They blur sexual boundaries
The most obvious similarity, and one that has come to define the careers of both halves of the Bowie/Swinton gestalt. Bowie played with gender and sexuality throughout his ’70s heyday, in particular – take the rather fetching dress he sported on the cover of The Man Who Sold the World, and the general sexual otherwordliness of Ziggy Stardust. Meanwhile, Swinton’s iconic role in Orlando, in which she quite literally changes gender overnight, is something that few actors could have pulled off — but, you suspect, a certain David Bowie is among those who could have given it a pretty fair shake.
They’re both gay icons
On a related note, Bowie’s declaration of bisexuality in the ’70s was a remarkably brave move in an age when the legacy of the ’60s sexual revolution was still very much limited to heterosexual relations, while the androgynous Swinton has been a darling of the gay community ever since the aforementioned Orlando, and quite possibly beforehand.
They love playing with clones of themselves
If you’ve ever seen Teknolust (above), you’ll have seen Tilda Swinton hamming it up as a mad scientist as she cavorts with not one but three clones of herself, all of which live on human sperm and end up running a porn site to feed themselves. Bowie, meanwhile, has spent the best part of 40 years creating new interpretations of his own persona. Whether one such interpretation has spent most of that time going by the name of “Tilda Swinton” remains… unconfirmed.
They both love masks
Which is hardly surprising, given what we’ve already discussed — indeed, the question really is what lies behind the mask, a subject of constant fascination in relation to both artists. But in any case, aesthetically, both love to rock the mask as an stylistic accoutrement — which, of course, isn’t exactly going a long way to disprove the whole idea that they’re separate beings. (And, by the way, who is that on the cover of the NME this week, eh?)
They can both rock an amazing pompadour
And not everyone can do that.
They love to transform into sexy aliens…
Bowie’s acting range isn’t as great as Swinton’s, of course, but in the right role, he’s perfect — and given his generally otherworldly demeanor, The Man Who Fell to Earth was as perfect a role for him as a relentlessly homicidal robot was for Arnold Schwarzenegger or a generally befuddled man out of time was for Keanu Reeves. The Man Who Fell to Earth also provided inspiration for, yes, Tilda Swinton, who recently modeled for a W magazine shoot that was clearly very much inspired by Nicholas Roeg’s classic. The plot thickens.
Some of both Swinton and Bowie’s most memorable alter egos have wielded magical powers — we’re thinking, of course, of Bowie’s glorious star turn as Jareth the Prodigiously Endowed Goblin King in ’80s classic Labyrinth. Swinton, meanwhile, was imperially menacing as Jadis, Narnia’s White Witch, in the otherwise forgettable film versions of C.S. Lewis’s books. Sadly, Jadis’ costume didn’t sport an eye-popping collection of socks in the crotch area, but you can’t have everything.
…and biblical characters!
Come on, there’s definitely a theme here: Bowie replaced Sting, who was originally cast in the role of Pontius Pilate for Martin Scorcese’s The Last Temptation of Christ, while Swinton appeared 20 years later on the other side of the biblical fence as the suitably androgynous misanthropic Gabriel in Francis Lawrence’s Constantine.
They both love staring at themselves in the mirror
Well, so would you if you looked like that.
They hang out with the same people
And finally, they also seem to enjoy hanging out with like-minded privacy-loving celebrities (Marilyn Manson, Gary Oldman, Susan Sarandon amongst others.) Is is that this inner circle can keep a secret, and are trusted not to blab the media about the secret basement cryogenic facility wherein David undergoes his metamorphosis into Tilda and vice versa? One day we will know the truth.