Luca Guadagnino has absolutely insisted that Tilda Swinton is not playing two characters in his remake of Suspiria. Swinton is credited in the film as playing Madame Blanc, the artistic director of a dance academy, but photos from the set that leaked last year identified a white-haired man in a coat and hat as Swinton in prosthetics, sparking rumors that she had another, secret role as well. “That’s a complete fake news,” Guadagnino told Yahoo Movies UK, explaining that the man in question is actually 82-year-old German newcomer Lutz Ebersdorf.
But can we believe him? Last year, Star Trek: Discovery invented a fake actor, “Javid Iqbal,” to cover up the fact that Shazad Latif was secretly playing two characters, one of whom was unrecognizable under heavy, alien prosthetics. That dual identity was a pivotal plot twist for the season, but fans grew suspicious ahead of the reveal because “Javid Iqbal” lacked an online presence and failed to show up for any events to promote the film. “Lutz Ebersdorf” might similarly be a made-up person designed to hide that Swinton is playing both Madame Blanc and the elderly Dr. Klemperer.
If Ebersdorf is truly a decoy to throw us off the sent, then the team behind Suspiria is at least making more of an effort to cover that up than Discovery did. Casting director and executive producer Stella Savino told IndieWire that Ebersdorf, “a psychoanalyst and not at all a professional actor” is extremely private, which accounts for his refusal to do interviews. He even has an elaborate biography over on IMDb:
In 1938, when Ebersdorf was just two, his family fled Nazi Germany: first for Geneva in Switzerland, and then to London. Spending most of his youth in Camberwell, London, Lutz returned to Munich in 1954, where he studied Philosophy, taking a particular interest in Gestalt psychology and Psychodrama.
Having graduated in 1957, Ebersdorf went on to co-found the experimental theatre group Piefke Versus - a radical performance ensemble heavily influenced by the Vienna Actionists and in particular the work of Hermann Nitsch. While supporting himself working odd-jobs for several years, Ebersdorf and the other members of the group staged sporadic performances, often in public spaces, and produced several short art films (now believed to be lost films).
Ebersdorf eventually disbanded Piefke Versus in 1964, leaving him free to pursue his studies in Kleinian psychoanalysis. He received his doctorate in 1967. Ebersdorf has worked in Berlin as a practicing Kleinian analyst, specialising in mother-daughter relationships, since 1969. In 2016 director Luca Guadagnino approached Ebersdorf to appear in Guadagnino’s remake of Dario Argento’s Suspiria as Dr Josef Klemperer, a Kleinian psychoanalyst.
It’s awfully convenient that Ebersdorf’s previous work is “lost,” particularly since in a new trailer for the movie, he looks and sounds suspiciously like Swinton, especially around the eyes. If the character really is Swinton in disguise, the filmmakers probably have a good reason they’re going to such lengths to hide it—maybe, like Discovery, to conceal a dual-identity plot twist. Or maybe they just like messing with us. We may not know for sure until Suspiria’s release on Nov. 2, but until then, watch the trailer (which also stars an undisguised Dakota Johnson) and decide for yourself.