Tilda Swinton talks “We Need To Talk About Kevin,” parenting and not killing the audience – AWARDS ALLEY

By Sean O’Connell

Hollywoodnews.com: Playing a bad parent’s one way for an actor to attract the Academy’s attention. Kevin Spacey’s lustful, wandering Lester Burnham in “American Beauty,” James Coburn’s cruel “Affliction” character, and Jacki Weaver’s manipulative crime boss in “Animal Kingdom” are a few recent examples of killer parents who found themselves in the spotlight on Oscar night.

Tilda Swinton could be next. As Eva, the shellshocked mother of a school shooter, Swinton takes audiences on a blistering trip through the conscience of a parent left questioning every decision made leading up to the tragic event. Director Lynne Ramsay (“Morvern Caller”) asks difficult questions about unconditional love, then let’s us come up with the answers.

At the Toronto International Film Festival, a delightful Swinton gave us plenty of answers during an exclusive one-on-one, where we discussed the communicative nature of film festivals, the reactions parents are having to “Kevin,” an the importance of not killing your audience.

HollywoodNews.com: How was your recent Telluride visit?

Short, but excellent. I’d never been there before, You must go! For me, it is interesting because I run these little film festivals in Scotland sometimes that are so tiny, they make Telluride look organized. So people walk around Telluride going, “Isn’t this quaint?” And I think, “Why? No! This is super brushed up.” But I was actually just talking to a friend about the importance of an exchange in film festivals. Something happens at a film festival. People either have to travel to get there or, as in Toronto, pay good money to go to the cinema. And that just makes something great happen. There’s something about other film festivals, when everyone just sort of gets a badge and rolls into the cinema and doesn’t necessarily choose to go that can be quite deadening, I think. The bad thing about being in Toronto this year is that I’m not getting to see films while I’m up here, and I don’t like that. I like being able to go to a film festival and see films.

HollywoodNews.com: “Kevin” wasn’t what I was expecting. I think I braced for the worst, as a parent of two.

How old are they?

HollywoodNews.com: Seven and three. Are you hearing a lot of parenting stories as a result?

Oh yes, tons. How do you feel? How are you? Speak to me. I’m a doctor.

HollywoodNews.com: I thought that the film would terrify me more, but it wasn’t the film that I thought it was going to be going in.

Did you read the book?

HollywoodNews.com: I didn’t.

So what were you anticipating. What had you heard?

HollywoodNews.com: I feared that there would be more grey area when it came to deciding who was responsible for Kevin’s behavior. And I left the film thinking that, as much as anyone can be born evil, Kevin was. Although your character did a few things to potentially push Kevin in one direction or the other, I didn’t feel that it was enough that she could blame herself for his actions. And yet, she ends up blaming herself.

Of course she does. Of course.

HollywoodNews.com: The funny thing is, I’ve discussed this with colleagues who also blame the mother, Eva. Different reaction from different parents watching the film.

Oh, interesting. But this is exactly what’s so great. This is what happened with the book, as well, and this is why it’s such a genius title. There are no answers. We, as filmmakers, made sure that we didn’t even bother to labor under the impression that we would ever have to come up with any. We’d try to just pick it apart, open it up, take all of the wrapping off of it and just lay it out in front o people. Because there are no answers. It makes me think maybe the fact that there are no answers makes evolution take on. If we knew really the answer to how to be a good parent, that you could work out a formula and just make sure there is no level of doubt, maybe people would just stop needing to try. Let’s face it, being a parent is a reinvention of the wheel every day. But you know that as a parent. I think people who are not parents don’t know that.

HollywoodNews.com: The phrase that we use often is, “Everyone parents differently.”

It’s hard enough knowing what to do in your own life. Knowing what to do in somebody else’s is overwhelming.

HollywoodNews.com: And yet, the film makes a bold, definitive statement about unconditional love. Do you stand by it?

That’s a very good question, because I was watching the film myself again last night and was pondering the extent of which it was about love. Just as you say, which is a surprising thing to say about this film, but it is about love. It’s about love having been stripped and plucked and mashed up and bleached and tortured, and yet it still prevails. She has nothing left except not just him but her love for him. And it’s not necessarily what people think of. It’s not love with all the nice frilly bits on it. It’s something really quite metal, really irreducible. She becomes a mother, really, at the point in which she’s incarcerated. There’s a very important moment in the book, which we shot and we had for a while in the cut but eventually had to remove from the final cut, where she says to Kevin, “Why didn’t you kill me, too?” And he replies, “Well, when you are putting on a show, you don’t kill the audience.” There is a feeling that he just wants her attention, and he does not have it.

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