Tilda Swinton, Suspiria

Suspiria: Tilda Swinton finally confirms second role as octogenarian, German male

Contributed by
Oct 10, 2018

Suspiria has a surprise in store: Tilda Swinton in a dual role. But not the dual role you might expect.

In Luca Guadagnino's retelling of Dario Argento's 1977 masterpiece Suspiria, Tilda Swinton plays Madame Blanc, the headmistress of the Tanz Dance Academy. Like in the original film, Tanz hides a coven of evil witches. But Swinton has recently confirmed that she also plays a second role in the film: Dr. Josef Klemperer, which is actually credited as being played by Lutz Ebersdorf, a German actor. 

Rumors have been swirling about Swinton in the role for months, though Guadagnino dismissed them outright as soon they first surfaced. But Swinton recently admitted to the New York Times that she was, indeed, Ebersdorf.

“The answer to the question to me, ‘Are you playing Dr. Klemperer in Suspiria?’ is always that Dr. Klemperer is played by Lutz Ebersdorf.” But few people ever asked if Swinton was playing Lutz Ebersdorf. To which her answer is “an unequivocal yes.” 

Mind you, this isn't the first time Swinton has played a male or androgynous character on screen. Most notably, she played the eponymous role in Sally Potter's Orlando (1992), as well as the angel Gabriel in 2005's Constantine and The Ancient One in 2016's Doctor Strange.

Guadagnino and Swinton's answers as to why she took on the double role vary wildly. Swinton says, “Undeniably, I would have to say, for the sheer sake of fun above all.” But Guadagnino says, “This is a movie that is very connected to psychoanalysis, and I like to think that only Tilda could play ego, superego and id.” To say much more would be a huge spoiler.

Oscar-winning makeup artist Mark Coulier did all of Swinton's Ebersdorf makeup. With up to four hours a day in the makeup chair to be turned into Ebersdorf, many of the extras and crew on set did not realize it was Swinton under the layers of makeup. She even insisted on having a prosthetic set of male genitals made for her, which she wore under her costume. "She managed to get it out on set on a couple of occasions," said Coulier.

“The intention was never to fool anybody,” Swinton said. “The genius of Mark Coulier notwithstanding, it was always our design that there would be something unresolved about the identity of the performance of Klemperer.” Now that the secret is out, Swinton has one regret: “Frankly, my long-held dream was that we would never have addressed this question at all. My original idea was that Lutz would die during the edit, and his ‘In Memoriam’ be the final credit in the film.”

Suspiria opens in theaters Oct. 26.


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