Tilda Swinton Plays Immortal Sisters in Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio
Pinocchio sits in the Wood Sprite's palm in a darkened wood.

The Immortals

Tilda Swinton plays Death and the Wood Sprite, immortal sisters in Guillermo del Toro's Pinocchio.

4 January 20233 min read

From the little wooden hero himself, voiced by English actor Gregory Mann, to carnival impresario Count Volpe (Christoph Waltz) and his hench monkey Spazzatura (Cate Blanchett) Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio is filled with an array of distinctive characters. But among the most striking are the two immortal sisters played by Tilda Swinton: the Wood Sprite and Death.

The Wood Sprite serves as the film’s answer to the Maiden with the Azure Hair from the original Pinocchio tales penned by Italian author Carlo Collodi in the nineteenth century. In the new film, she’s a winged woodland creature who bestows the gift of life upon Pinocchio in the hopes of healing the broken heart of grief-stricken woodcarver Geppetto (David Bradley). Death, too, is a winged creature, with a body reminiscent of a Sphinx. Ruling over a nether realm known as Limbo, she’s visited by the disobedient puppet on several occasions.

An artist works on a Death puppet in a blue lit studio with green walls

Guillermo del Toro’s longtime collaborator Guy Davis, who served as the film’s co-production designer, helped the writer-director realize the immortals’ unique looks. “I didn’t want them to be flesh and blood,” says del Toro, who imagined the pair as masked sisters. “They’re both [inscrutable]. They don’t have a human scale to their emotions. They’ve seen people die, and they’ve seen people born.”

When it came to casting, the filmmaker believed that Swinton was the ideal choice for the roles. “When I pitched it to Tilda, I said, ‘I want you to play life and death, and they sound exactly the same, just one is compassionate and the other one is realistic,’” says del Toro. “Those two voices were embodied by Tilda, who, I think, is not of this world.” Adds Mark Gustafson, director alongside del Toro: “She has an elegance and a gravitas at the same time, which those creatures needed. They’re ancient, and there’s wisdom in her voice that’s just there naturally.”