The answers to the questions asked most often about his everyday life and his roles in films. Also, if you want to read about Philip the Horse, this is where to go.
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CINEMA CONFIDENTIAL - Tilda Swinton and Skandar Keynes
Thursday, 05/12/2005

It's an odd sight- Jadis the White Witch in slacks and a button-down shirt, fighting off a cold with ginger water and teasing her adolescent onscreen nemesis, Edmond Pevensie.

In "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe," Edmond (Skandar Keynes) betrays his three siblings for the false lures of the white witch (Tilda Swinton)- Turkish delight, cocoa, and a chance to be king. It's hard to imagine Keynes, who mischievously admits to real-life siblings riffs- doing any such thing, and even harder to imagine the polite and charming Swinton embodying evil. Unsurprisingly, this talented duo- who talked Narnia will press in New York last month- pulls it off.

 

Q: So I have to ask- the White Witch vs. Lord Voldemort- who wins?

TILDA: Are you talking about a character from "Lord of the Rings?" Seriously, because I haven't seen "Lord of the Rings."

 

Q: Nope, "Harry Potter."

TILDA: I haven't seen that either. Sorry. (to Skandar) But you say, since you've seen "Harry Potter."

SKANDAR: White Witch all the way! But I haven't seen Voldemort alive yet.

 

Q: You guys have a ton of scenes together. Tilda, did you keep Skandar in line?

 

TILDA: That's where we're going - into the truth zone. No, it was very silly most of the time.

 

Q: Skandar, what did you learn from Tilda?

SKANDAR: When I first arrived on the set I was shoving food in my mouth and running around. I had just come from school and there were all these free soft drinks. And Tilda came on and she -

TILDA: I've taught him not to use the brand name of the soft drink.

SKANDAR: So then I saw Tilda come on, and she was cool and laid back and relaxed. I realized that maybe I should calm down a bit.

TILDA: I made a lazy clone.

Q: Skandar, what was the battle scene like for you?

 

SKANDAR: That was cool. I wasn't really in most of the battle scene, you'd have to ask William about that, but the parts I were in were fun. Edmund's true turning point is when he goes to stop the Witch.

Q: Do you enjoy playing bad characters?

 

TILDA: I'm trying to think of what bad characters I've played. You're going to say "Constantine."

Q: "The Beach."

 

TILDA: Well, "The Beach" is different.

S KANDAR: What's "The Beach"?

TILDA: You're too young, man. You're too young to see all my films. But that's (in "The Beach") a human, a fanatical human. I think that I personally have a problem with doubtlessness. I think doubtlessness is a problem. I really like testing that. The character in "The Beach" has that fanatical doubtlessness and becomes unstuck by it. The Angel Gabriel in "Constantine," even though the Angel Gabriel is the righteous one and is good and golden and warm and smiling but the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and ends up torching the place. The White Witch is the epitome of all evil. It's not even human. It's not even really in human shape. And she's cold. She really wants to dominate.

Q: How do you choose your projects?

 

TILDA: The people. It's always the people. I was spoiled so early on when I first started making films with Derek Jarman and I worked with the same team for nine years on seven different films and I learned early that it can be that good. It can be fun and it can be rewarding. A conversation with a filmmaker is what it's all about. The fact is that in the independent world it may take you five years to get a film off the ground, so you better like hanging out with these people. And then you're going to have to do this for probably another ten years to get the film to reach its audience. That's what I'm in it for, a feeling of friendship and comradeship.

Q: Can you tell right away when you speak with a director if it's going to be a good

experience?

TILDA: Yeah, if there's a kind of excitement in the filmmaker. Very often, I have to say, it's in a big-time filmmaker. The joke is that in the last year I have made two big studio films, but both of them have been with first time filmmakers. Francis Lawrence with "Constantine" and Andrew Adamson with this. They're the most highly funded first time filmmakers in history, probably, but still first time filmmakers are filled with an enthusiasm you cannot buy, and a first timer's mind is filled with "Let's give it a go." That's really a wonderful thing to get caught up in. I love working with people who just want to go on that kind of adventure.

Q: Skandar, Edmund betrays his brothers and sisters, so how do you make him likable?

 

SKANDAR: I don't think you're supposed to like him at first. You're not supposed to sympathize with him, anyway. It's when he gets redeemed that you like him. It was easy with Andrew's direction and the script.

Q: Is it easy to understand redemption at such a young age?

