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Abominable Actor

By Jeff Renaud

This summer in The Incredible Hulk, Mr. Orange turns green with envy. Tim Roth -- whose breakout performance was as the aforementioned honorific in Quentin Tarantino's color-coded debut, Reservoir Dogs -- stars in the Marvel mega-movie as Emil Blonsky, an English soldier who, nearing the end of his long career with United States Army Special Forces, sees what happens when Dr. Bruce Banner (Edward Norton) gets blasted with gamma radiation and wants the power for himself, so he signs up for the same treatment.

And Abomination is born.

Not to mention an abomination of the original comics, because isn't Blonsky a Russian?

"One of the first things the creators did was to decide they didn't want a dialect coach in, so the Russian thing went out," explains the 47-year-old actor. "He's a special ops guy. He's a soldier, a very, very good soldier. But he is at the point where he is getting way too old to be doing this kind of thing, so he is reaching a point where he is going to go into retirement or work for Blackwater or something like that.

"And then he gets on this mission and gets a glimpse of this new form, something that nobody has ever seen before, and he wants it and he goes after it."

To become Abomination, Roth sported a Serkis suit during his motion-capture scenes while filming in Toronto, and found transforming into the mutated menace was not that much of a stretch.

"You go in and put on these silly suits and develop the character," explains Roth. "I had this great movement coach. He's a martial arts guy. He doubled for me and kept saying, 'Try doing it this way and try doing it that way.' So you get the character moving in some really interesting ways. But in the end, while he is a greatly deformed human being, he's still upright and still very human."

Roth, of course, is no stranger to revealing his inner monster: The Academy-Award-nominated actor knuckle-dragged his way through Tim Burton's 2001 re-imagining of Planet of the Apes as simian super-soldier General Thade.

"That was all movement, too," says Roth. "The thing with being an ape is finding an upright way of walking that is believable to the audience. The movement has to be natural. It has to bust down their sense of belief so the audience doesn't sit there thinking, 'Oh, there's Tim Roth in a rubber suit.' You have to break that down and try to develop a new way of walking and moving."

But unlike Thade, who failed to evolve beyond a banana-munching baddie in Planet of the Apes, Roth says Blonsky's tale is a complete Samsa-inspired metamorphosis.

"God knows how much they've kept in. I haven't seen it, but there is a definite development of Blonsky," says Roth, who confirmed he was signed on for two Hulk sequels if they're made. "He changes before you get the big whack. There is other stuff to see before he becomes Abomination. There's more fun to be had. Otherwise, it wouldn't have been much of a challenge. It still would have been fun, mind you, but not much worth doing."

With a cast that also includes Norton, Liv Tyler (Banner's love interest, Betty Ross) and Oscar winner William Hurt as General Thaddeus "Thunderbolt" Ross (Betty's father), it's safe to say director Louis Leterrier (The Transporter and Transporter 2) was looking for a movie that was more actor-driven than typical superhero CGI showcases.

"I think that's what Louis was after by bringing in some of these actors," says Roth. "And that's not trying to run down people who are in these films, but I do think when they work, and there's evidence to prove this, it's generally because the story is a bit on the darker side.

"It's aimed at adults and kids. And the kids want that. They don't want bright and shiny. I checked in with my kids about it constantly. And they were saying, 'It's not a kiddie movie, is it?' And they were very specific about the ones that they didn't like."

While Roth wouldn't share which superhero movies he and his two teenage boys thought were for "kiddies," he did mention a few he would pay to see.

"They loved the X-Men movies, especially the second one. Nightcrawler was a fascinating character. The backstory for Wolverine was also really well done," says Roth. "My boys want action, loads of it, but they also want a story. And they don't want to be treated like kindergarten kids. They don't want bright, shiny white people. They want something for their money. Because they are bored now, they've seen everything. They've really seen everything. At least I think so, don't you?

"CGI doesn't shock us anymore. When it first arrived, when you go back to the early days with things like Close Encounters of the Third Kind, that was like, 'Wow, how did they do that?' Suddenly, you were seeing another world. We've stepped off and walked around in our virtual universes. We've done it all. So what's left? What's left is story. If you can get us with the story and the acting, you can have our money. Otherwise, we are not going to give it you. That's the problem. That's the real problem with it all. That's the challenge."

From Blonsky to Bastard

While that beacon of online truthiness, the Internet Movie Database, says that Roth has enlisted for Quentin Tarantino's long-awaited war pic Inglorious Bastards, the British-born actor says he has heard nothing official from his director and friend, who also cast him in Pulp Fiction and Four Rooms.

"[Inglorious Bastards] is something that Quentin has talked to me about whenever I've seen him. I know he's writing it right now," says Roth. "But I have been so removed from everything. I'd be surprised if I was on it. But you know what, you never know, I'd love to. Working with Quentin is just a trip. It is just so much fun. Hopefully it will work out and I can be a part of it. It would be great if it did."

The Wrath of Roth

Roth, who adores shows like BBC's Doctor Who and Torchwood, considers himself a follower of hard science fiction, which includes the works of the recently deceased Arthur C. Clarke.

"I love things that stretch your mind and make you go, 'Wow.' I absolutely love really good science fiction films. I think Alien is a very good example. It's actually a perfect example. Blade Runner is another example. And if you go to science fiction books, you look at what [Robert A.] Heinlein was doing and you look at what [Isaac] Asimov was doing and [Arthur C.] Clarke. They are taking physics, they are playing around with the boundaries of what we think may be possible.

"It's incredibly imaginative and quite terrifying at times. And that's what you want. They are just great stories. Kurt Vonnegut was doing it, too. I am a huge fan."

Beyond the "Big Three of Science Fiction," Roth's coffee table is covered with pop science books, too.

"I do love [math and science]. It's just that I am crap at it," laughs Roth. "It's complicated and confusing. It's such a frustrating language. One of my boys is good at math, but I'm not. I am simply amazed by people who are. That's why I love reading about it. That's why I think Vonnegut really took me. And people like that, because, they make it accessible to me. And they tell me what's possible. Physics is a fascinating topic. And so is time travel. If you take the real essence of a mathematical problem, and how it would function in another life, that's true imagination. But to me, it's just a mishmash of chalk figures on a board. I don't get it."

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