By Pauline Adamek
Actor Tim Roth plays for keeps whether it's as ambassador for Hollywood, Prada model or hardened gun-toting tough guy who is at once charismatic and genuinely menacing.
With his wide blue eyes and hangdog looks, Tim Roth has built a career playing tough guys who are both charismatic and genuinely menacing. Veering from nasty to funny, he is always edgy. In person, however, quietly snapping gum and dressed in clothes which are, quite frankly, daggy, the thirty-five-year-old self-described "pasty-faced Londoner" is unaffected -- despite his adoption by Tinseltown.
"I make a great ambassador for Hollywood," said Roth, who was one of the celebrity models used by Prada. "[It's all] worked out for me, luckily enough." Roth, who worked filling supermarket shelves and selling advertising over the phone between acting jobs back in London, was invited to the party in 1992.
He'd already done time in grimy, low-budget British television features directed by "actors' directors" Alan Clarke and Mike Leigh (Made in Britain and Meantime) and gained a higher profile playing an antsy assistant hitman in Stephen Frears' The Hit.
His American calling card was a small New York film called Jumpin' at the Boneyard. He then landed a pivotal role in Quentin Tarantino's Reservoir Dogs, and gained international recognition for his memorable diner heist-maestro in Tarantino's Pulp Fiction as well as Academy Award and Golden Globe supporting actor nominations for his role as the archvillain in Rob Roy.
His latest turn is in Woody Allen's Everyone Says I Love You as a hardened criminal who briefly ruffles the lives of an upper-class society family. In it, Roth's pelvis seems to be magnetically attracted to all the women in the room; he gives Drew Barrymore a kiss you'd swear curled her toes.
The freedom on the set scared Roth. Allen surprised the cast with the news that they had signed onto a musical, but gave everyone the option of being dubbed.
"And you'd rehearse for hours and hours, like a play, and then he'd shoot it all in one take," says Roth. "You could change every take if you wanted. It was a strange experience. He doesn't massage your ego. He just gets it right and moves on, so other people find it difficult. I enjoyed it. I'd do it again."
Next up, Roth worked on Gridlock'd. Due for release later this month, it is a satire about two heroin addicts trying to kick the habit who get into trouble with both the cops and the crims.
Roth speaks solemnly about the murder last September of his co-star, gangsta rapper Tupac Shakur. "I try not to think about it when I'm watching the film, because I'd rather not inform it with his death. I know the audience will. It's a great loss. He was a very talented poet, performer, very charsimatic."
Hoodlums is Roth's second big-budget studio film, satisfying a desire to work with Laurence Fishburne. In it, Roth plays another nasty, this time thirties gangster Dutch Schultz. It was pure fun to strut about with a gun. "I got to hold a Tommy gun. That was it for me. I showed up every day just to do that one scene."