In the 18 years since Tilda Swinton and Sally Potter first collaborated on “Orlando,” Swinton has hosted a film festival in a ballroom with beanbags for seats and Potter doled out her last film “Rage” in seven episodes on mobile phones. Now, the only audacious thing left for this truly dynamic duo is to indulge in something as old fashioned as a revival of their much-beloved 1993 film in theaters.
“It looks like it was made yesterday!” exclaims Swinton, who claims to have been lobbying for a theatrical rerelease of the film for years. “Every time I’m in a city, at least five people on the street will tell me that it’s their favorite film, which makes me go to Sony Pictures Classics and say ‘You’ll make some cash if you put it in the pictures. Just go on, put it out there.'”
Indeed, Sony Classics chiefs Tom Bernard and Michael Barker heeded the call, dovetailing a MoMA retrospective of Potter’s work in New York that ends this week with a rerelease of “Orlando” in a newly struck digital restoration on the coasts on July 23rd.
While the Oscar-nominated art direction and costume design has never looked more pristine, “Orlando” itself remains as timeless as the Virginia Woolf story it is based on, which spans 400 years in the life of an Elizabethan nobleman who shuttles between centuries, artistic pursuits and genders to finally find peace in the 20th century.
It was a natural fit for the chameleonic Swinton back in 1992 and is a notable touchstone today for the actress since it returns to theaters as she is enjoying the success of “I Am Love,” the melodramatic festival favorite that she produced, something she does on many of her films even it without a proper title.
In fact, “Orlando” was one of the first she worked on in such a capacity, after enjoying a fruitful partnership with Derek Jarman in the late ’80s and appreciating the feel of “familial production work.”
“I’ve never been that aware of wearing an actress hat. That’s not something that I’ve ever aspired to,” said Swinton, when asked about juggling her many roles on a production. “You talk about a producer hat as if it’s something you can take off. That’s my hair, that’s no hat.”
Which is why it’s no surprise to see Swinton glow with a mother’s warmth when referring to both “my babies” in “I Am Love” and “Orlando,” the latter of which she developed from scratch with Potter over the course of five years. (In her words, “there was a book, there was Sally and there was me.”) She’s currently doing the same for Lynne Ramsay’s adaptation of the Lionel Shriver novel “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” but she appears to be equally interested in preserving cinema as a whole.
“It’s possible for people to say of “I Am Love,” oh, it’s the kind of film they don’t make any more and you look at “Orlando” and it looks fresher than most films that are made this year,” said Swinton. “It does give one pause and makes one realize that this kind of film, this kind of filmmaking is ever current and it may not be possible to make billions in the first weekend from a film like this, but they last forever.”