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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 February 2008, 10:21 GMT
Swinton's 'rocking' Oscar chance
Michael Clayton
Tilda Swinton stars with George Clooney in Michael Clayton

By Emma Jones
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

In a week when most actresses are scrubbed, styled and sometimes starving in preparation for the Academy Awards, nominee Tilda Swinton is slightly baffled at the fuss.

"It's all blabbermouth to me," she says. "I don't know what it means."

Swinton, 47, has received her first Oscar nomination - best supporting actress - for her part as Karen Crowder in Michael Clayton, which won her a Bafta earlier this month.

"I'm so happy Michael Clayton is getting recognised," she says of the film, which also stars George Clooney as a lawyer uncovering environmental corruption.

Tilda Swinton with her Bafta
Swinton won best supporting actress at the Baftas for Michael Clayton
"I think it's a rocking film and I'm so happy to be associated with it. But I have a sense all these awards mean more to other people than to me and I feel guilty."

"Maybe I need to go on a course to be told how great it is, " she laughs.

While being coy about a nomination is a standard Hollywood response, Tilda Swinton seems utterly genuine.

Jarman tribute

One of the most striking figures in the industry - she stands five feet 10 inches tall and has a penchant for wearing heels - when she arrives for her interview her pale skin is, as always, without make-up.

Her career choices are just as unconventional - from swapping genders in Orlando to more mainstream fare such as 2001's Vanilla Sky. And she was director Derek Jarman's muse until his death in 1994.

"I love making films," she says. "I got into a habit really early with Derek Jarman - nine films in seven years - and that habit was to love making films.

"After Derek died, so many wonderful collaborators came out of the woodwork and wanted to work with me. "

Her tribute to the director - called Derek - had its premiere at this year's Berlin film festival.

'Hopeless drunk'

She had another film at the festival too - Julia, by French director Erick Zonca, about an alcoholic woman who kidnaps a young boy for the ransom.

"I'm a hopeless drunk," says Swinton, who says she barely touches a drop of alcohol.

Tilda Swinton and Julia director Erick Zonca
Tilda Swinton appeared with Julia director Erick Zonca in Berlin
"I didn't have any experience for those scenes, because if I do drink I become a sleepy drunk. But then I realised that pretending to be drunk was going to be my strong suit, because I've been doing that for years.

"I'm always the one pretending in a group of people who are properly drunk, because then when the police come I can turn the music down and drive everyone home."

Julia also sees her recreate the American accent she put on playing a corrupt executive in Michael Clayton, and she also strips off as required in the movie.

"I'm just a vessel," she says, in simple explanation.

While some newspapers have speculated on Swinton's bohemian lifestyle with her long-term partner, artist John Byrne - the father of her 10-year old twins - she gives the impression that for her, art really does mirror her life.

When she walks down the red carpet in Los Angeles on Sunday, Hollywood will possibly be honouring one of Britain's most eclectic and enigmatic performers.

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