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The iconoclastic gifts of the visually striking and ferociously talented actress Tilda Swinton, who was born in London on November 5, 1960, have been appreciated more by an international audience over the years. This may change markedly after her Oscar-winning turn in George Clooney's critically-applauded legal thriller Michael Clayton (2007).
Born into a patrician Scottish military family, she was educated in an English boarding school along with Princess Diana. Tilda subsequently studied at Social and Politcal Science Cambridge University, but changed courses and graduated in 1983 with a degree in English Literature. She performed a season with the Royal Shakespeare Company but, a decided rebel when it comes to the arts, she left abruptly after a year as her approach shifted dramatically. Her taste for the unique and bizarre led her to some genuinely fascinating gender-bending roles such as her stage portrayal of the composer Mozart in Pushkin's "Mozart and Salieri", and as a working class woman impersonating her dead husband during World War II, in the Karges play "Man to Man", a role she would later commit to film in 1991.
In 1985 the tall, slim young hopeful with the dramatic alabaster-skin and carrot-cropped hair began a professional association with director/mentor Derek Jarman. This quirky alliance would produce such stark turns in Caravaggio (1986), Aria (1987), The Last of England (1988), The Garden (1990) Edward II (1991), and Wittgenstein (1993), while feeding this voracity for playing the unique and unusual. Tilda provided a voice in his final film, an inventive documentary entitled Blue (1993/I), which used only a blue screen and interweaving vocal soundtrack to drive home its themes of dying and death. Jarman succumbed to complications from AIDS shortly after its completion. His untimely demise left a devastating void in Tilda's life for quite some time.