Honor Swinton-Byrne, the dazzling revelation of The Souvenir

Tilda Swinton’s daughter bursts onto the screen for her very first acting experience in The Souvenir, Joanna Hogg’s diptych. Encounter

In the city, emanates from her the calm, enveloping and instantly empathetic strength of the one who has never dreamed of finding herself the main actress of a film and therefore savors this moment of life without pressure, without a career plan in mind. promotion. Because at no time, therefore, the daughter of Tilda Swinton had thought one day to follow in the footsteps of her mother and find herself playing in front of a camera. Doubtless moreover she would never have done it if this proposal had not come from Joanna Hogg, a filmmaker she has known in real life for years, the one who had directed her mother for her short film end of study. In front of her camera, Honor Swinton-Byrne embodies Julie, whose first great love story of her existence, her end, the difficult mourning and then the reconstruction through… cinema. And on screen, all it takes is one shot to understand that Honor Swinton-Byrne is the right (young) woman at the right place. She takes on this complex role, rich in emotions as strong as they are contradictory, with a fascinating naturalness. Not for a second or so, Joanna Hogg’s camera does not take her eyes off her, as though magnetized by her. And as a spectator, we live these seconds which become minutes and hours which we would dream would never end like a delight. With this feeling of being privileged to witness the birth of a talent as there are only a handful per decade. The future belongs to him.

Joanna Hogg explained to us that she had been looking for Julie’s interpreter for a long time until she came across you on a station platform after spending the afternoon with your mother Tilda Swinton to talk about her role in she. Tell us how you experienced this moment on your side…

Honor Swinton-Byrne: I’ve known Joanna for a long time because she’s been a great friend of my mother since she starred in her graduation film. I no longer remember in detail our exchanges but she had asked me to tell her how I was living my 19 years. I spoke to him in particular about my first love stories. And I think she saw her Julie. So, she ended up asking me if I would be interested in playing while telling me that I really didn’t have much time to think because the shooting was to start in… two weeks! And I spontaneously said yes…


Daughter of an actress, have you had the desire to act in mind for a long time?

Not at all. I never wanted to be an actress and even after this amazing experience, I don’t just want to be an actress. Joanna would have asked me to join the film’s technical team, I would have said yes to her in the same way. To be part of this project and because she was the leader. That’s all I cared about.

Joanna Hogg’s policy is not to have her actors read her script. How did you then work on this character of Julie during the two weeks which preceded the first clapperboard?

We haven’t stopped chatting. His enthusiasm and the precision of his answers to all the questions I asked him carried me away. She also gave me the notebooks she kept at Julie’s age and which were one of her sources of inspiration for The Souvenir. And given films to see, of New York New York from Scorsese to Red slippers by Powell and Pressburger

What state were you in at that time?

More excited than stressed, I think. The fact that there are only fifteen days before launching prevents you from asking yourself too many questions about your own anxiety. You do not have the time.

What seduced you in this character of Julie?

The immediate empathy she aroused. And the fact that I spontaneously found in her a lot of things of me. So my path to her was anything but winding

How did Joanna Hogg work with you on set?

No scene was like another, from this point of view. With Joanna, there are no set rules. With one exception: she leaves us free to play the first take as we feel to see where it all takes us before directing us to what she wants. But gently, with suggestions that became self-evident to me.

Did you like to play?

Yes. Deeply. I felt like I was growing during the shoot. Once the first part was over, when there was still no certainty that there would be a second, I left for Namibia for two years. And, for the second part of the shoot, we had less need to chat with Joanna because things came more naturally to me. I was also necessarily more aware of what the daily life of a set was like.


We also imagine that there must have been something necessarily exciting about finding yourself recreating the screen in the role of the director. Caprice, the graduation short that Joanna Hogg made with your mother as an actress…

Totally! Especially since it’s a film I’ve seen at least once a year since I was a kid. One of my mother’s first roles… And I also think that I had more pleasure in this second one because I was in tune with Julia’s more playful mood, which will find its way throughout this story.

Was playing with your mother fundamentally different for you from playing with your other partners?

She’s my favorite person and actress in the world! Having him as a partner is an extraordinary asset. We had a blast playing characters with a mother-daughter relationship so far from ours! I never considered these moments as a challenge

Want to keep playing?

Yes. But for all that, I don’t want to take acting lessons. I really don’t think it’s for me. I went back to university studies that I had put on hold for the time of the two shoots. But I would love to relive such an experience.

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