Julio Torres Only Got Tilda Swinton on Board for ‘Problemista’ Once Her Character ‘Didn’t Have to Be American’

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Julio Torres Only Got Tilda Swinton on Board for ‘Problemista’ Once Her Character ‘Didn’t Have to Be American’

Nearly a year since it premiered at SXSW, Julio Torres‘ “Problemista” finally had its New York City premiere at the Village East by Angelika on Tuesday, February 27. His A24 satire stars Tilda Swinton, Isabella Rossellini, James Scully, Greta Lee, and RZA, to name a few. On the red carpet, producer Emma Stone, alongside fellow producers Dave McCary and Ali Herting, even made a surprise appearance.

“She was very happy to do it,” Julio Torres said of getting Tilda Swinton involved as his co-lead. “She was a little worried about playing an American, then we talked and she didn’t have to be American. She found this creature, we don’t know where she came from. Like a dragon, she emerged from a cave.”

Tilda Swinton was visibly very excited to be in Manhattan in support of this project. “Julio sent me [the script] and asked me to come play with him,” the Oscar winner said. “Who am I to say no? We really love each other and there is nothing like working with your friends. We just kind of cooked it up. I laughed and laughed so consistently and so hard, and it’s very perfect. What he wrote is pretty much what we shot.” Isabella Rossellini was also “delighted” to be working with Torres. “Julio and I have the same agent, he put us in touch,” Rossellini said. “I find his voice, his sense of humor, so unique.”

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I SAW THE TV GLOW, from left: Justice Smith, Brigette Lundy-Paine, 2024. © A24 /Courtesy Everett Collection

“The film is heavily autobiographical. It’s an amalgamation of truth and fantasy,” Torres said of making his feature directorial debut. We also spoke to star James Scully, Torres’ real-life boyfriend. “[Julio] has such a clear, creative vision,” Scully said. “He’s really good at looking at the other artists in his life and being like, ‘How can I incorporate them into this in the way that will best accentuate who they are naturally as an artist?’ You just feel like you’re being welcomed into something brilliant and beautiful. Julio would be a great cult leader! Thank goodness he did not decide to be that and instead decided to be an auteur.”

Swinton will soon star in Pedro Almodóvar’s English language feature debut “The Room Next Door,” starring alongside Julianne Moore and John Turturro. The project was recently acquired by Sony Pictures Classics. This will be Swinton’s second turn with the auteur, following his 2020 short “The Human Voice.”

“[Almodóvar] has this beautiful crew who I got to know quite well the first time around, but I only knew them with their masks on,” Swinton told IndieWire. “People kept coming up to me and introducing themselves and saying, ‘Hi, here I am again.’ It’s a really beautiful thing to come again into his world.” She went on to confirm a shooting date. “We start filming next week. We’ve been rehearsing for two months. [Julianne Moore] and I are as thick as thieves.”

As for Rossellini, she shows no signs of slowing down, with films “Spaceman” and “La Chimera” both coming out in March. When looking back at her prolific career, one performance stands out to her. “I remember everybody always liked ‘Blue Velvet,’ or hated it [laughs]. It was a fantastic role and film, and I loved working with David Lynch,” she told IndieWire.

Our review for “Problemista” writes that “Julio Torres’ visual style and sense of humor work as well on the big screen as they do on TV. His feature directorial debut is a confident, imaginative calling card, a film that has as much to say about the immigrant experience as it does about being an artist trying to remain unique and personal, as it simply delivers an endearing and hilarious comedy.” The film hits select theaters on March 1 before a wide release on March 22.

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