 

SKANDAR: I think so.

TILDA: There aren't many things Skandar Keynes doesn't understand. Anybody who has been mean to their sister - as any right-thinking sibling has - would understand the need for redemption.

Q: Tilda, are your kids are OK with their mom being the baddie?

 

TILDA: They're not interested in seeing the film. They're the only two tickets in the world, I think, that Disney is not going to sell. But I am thrilled about that. The young audience is, I hope, going to be backing away from me for the rest of their lives.

Q: Why don't they want to see it?

 

TILDA: They're not in the loop of all this. They don't watch television. They live up a tree. We keep them in a box. I want to say that they've got better things to do with their time and I look forward to Walt Disney publicity coming down on my head, but they have. They're not that interested, and it took me away from them for a bit. They call it "Lionel Ritchie's Wardrobe" anyway.

Q: I would go see that.

 

TILDA: I would too.

Q: After working is really nuanced character roles, how did you approach bringingreality to a character as over the top as this one?

 

TILDA: She's not a character in that she's not human. It's a free pass into all sorts of nonsense that doesn't add up. It occurred to me that there was a stereotype of evil out there that had never frightened me, certainly not as a child, which was a sort of stomping, shouting, hot variety. What I really wanted to look at was a thing that I think really frightens children, which is a kind of coldness. And a kind of unpredictability. The idea that somebody is not remotely emotional. Even when she shouts at him, she shouts because she thinks it will help. Children love knowing they're getting to you. You can't get to her. She's not even there.

Q: How did the icicle tiara come about?

 

TILDA: I'm not a believer in metal crowns and I thought it would be nice to see her crown. She is Narnia; she's this evil spirit and she needs some kind of semi-human form, so she just gives herself the shape and pulls in the side of a frozen waterfall for a dress and a bit of snow for a fur, and this ice crown. The idea is that as her power fades, the ice crown goes too. I just love that. I thought it was something to watch.

Q: What did you actually have on your head?

 

TILDA: A big old wig.

Q: The Stone Table was an amazing sequence. How many creatures were actually there and how many were added later?

 

TILDA: I don't know exactly the statistics, but it was a full on rock concert of the Iron Maiden variety, and it was packed.

Q: That must have been interesting- you're actually playing to minotaurs.

 

TILDA: Yeah. We're bringing out an album later this year. We're bringing out lounge music, the two of us. Sleigh Time. Winter Wonderland.

Q: Is there a character from literature or history that you would like to play?

 

SKANDAR: Maybe some assassin or something would be cool.

SWINTON: Maybe a remake of "Zoolander."

SKANDAR: Yeah, if they do a remake of "Zoolander" I could do that.

Q: So for both of you guys this is your first action figure movie. Unless I'm wrong, Tilda, and they did that playset for "The War Zone."

 

TILDA: I think it's still on sale. I love that idea. It's so sick. Video games would be next. War Zone video games. (to Skandar) And that's another one you can't see, so don't even ask.

Q: But this is your first action figure?

 

TILDA: Apparently, but I haven't seen it. Do you get it in cereal packets?

Q: McDonalds.

 

TILDA: You get it at McDonalds? Excellent. How wise they were not to tell us that before we signed the contract. In McDonalds what's the product? Is it an Edmundburger? What do they put on the food, what's the white stuff?

Q: Tilda, you helped produce "Thumbsucker." Are there more small movies like that on the horizon for you?

 

TILDA: Yeah. And I hope Disney will help. I love the idea that it's possible that a few people might go look for the films of Derek Jarman as a result of this film. Or that we might be able to get David Mackenzie, who made "Young Adam" - (to Skandar) which is another one you can't see either!

SKANDAR: Can I see any of your films?

TILDA: No.

SKANDAR: I've seen "Vanilla Sky."

TILDA: How did you see that, man? You're too young.

SKANDAR: It was on TV. I'm not too young for that!

Q: What's "Michael Clayton?"

 

TILDA: Michael Clayton is a film that Tony Gilroy is writing and directing and George Clooney's company is making in January. It's the same team that made Syriana and Traffic. It's about a sort of corporate corruption, whistle-blower story. I'm playing a corporately corrupt lawyer.

Q: You're a bad guy again.

 

TILDA: I'm a human bad guy. Yeah, deeply flawed.

Q: Skandar, have they talked to you about coming back for "Prince Caspian"?

 

SKANDAR: They probably have, but I can't remember.

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