Tilda Swinton opens up about playing the old man in Suspiria


Ever since the trailer for SUSPIRIA dropped, and then once the movie was finally seen on the festival circuit, there has been one lingering question burning a hole in all our minds: Is that Tilda Swinton playing a very, very old man? For the longest time both her and director Luca Guadagnino have spat on such rumors, saying the character of Dr. Jozef Klemperer is played by first-time, mysterious German actor Lutz Ebersdorf, a name included in the movie’s credits. However, the movie is nearing release, and Swinton has come clean about the ruse, revealing that she is, indeed, Mr. Ebersdorf. Cue the “dun, dun DUUUUUUN!”

“The answer to the question to me, ‘Are you playing Dr. Klemperer in Suspiria?’ is always that Dr. Klemperer is played by Lutz Ebersdorf,” Swinton wrote in an email to The New York Times. She continued, saying it was simply a matter of people never asking her the right question, “and curiously, to date, nobody has thought of it.”

The question in mind, the one nobody had yet to ask her, is, “Are you playing Lutz Ebersdorf?” And the answer, Swinton said, is “an unequivocal yes.” More “dun, dun, DUUUUUUN,” please.

Swinton’s main role in the movie is that of Madame Blanc, a secretive instructor at a prestigious dance school in Berlin that Dakota Johnson’s Susie Bannion attends. The first thought may be to that Blanc is really Klemperer in disguise, but come the end of the movie there is no reveal that proves that is the case, which begs another question: Why the hell would Swinton be voluntarily caked in makeup just to play Klemperer?

“Undeniably, I would have to say, for the sheer sake of fun above all. As my grandmother would have it — a motto to live and die by — ‘Dull Not To’,” she said.

This whole story is undeniably, amazingly absurd, but the best part about it comes from the makeup department, where Oscar-winning makeup artist Mark Coulier (THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL, THE IRON LADY) told the Times that for her makeup Swinton requested a prosthetic penis and balls, so as to, you know, get a sense of the character.

“She did have us make a penis and balls. She had this nice, weighty set of genitalia so that she could feel it dangling between her legs, and she managed to get it out on set on a couple of occasions.” He added that the prosthetics are now “probably in a box somewhere! I should try and find it, and put it on a plaque on the wall of my workshop.”

Anyone who got to see the movie before its November 2 release, or even saw the trailer, probably isn’t too shocked about this reveal. Still, it’s such a strange aspect of this movie and one that makes me want to see it even more. Surely there’s a lot of nuance in Swinton’s work as Klemperer, but I may be a bit distracted knowing that under her pants is a prosthetic that can’t possibly be comfortable.

SUSPIRIA arrives November 2.




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