Tilda Swinton on COVID-19 Protocols: ‘I Was Told to Wear a Mask … and I’m Not’

Oscar winner and star of “Problemista” became latest actor to speak out against Hollywood’s ongoing safety protocols during SXSW panel

Tilda Swinton attends "The Souvenir Part 2" screening during the 74th annual Cannes Film Festival on July 08, 2021 in Cannes, France. (Photo by Andreas Rentz/Getty Images)
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Two weeks after Woody Harrelson slammed COVID-19 safety protocols during his “Saturday Night Live” monologue, Tilda Swinton became the latest actor to speak out against such measures, saying at an SXSW panel that she did not intend to wear a mask on the set of her next film.

At the start of the panel ahead of the premiere of her new film “Problemista” in Austin, Swinton reflected on how much had changed in the world since her last SXSW appearance in 2014, noting that she didn’t see anyone in the audience wearing masks and how that didn’t seem possible during the more severe stages of the COVID-19 pandemic. “I mean, in Texas did people wear masks? I have to ask,” she joked to the crowd.

Swinton then said that she doesn’t intend to wear a mask per film industry safety protocols and that she is “very healthy” even after multiple COVID-19 infections over the past three years.

“I’m about to shoot a picture in Ireland, and I was told to wear a mask at all times, and I’m not,” she said.

Swinton isn’t the only high-profile actor in Hollywood to voice their disagreement with the continued use of COVID protocols on set. This past November, SAG-AFTRA president Fran Drescher applauded Disney for its decision to lift vaccine mandates for a dozen of its television productions, believing such mandates to be too exclusionary though she herself chose to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.

“To think that every human on the planet can take one vaccine is ludicrous and to make that one vaccine the criteria for who is allowed work, travel, dine go to theater, etc. is an infringement on the Disabilities Act, the Freedom of Religion Act and body sovereignty,” said Drescher.

At last month’s SAG Awards, Drescher restated her support for lifting vaccine mandates, saying that she “hopes we will see everyone return to work in equal opportunity” as the Biden Administration is set to end COVID national emergency protocols in May.

Woody Harrelson, meanwhile, doubled down on his “SNL” attack against COVID safety protocols in a New York Times interview, saying that he can “get out of wearing a mask” and “test less” than crew members on the productions he has recently worked on, but feels that it is no longer necessary to require everyone in the immediate shooting area — called “Zone A” on the Return to Work Agreement — to wear a mask.

“I don’t think that anybody should have the right to demand that you’re forced to do the testing, forced to wear the mask and forced to get vaccinated three years on,” he said. “I’m just like, ‘Let’s be done with this nonsense. It’s not fair to the crews. I don’t have to wear the mask. Why should they? Why should they have to be vaccinated? How’s that not up to the individual?’”

While Hollywood’s labor guilds and studios have agreed to loosen some testing requirements and even drop them entirely for productions outside of Zone A, the Return to Work Agreement protocols for the immediate filming area continue to require all cast and crew to wear masks. The protocols are set for revision and possible renewal at the end of March.

Swinton’s comments were first reported by Variety. Swinton’s full SXSW panel can be viewed here.