Tilda Swinton admits playing old man in Suspiria film hoax

Tilda Swinton left and 'Lutz Ebersdorf', right

Tilda Swinton sure does love to transform herself for a role.

The Times spoke to both Guadagnino as well as his star Tilda Swinton to discuss the identity of Lutz Ebersdorf, a supposed first-time actor who plays Dr Josef Klemperer, the film's third lead.

When Swinton was in makeup for Klemperer, she preferred for the cast and crew to address her as the fictional actor Lutz Ebersdorf. To which Swinton would have answered "an unequivocal yes".

At the film's premiere at the Venice Film Festival in September, she told reporters: "Dr Klemperer is played by Lutz Ebersdorf". Swinton more prominently features as Madame Blanc, the mysterious school's instructor. With up to four hours a day in the makeup chair to be turned into Ebersdorf, numerous extras and crew on set did not realize it was Swinton under the layers of makeup.

And it does sound like she was having fun with it, including a request to the makeup department to make, in makeup artist Mark Coulier's words, a "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". Okay, fair enough, but will she finally admit that she's actually a literal swan who's playing Swinton who's playing Ebersdorf who's playing Klemperer? That said, it's kind of neat to know going in that Swinton is playing these two characters (technically three-you'll understand when you see the film), especially since her turn as Klemperer isn't part of some big reveal in the film. "This is a movie that is very connected to psychoanalysis", he said, "and I like to think that only Tilda could play ego, superego and id". Swinton spent four hours in the makeup chair each day to pull off the look. He used prosthetics to thicken her neck and built out her jaw to make it look more masculine.

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To add another layer to the ruse, Swinton then created an online profile for Ebersdorf on movie database website IMDb, the site now redirects to Swinton's profile. The role was credited to first-time actor, 82-year-old Lutz Ebersdorf.

The ruse might have held longer had a paparazzo not snapped a photo of Swinton as Ebersdorf during production in Berlin, then sold it to US services two winters ago as a picture of Swinton as disguise.

"The intention was never to fool anybody", Swinton said.

Still, now that the secret is out, Swinton can't help but voice one last, cheeky regret. "My original idea was that Lutz would die during the edit, and his "In Memoriam" be the final credit in the film".

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