Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.
Pop culture obsessives writing for the pop culture obsessed.

That old guy in the Suspiria trailer is definitely Tilda Swinton

Illustration for article titled That old guy in the Suspiria trailer is definitely Tilda Swinton
Screenshot: Suspiria

Look, nobody needed a remake of Suspiria, Dario Argento’s 1977 giallo masterpiece, but at least the one we’re getting comes from Call Me By Your Name director Luca Guadagnino. From what we’ve heard and seen, the casting, gore, and horror are all on point, making for what sure looks like one of the year’s best horror flicks. In a perfect world, we’d go into the movie knowing nothing else; but, the arrival of the film’s first full-length trailer yesterday invited a deeper look. Sure, it looks awesome, but, really though, what’s going on with this old guy?


Of course, people were asking that same question when the film’s original teaser was released back in June. At the time, Indiewire’s Zack Sharf did a deep dive into the actor, Lutz Ebersdorf, behind the role of psychoanalyst Dr. Jozef Klemperer. His findings? Dude probably isn’t real. Couple that with these set photos from March of last year , in which everyone agreed that this was definitely Tilda Swinton in some very convincing makeup, and it’s more or less clear that the actress is pulling double duty in the movie as both Klemperer and dance instructor Madame Blanc.

The only people disputing this are Guadagnino and other members of the crew. “That’s a complete fake news,” he told Yahoo. “They made a picture of my actor Lutz Ebersdorf and they claimed it was Tilda in make-up. I don’t know why and I don’t know who.”

But, as Indiewire noted, the evidence is damning:

Ebersdorf’s IMDb page includes only one photo (which, frankly, looks like a stock photo and bears little resemblance to the old man we see in the trailer). Plus, Suspiria is his only credit to date. His profile says he was born February 15, 1936 in Munich, Germany and is best known for co-founding the experimental theater group Piefke Versus, described as “a radical performance ensemble heavily influenced by the Vienna Actionists and in particular the work of Hermann Nitsch.” Ebersdorf’s bio also mentions he made several short art films, all of which are now lost, and pursued Kleinian psychoanalysis later in life.

Aside from the fact Ebersdorf’s short films are conveniently nowhere to be found, there is no information about the theater group Piefke Versus anywhere online. It could be a clue the dance group is described as being influenced by Hermann Nitsch, an artist known for extreme works full of blood, demonic orgies, and bacchanalia (all things very Suspiria). Ebersdorf’s IMDb page is the only substantial piece of information about him that comes up when you Google his name. The actor has no agents listed on his IMDb profile, and his biography includes the note that it was written by Ebserdorf himself.

Casting director and executive producer Stella Savino, meanwhile, stuck to their story. “I confirm to you that Tilda Swinton has played the role of Madame Blanc, while the character of Dr. Klemperer has been played by Professor Lutz Ebersdorf, a psychoanalyst and not at all a professional actor,” Savino told Indiewire. “I would add this is quite customary in Luca’s work. He likes, or better he adores to go in those directions and to work with real people that he loves to mix-up with professional and terrific actors, like Tilda is.”

She added, “He’s an extremely private person who would prefer not to comment at this time,” Savino wrote. “We’ve promised him, no matter what, to do our best to protect his privacy; this was part of the deal we closed with him at the time. I’m sure it will be easier to persuade him to grant some interviews when Suspiria will be closer to the release date.”


Of course, none of what Savino says above is a lie if you consider that Swinton is actually playing Ebersdorf and not Klemperer, meaning Klemperer is simply a character being played by Ebersdorf, who is the real character Swinton is inhabiting. After all, as Indiewire notes, the UK tabloid Mirror credited Swinton as playing a character named Lutz Ebersdorf back when the set photos first dropped.

Whether any of this means anything remains to be seen. Considering the off-kilter atmosphere of Argento’s original, in which the set was purposely designed to disorient the viewer, it’s very likely that Guadagnino and Swinton are simply pulling this stunt to achieve a similar sense of the uncanny. That, or, in a moment that could either be terrifying or hilarious, she’ll rip off her Ebersdorf face and, as Madame Blanc, scream, “It was me the whole time!”


Regardless, if Ebersdorf/Klemperer really is Swinton (which, come on), it’ll still be neat to watch one of Hollywood’s most indelible actresses navigate two complicated roles.

Randall Colburn is The A.V. Club's Internet Culture Editor. He lives in Chicago, occasionally writes plays, and was a talking head in Best Worst Movie, the documentary about Troll 2.