> The actress takes on the role of The Ancient One in Marvel Studio’s latest film
FOR Academy Award winner Tilda Swinton ( far right), receiving an invitation to join the Marvel Cinematic Universe was “a good day”. The fact that Doctor Strange ( right and above) presents a whole new world of magic and alternate dimensions appealed to the renowned actress.
“It is introducing us to another world,” Swinton says. “It’s about the mind and our capacity to affect our reality with our thoughts.
“What I find so inspiring about Marvel is that they tend to be pretty experimental as filmmakers. They’re always taking technology beyond the edge.
“Regularly, they’re inventing new technology to do things that a year ago they wouldn’t have been able to do.”
After brilliant, arrogant neurosurgeon Dr Stephen Strange has a car crash, he loses the use of his hands and seeks alternative ways of healing when operations to restore his hands fail.
Offering insight on how he meets The Ancient One and how their relationship evolves, Swinton says: “Strange hears about this legendary healer in this place called Kamar-Taj in Kathmandu.
“So, he basically spends his last penny on a ticket and goes to Nepal and finds The Ancient One, who’s not exactly what he expected.
“He is not impressed at all. But then, she shows him her skills, and he realises that he has to learn from her, so it evolves into a mentor-pupil relationship.”
Though little is known of this mysterious character played by Swinton, the actress offers: “We learn early on in the story that she is Celtic and is of a completely indeterminate age.
“Nobody knows The Ancient One’s name. No one really cares; they just accept and revere this unique being and go forward. She simply is.”
Describing The Ancient One’s look, Swinton says: “With The Ancient One, we wanted to go for something very fluid, very sort of non-specific and pure and ageless. Neither young or old: only ageless.
“So we ended up going for something pretty raw and unadorned and modern and that has an archaic feel too: something eternal.
“The Ancient One carries deep scars on her skull, indicating a long, long life, the survival of great battles, a warrior’s path: the toughness of this detail underscores the light touch of her presence with a dark and serious note. She may make one a delicious cup of tea, but The Ancient One is also the ultimate badass.
“In terms of costume, we draw on a deliberately wide spectrum of influences across the ages and the planet: for example, the plaited linen detail on the bodices echoes the bindings of Egyptian mummies, the layering of the many-lined coats recalls tailoring across both centuries and continents.
“Buddhist robes were definitely a reference in developing The Ancient One’s costume, not least in the colour palette, although perhaps the strongest influence is contemporary fashion designer Haider Ackermann, who inspired much of the leatherwork and the flowing silhouette overall.
“The Ancient One’s look is a glorious mash-up, historically resonant and freshly present in the same gesture.”
Swinton prepared for the physical demands of the role by working with the talented stunt team and a group of extraordinary martial artistes, as well as with Julian Daniels who taught her hand movements.
Commenting on the experience, she recalls: “It was like being at a most delicious school. We were learning all these things that we would never otherwise have learned.
“You want to do something that draws on certain disciplines or certain traditions but at the same time you want to do something that’s never been done before.