Even in an awards season threatened by the writers’ strike, actors and actresses will metamorphose into politicians, making happy talk at Hollywood house parties and showing off their ordinary-people-ness (and not-so-ordinary bodies) on morning shows and whatever late-night programs are still able to book them. Amid the noise of the Oscar campaigns, it’s rather soothing to go back to their work—to those private moments in which they lost themselves in their characters and we lost ourselves in their faces. Here are images that represent a few of my favorite female performances of 2007—when we photographed these actresses, we asked them to evoke those haunting, revelatory moments. It wasn’t always easy for them to summon the emotions they had in character, in makeup and costume, a year or two ago. But seeing them grapple with the mystery of who they were then offers its own kind of excitement.
Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton)
As the new chief legal counsel of a massive (and massively crooked) corporation, Tilda Swinton”s character struggles to project confidence”and, in the intensity of that struggle, Swinton shows us the panic, the moral vertigo, beneath the mask of crisp efficiency. —Photograph by Katerina Jebb