Tilda Swinton Opens Up About Filming With Long Covid

Tilda Swinton wearing blue
Photo by Daniele Venturelli/WireImage via Getty Images

For the past two years, scientists have moved at lightning speed to collect any and every data related to Covid-19. One key area, however, remains overlooked: We still know very little about the phenomenon of “long Covid,” including just how many people have experienced their symptoms persisting long after they contracted the virus. Thanks to a new interview with the Guardian, though, we do know that Tilda Swinton is among them. She’s still in recovery from the symptoms that began last August, when she was unable to get out of bed for three weeks.

“I was coughing like an old gentleman who smoked a pipe for 70 years, and had nasty vertigo,” the 61-year-old actor said. “I got off relatively lightly, but the worst thing is how it affected my brain.” That was no easy feat, particularly because Swinton chose not to take a step back from her career. “I did two films that I had to learn a lot of text for,” she recalled. One of them was Asteroid City, the upcoming Wes Anderson film that also stars Scarlett Johansson, Bill Murray, and Adrien Brody. The timing couldn’t have been worse for production, which took place in Spain between August and October.

“[Anderson] likes you to speak like a speeding train,” Swinton said. “I’m normally quite quick at studying, and picking stuff up, but this was like chewing a really big piece of gum. I couldn’t remember my lines.” She pulled through, though there’s no word on when we’ll be able to enjoy her performance in the romantic dramedy. Anderson has kept the film so under the wraps, even the plot remains unknown.

These days, Swinton is coping “more or less”; the actor is still having issues with her memory. “I have to work my brain,” she said. And Swinton sure has been working: Asteroid City is among four movies she’s filmed since her symptoms began. Funnily enough, it turns out the Academy Award winner originally planned to do only ever do one film in her entire life.

“I like seeing people for the first time in a film,” she said. “I love seeing people, I’m not interested in seeing actors at all. And the best way if you’re an actor to avoid that annoyance for the audience is just to do one film; then they’ve seen you, they’ve met you, you were interesting and new and they never have to see you again.” Thankfully, she of course turned her back on that plan, though we wouldn’t mind reading some of the poetry she wrote before that.