Tilda Swinton, an actor whose eclectic career has included both Derek Jarman arthouse movies and Marvel universe blockbusters, is to receive one of British film’s highest honours.
The British Film Institute on Wednesday announced that Swinton would be given a BFI fellowship at an event on 2 March. It will be accompanied by a Swinton season, which will include her first film role in Jarman’s film Caravaggio.
Swinton said she was “very happy and touched” to be given the honour. “Fellowship and BFI are two of my favourite words … and the beginning and end of the reason I live my life in the cinema in the first place.” She added that she was sharing it with “beloved film-making playmates, living and departed”.
The award will be made at an annual dinner hosted by the BFI chair, Josh Berger. He said Swinton continued to enjoy the broadest of careers.
“It is a career full of courageous artistic choices that has earned her the deep respect of her peers, our industry, and the admiration and enjoyment of audiences all over the world.
“Tilda inhabits the characters she portrays in the most compelling way. Her work is powerful and far ranging and as such occupies a unique place in our collective film history … it captivates young filmmakers and actors, inspiring them to make bolder, braver and more profound work.”
The BFI said the award honoured Swinton’s “daringly eclectic and striking talents as a performer and filmmaker” and recognised her contribution to “film culture, independent film exhibition and philanthropy”.
Jarman holds an important place in Swinton’s career because she had decided to quit acting before meeting him. After Caravaggio she went on to appear in a further six of Jarman’s feature films, including The Last of England, War Requiem, and Edward II.
Some of her most memorable roles include the title role in Sally Potter’s adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s Orlando (1992), the white witch in two Narnia films, and a ruthless lawyer in the 2007 film Michael Clayton, for which she won a best supporting actress Oscar.
Her casting as the Ancient One in Marvel’s Doctor Strange was controversial as the character was a Tibetan man in the original comics. Marvel argued that the Ancient One title was not held exclusively by one character but was a moniker passed down through time.
The BFI usually appoints fewer than a handful of new fellows each year. Last year Olivia Colman was given the title, and in 2017 it was Paul Greengrass and Peter Morgan.
• The Tilda Swinton season takes place at BFI Southbank, London 1-18 March