'Suspiria': Tilda Swinton Admits Her Second, "Secret" Role

Tilda Swinton is one of this generation's biggest chameleons, playing a variety of different characters in her theatrical career. With the upcoming Suspiria, the actress might offer audiences some of her biggest surprises yet, as she plays not only Madame Blanc, but also the male character Josef Klemperer.

It's not uncommon for actors to portray multiple characters in one film, or even to have a performer convey a character of a different gender. What makes Swinton's second role such a surprise is that, throughout the film's entire promotional push, Josef Klemperer was said to have been played by "Lutz Ebersdorf."

Despite no one having ever heard of this actor prior to Suspiria, neither Swinton nor director Luca Guadagnino would admit to the ruse. It wasn't until Swinton was asked a very specific question regarding the film that she finally came clean.

“The answer to the question to me, ‘Are you playing Dr. Klemperer in Suspiria?’ is always that Dr. Klemperer is played by Lutz Ebersdorf,” Swinton shared by email with The New York Times. She added that she was waiting for the precise wording of the question regarding the character “and curiously, to date, nobody has thought of it.”

The question the actress had been waiting for was if Swinton was playing Ebersdorf, the answer to which is “an unequivocal yes.”

If you're concerned that learning this detail will somehow impact your enjoyment of the film's narrative, the character's "true" identity doesn't factor into the film whatsoever. The actress did note, “Klemperer is inhabited by the phantasm of his lost wife: He is, in this crucial respect, ‘played’ by a woman. She dictates the rhythm of his life in the everyday texture of his bereaved loneliness.”

In that regard, one can't help but wonder what inspired Swinton to pull double duty on the film.

“Undeniably, I would have to say, for the sheer sake of fun above all,” Swinton confessed. “As my grandmother would have it — a motto to live and die by — ‘Dull Not To.’”

Swinton was so committed to the role that she collaborated with the film's makeup team to make sure she was entirely anatomically correct, even if the character's physique wasn't on display.

“She did have us make a penis and balls,” makeup artist Mark Coulier confirmed. “She had this nice, weighty set of genitalia so that she could feel it dangling between her legs, and she managed to get it out on set on a couple of occasions.”

Fans can see Swinton's many roles when Suspiria hits theaters on November 2nd.


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[H/T The New York Times]