Shy, unpretentious and searching for new ways to fulfil his
career, the Oscar nominated scene stealer of Rob Roy, 36-year old
Tim Roth has enjoyed a reputation as a leading heavy in many an
independent film, spurning mainstream Hollywood, preferring to
participate in films "where the money is lousy but the work
is exceptional." Roth seems to crop up all over the place,
and the British actor who plays American crims better than most
Americans, agrees that while the choice parts are around
"it's a matter of when you found them, trying to raise the
money to make the films; that's always the problem. The scripts
are there, but nobody wants to make them."
A case in point is his latest film, Gridlock'd, a story about
a couple of heroin addicts battling bureaucracy in order for them
to enter a drug rehab centre. "Try pitching a comedy about
heroin to anybody with the chequebooks; it was prettty
"To me it was about
three people who love each other and come up against brick
Gridlock'd, which casts him opposite the late
rapper-turned-actor Tupac Shakur, is a black comedy satirising
the depths of bureaucracy gone mad and revolves around Stretch
(Roth) and Spoon (Shakur), two drug addicts who decide to go
clean after a friend of theirs, Cookie (Thandie Newton) goes into
a drug-induced coma. They encounter bureaucratic red tape,
however, trying to get into a detox program and return to their
drug dealer. During one of their visits to the dealer, though,
they find that a local thug, D-Reper (Vondie Curtis-Hall, who
also wrote and directed the film) and his henchman have killed
the dealer. Realising that Stretch and Spoon have taken some of
"their drugs," D-Reper and his henchman try to kill the
two. The police believe that the two are responsible for the
murder. Thus Stretch and Spoon must avoid the thugs and the
police as they try to enter the detox program. "Even though
these two characters are addicted to heroin, for me, that was of
secondary importance when I read it," Roth explains when
discussing his attraction to this project. "To me it was
about three people who love each other and come up against brick
"This is really a film about red tape more than anything
else, which I related to because most people eventually come up
against bureaucracy, from signing up on the dole to immigration
here in the US. At ANY LEVEL, you're going to get the brick wall.
So I think in the end, it has a point from which everyone can
recognise something. If you can come up with a story that has
that element, that's great."
"He was incredibly
professional and, unlike me, wanted to rehearse more, which
was fine" Tim Roth on Tupak
The film also features the only starring role on the part of
the late rapper, Tupak Shakur, senselessly gunned down last year.
He and Roth formed a friendship during filming and Roth has great
respect for the way he approached acting. "He was incredibly
professional and, unlike me, wanted to rehearse more, which was
fine. He was a major talent who'll be sorely missed." There
is a lot of heroin taking that takes place in the movie, and Roth
didn't need to do too much research on the subject. "Vondie
[the director, a former drug addict] had a lot of information on
the actual administration of heroin and its immediate
after-effects. Much of what you see on the screen was in the
script, unless something came up by accident that we thought was
fun, then we'd shoot it."
Gridlock'd was certainly different to his previous experience,
working with Woody Allen on the sweet romantic musical comedy,
Everyone Says I Love You, in which he plays an ex-con attracted
to Drew Barrymore. Working with Allen was a dream come true for
Roth. "It was loads of fun doing what is such a sweet film,
but we shot it in such a weird way. I had only two scenes to do,
really, and supposedly to be shot in seven days. Instead it took
seven weeks to shoot, because Woody's in that unique position of
going: 'Nah, let's shoot THIS scene today'. With him, you never
know what you're going to film and when you're going to film it.
But the actual experience of filming with him was delightful. I
mean, his worse movies are better than most of the movies that
come out, and as a director, he gives you a lot of freedom."
While Roth seems to have specialised in doing independent
films, he denies an intentional shunning of mainstream Hollywood.
"It's just that the best scripts I get offered come from
independent film makers. Sure I'd like to earn $20 million a
movie, but that's not really what DRIVES me. I just want to act
until I drop." He continues to be busy. Due out next is a
slightly bigger film for Roth, Hoodlums, a studio made gangster
drama co-starring Laurence Fishburne.
"The chance to work
with Fishburne was a great attraction in doing this."
"The chance to work with Fishburne was a great attraction
in doing this. It's about the black mob in the thirties, how they
took over the numbers rackets in Harlem, and how they went to war
with the white gangsters. I play one of those over-the-top
gangster characters which is fun. This is the kind of movie
that's going to hit or miss."
Roth will also be seen "in a bizarre Hitchcock-type
thriller" called Liar, followed by Animals "another
bizarre independent film about a taxi driver who lives in his cab
and goes on this journey to try and find his soul with an
angel." And finally, Roth hopes to return to England later
this year to direct his first movie. "It's a very low-budget
film that I'm not going to act in, called The War Zone, and it's
definitely not a comedy." Tim Roth may love his
independence, but his dependence and passion for working on the
bizarre and the best, never seems to wane.