last minute decisions:

“[Luca and I] tend to throw something into the mix at the very last minute, and we’ve been the beneficiaries in the past of things coming in at the last minute. We worked on I Am Love (2010) for 13 years, and for 12 of those years we didn’t have the house. We’d written this part-palace, part-prison, part-museum house, but it didn’t exist, and suddenly at the last minute, the house we shot it in became available. It had been in private hands and suddenly it was released into the atmosphere because it was being given to the Italian equivalent of the National Trust. We know the luck in last minute decisions.”

On relating to her rockstar character:

“I’m not a rockstar, [but] I’ve known many musicians in my life and I know that life secondhand. That moment we show her on the stage in front of 70,000 people — that ain’t CGI by the way — that was all real. [Marianne] is on the cusp of this decision to step away from that drama. That I can absolutely relate to. I can imagine that. There’s that authentic connection.”


Tilda Swinton as Marianne Lane in A Bigger Splash (2016)

On the film’s documentary feel:

“We always look for the whole film to feel a little like a documentary, or have that kind of texture where there’s a mess to it: human scale. It’s not theatrical as so many feature presentations are.”

On filming A Bigger Splash in Pantelleria:

“I have a particular predilection for islands. I live, in a way, between the highlands and an island off the west coast of Scotland. There’s something about Pantelleria that I recognize; it’s quite homely. The people who live there have to live a very robust life. It felt very familiar to me. But it’s a chunk of change living there. The wind never stops and you’re completely at the mercy of the weather…There’s that scene in the film with Rosa who makes the ricotta; she’s someone Luca met while we were preparing the film. There’s a real interface with people who live there.”


Director Luca Guadagnino and Tilda Swinton on the set of A Bigger Splash

On almost not being in A Bigger Splash:

“My mother had recently died, which was the reason I wasn’t going to make the film in the first place. Luca and I work together all the time, as you know, and this was not going to be a film that we made together for that reason. When it came to it and he asked me again at the last minute if I would do it, and I went on this walk (on which she came up with the idea to change her character). I didn’t want to play an actress and I certainly didn’t want to do all of this talking.”

On the evolution of her working relationship with Luca Guadagnino:

“[Our working relationship] just gets more and more delightful. I mean, it's built on a close friendship and there is nothing better than working with your friends because you get to see them all the time…We’re very likeminded. Our approach is similar and we dare each other in a very constructive way. I mean that gauntlet I threw down about the muteness — he could easily have said, ‘you know what, I’m not sure it’s such a great idea.’ And I would’ve said that I can’t be there because that’s what I’m offering. He would understand, absolutely. But how has it developed? It’s just more and more interesting….We have a number of [films] we’re developing that I hope will appear in the next few years. It’s great.”