If you haven't yet watched the teaser trailer for 'Suspiria', you're probably going to want to in order to understand exactly what's going on here.
The short teaser, which goes on for just over a minute and a half, flashes up several scenes from the upcoming horror and among the violent imagery and crashing music from Thom Yorke, there's an elderly man seen shuffling through various scenes who is played by a German actor named Lutz Ebersdorf.
Lutz Ebersdorf, as far as we can determine, does not exist and is most likely played by Tilda Swinton.
Per IMDb, 'Suspiria' is Ebersdorf's very first screen role and the biography section of his profile states that, prior to taking up acting, Ebersdorf's family fled Nazi Germany in 1938 and settled in London. Thereafter, Ebersdorf studied "Philosophy, taking a particular interest in Gestalt psychology and Psychodrama", before he co-founded an experimental theatre group called Piefke Versus. That theatre group is described as "a radical performance ensemble heavily influenced by the Vienna Actionists and in particular the work of Hermann Nitsch," with the name Piefke being a derogatory slang word for Germans in Austria.
The biography also talks about Ebersdorf's doctorate and his practice which specialises "in mother-daughter relationships" and Kleinian psychoanalysis.
So why does everyone think that Tilda Swinton is actually really Lutz Ebersdorf? It all kicked off when Mirror.co.uk claimed that set photos from 'Suspiria' showed Swinton in costume as Ebersdorf. Swinton, it must be said, is no stranger to heavy makeup - having done so in the likes of 'Grand Budapest Hotel' and 'Snowpiercer'. If you look at photos of Ebersdorf from the trailer and compare them with Tilda Swinton, they do look incredibly similar.
There's also some clues in Ebersdorf's IMDb biography, too. For one, the art of Hermann Nitsch has been explicitly referenced in promotional images for 'Suspiria'. His performance work, 'The Theatre Of Orgies and Mysteries', features a human body being ripped open from the groin to the neck - exactly like an early promotional image of Dakota Johnson. Nitsch's work also featured blood outlines of bodies on a white sheet, very similar to one of the shots seen in the trailer.
While this doesn't tell us anything other than the supposed Ebersdorf's work was influenced by Nitsch, which also influenced Guadagnino's work on the movie, it's just way too coincidental for it to be taken seriously. Luca Guadagnino has repeatedly denied rumours and internet theories that Swinton is Ebersdorf and told Yahoo! Movies in February that the Swinton / Ebersdorf theory was "fake news."
IndieWire contacted both Tilda Swinton's UK agents - who denied that Swinton was also playing Ebersdorf - and Stella Savino, one of the producers on 'Suspiria'. Savino's comments on Ebersdorf echoed Swinton's agents, claiming that Ebersdorf is "an extremely private person who would prefer not to comment at this time," but added that he may be persuaded to do some interviews when the movie is closer to its release date.
What's funny about all of this is that there is absolutely no record of Lutz Ebersdorf ever existing anywhere online. The only information on Ebersdorf comes from that IMDb profile, which was supposedly written by him. There's no record of his psychology practice in Berlin, no record of Piefke Versus, none of the supposed art films that they made, and no other photos of Ebersdorf beyond the set photos and promotional images for the movie.
Made-up characters in the movie industry are nothing new, of course. The Coens famously edit their own movies under a pseudonym called Roderick Jaynes. Dalton Trumbo, the famous screenwriter of 'Spartacus' and 'Roman Holiday', penned many scripts under a fake name to avoid the HUAC blacklist. Alan Smithee is a common pseudonym used by directors who wanted to disassociate themselves with their work. Mike Myers adopted the persona of a British comedian named Tommy Maitland and even did interviews in character, frequently denying that Maitland was him and vice-versa.
If you've got eyes in your head, it's clear that Swinton is playing Ebersdorf and that this is all some eloquent commentary on the nature of performance, but none of it will be clear until 'Suspiria' lands in cinemas later this year.