Polyamory in the News!
. . . by Alan M.

February 25, 2008

Tilda Swinton's unusual household

When the Scottish actress Tilda Swinton won an Academy Award on Sunday evening for Best Supporting Actress, further media spotlights turned to her ménage à trois (French for "household of three") with two men (and twin 10-year-olds) in the Scottish Highlands. From Fox News (Feb. 25, 2008):

Oscar Winner Tilda Swinton Addresses Offbeat Love Life

Tilda Swinton, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her icy performance in "Michael Clayton," addressed her offbeat love life Sunday, saying her young lover and the father of her children are "close friends."

The willowy, redheaded actress has twins with Scottish artist and playwright John Byrne, 68, while traveling the world with New Zealand painter Sandro Kopp, 29. The relationships have become fodder for the British press, who have called Swinton's personal love life "a ménage à trois style arrangement."

Swinton, 47, appeared taken aback when one reporter asked her about what he called her "unconventional" love life.

She responded that she was raising her children with Byrne while living with Kopp, her "sweetheart" of three years.

"I think it's extraordinary that we're all really close friends," she said.

The lowbrow Daily Mail in London had already been working this story hard. From its February 14th issue:

Tilda Swinton stormed the Baftas (British Academy of Film and Television Arts awards) with her paramour, 29, at her side. So what happened when she took him home to stay with her partner, 67, and their twins? Welcome to an intriguing ménage à trois.

...At home — a spectacular pile on the banks of the Moray Firth — is Swinton's long-term love John Byrne.... They continue to raise their ten-year-old twins Xavier and Honor together at their whitewashed home, which is in a secluded spot at the end of a tree-lined road.

...The twins, it emerges, were with Swinton and her lover at the Bafta's ceremony, and returned to the family home as a group — including Kopp — on Tuesday afternoon.

They were greeted at the door by Byrne, who helped them with their cases.

The unconventional ménage then retired inside.

Kopp, it seems, is staying over in Scotland for a few days, with the full blessing of Byrne, an eccentrically bewhiskered figure who, aged 67, could almost be cast in the role of grandfather.

...It's no wonder that heads turn in Nairn when they see Swinton, Byrne or, very occasionally, Kopp out shopping in the village.

The locals are kept busy trying to work out what on earth is going on behind the closed doors of the Swinton-Byrne residence.

The truth, according to associates of Swinton, is that she is very deeply in love — with both men.

And far from being a passing phase she is said to hope that it continues indefinitely. "All I can tell you," said a London associate of the actress, "is that Tilda is delightfully, extremely happy."

...What a rum old do. But as we shall see, Tilda is an unsettlingly uncompromising woman. She joined the Communist Party as a student, and said recently that she rejects the "right to pursue happiness" as the heart of the rotten capitalist system.

She has no vanity and has been mistaken — because of her height and androgynous features — for a man ("I should wear more lipstick," she smiles).

When off-duty she proudly sports hairy legs and "gnarled" feet.

She has no television in her house, for fear of making her children "torpid". Instead she prizes joy, creativity and above all intelligence.

She rejoices in her independence and the distance she has travelled from the bourgeois conventionality of her own family....

See the photos of them and read the whole long article.

And here's a lovely bit of commentary in the Guardian.

And a profile from the Daily Express.

And this from the Times of London:

The British are bohemianphiles in every respect, except sex. We love dogs at the table, we appreciate gardening in the nude and a casual approach to heirlooms.... But we have yet to swallow the idea of an open relationship, even one that has lasted 18 years and works well for all involved.

These moments will crop up, now and then, to remind us how confused our standards are. The average Hollywood child has to get used to several “parents” in a lifetime.... Either mum or dad will be in rehab at some point, and in acrimonious litigation with each other sooner or later.... [So] by modern standards, the Swinton set-up is remarkably secure and uncomplicated.

Shall we just admit that a 47-year-old woman stepping out with a man who isn’t quite 30 is a threat to many (though not to Byrne). As long as we don’t think it’s a straightforward issue of morality, because that would make Angelina and Brad a “better” example than Tilda and friends, which would just be depressing.

More? Steve of the Vanpoly group in Vancouver writes, "There's been lots of notice of her open relationship — most of it positive or at least factual, but some of it, well, quite catty actually. I found it odd that none of it mentions polyamory, calling the relationship just about everything else but." He offers some more links:

More Times of London
New York Daily News
Wonderful 2004 interview with Nerve.com
The Daily Mail gets down and dishy with the girlfriend Sandro dumped for Tilda.
The Daily Mail going gaga on Oscar night, with lotsa photos.

Update June 4, 2008: The celebrity press (for instance) now tells us that Swinton's partner, John Byrne, has had another partner for two years now: 42-year-old theatre lighting director Jeanine Davis. Byrne is quoted as saying, “It’s all very relaxed and amicable. We have not hidden away and Jeanine is very much part of my life. Tilda knows all about it and is more than happy with the situation. It’s all very relaxed and amicable. Tilda has Sandro and the arrangement works very well.”

Another quote from Byrne: “There is so much love there, I wish I could explain it.”

Update Nov. 30, 2008: What's Swinton's own take on becoming something of a poly poster girl? In a long article in today's Independent, Jonathan Romney writes:

While Googling her, I found Swinton's name on several 'polyamory' websites, hailed as an inspiring example for the multi-partner lifestyle. Swinton takes this information with wryly exaggerated scepticism. "Rrrrright.... Well, that's good. I'm sure there are red-headed websites that are claiming me, and people above a certain height. It's all fine," she sighs, cheerfully, "I'm friend not foe. One man's polyamory — is that the word? — is another man's being really, really good friends with the co-parent of one's children while we're both in other relationships. I don't think that's so strange. But maybe it is — and that would be really sad."

Update: From a review in the Times of London, March 21, 2010:

The sizzling ménage à trois, alas, turns out to have been more a case of house-sharing than polyamory. She hasn’t been in a couple with Byrne for “many, many years”, while she has been happily involved with Kopp for the past five. “Holders of national prizes like Baftas come under a certain kind of national scrutiny,” she says, quite cool about the salacious speculation. “It was like having my identity papers checked. Actually, I live in a much less exotic situation than people would like.”

Yet more update, December 2010: Tilda Swinton is adamant she doesn't have an open marriage, in ShowbizSpy (Dec. 9, 2010):

“I have never been married. I have two children with John Byrne… and we’ve not been a couple for many years, and we’re very close friends, and we bring up our children together.

“For the last five years, I’ve been in another relationship. It’s very boring and it’s important to rectify, because there’s some fantasy about us all living in a big hut together.

“I think people are so used to the concept of people having children with somebody and then, somehow, ending up estranged from one another, that when people come along who really are there as a family forever… it’s radical and somehow frightening.

“I think many more people live in the way that we do – in a state of real love and support – than newspapers might lead you to believe. I think newspapers love a bit of friction, and we’re a pretty friction-free zone. It’s pretty dull.”


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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tilda is amazing.

Thank you for posting this!

February 27, 2008 5:19 AM  
Blogger Galen said...

Another excellent entry. Keep up the great work! -Galen

February 27, 2008 5:13 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...

Did you see the other article in the Guardian about Michael Chambon? If not, I sent a link to it on the blog. We're moving it over to http://www.comingoutpoly.com. They're kind of derogatory in the article.

February 27, 2008 11:11 PM  

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