Nicole Campos: What was it that attracted you to this script? (Captives)
Tim Roth: Well, I think first it was rare for me to do anything that had any kind of a romantic note to it, so that I think was the first thing. And also, that it was this illegal, sort of impossible kind of affair which I liked the idea of, too. So, those two things. And also, going home to do a film.
NC: Right -- so you came off of Bodies, Rest and Motion before this? Was it that early?
TR: No, it was....Little Odessa. I did that here [in the States], and then headed back.
NC: Hm...good old James.
TR: (smiles) Yeah.
NC: There's a real tension between these two characters, it seems like...fumbling for more than just companionship, but also there's a real sense of loss between them.
TR: Yeah -- well, they're both people who have been through, on various levels, a sort of personal destruction, and of course finding each other in this unlikely place.
NC: How much rehearsal went into this film?
TR: Very little. After Little Odessa, I went straight into this film, maybe had about three days between before we started shooting it.
NC: There's a certain stoicism to Philip, a couple of scenes especially where it seemed like maybe you were on the verge of breaking down, but he maintains this tone...
NC: I suppose, a tone like he's always got it together, it seems, no matter what.
TR: Really, if you meet somebody who's spent any length of time in prison, you don't let your guard down. Ever. And really, that's what that was about -- if you open up too much, you're asking to get your teeth kicked in. Even in the relationship [with Rachel], since he'd destroyed the relationship that he'd been in before. So, he wasn't about to open up...she quite gets in there in the end, though, I think.
NC: How do you think filming in a real prison affected you? Did it help you get a firmer grasp on the character at all?
TR: Nah, it just depressed the fuck out of me! I think, really -- for the long shot where you see the whole wing, fair enough. But I think it would have been easier to shoot on a set. It certainly depressed everybody, so there was an air of that. It's a very tedious process, as well...you have a very short working day. Eventually, though, we did shoot some fill [on a set] near the end.
NC: Now is the head-butt just something you learn on the street in Britain when you're a kid?
TR: (smiles big) It's a tradition! They call it the Docker's Kiss, and...yeah, it's a tradition. Just good fighting.
NC: I actually was at a friend's place this past weekend and we saw State of Grace again...
TR: Oh, yeah!
NC: Yeah, and Oldman's in peak form in that one...
TR: Oh, absolutely. He puts that in, too.
NC: Now, I saw Little Odessa in a film class, and I remember the opening scene, that shot...
TR: The one with the eyes?
NC: No, the whole scene really -- you walking up, plugging the guy and you're gone...
TR: (laughs) Okay, yeah. Bang -- off!
NC: Yeah! For a moment, in the screeing, there was a silence in the room and then...this little giggle.
NC: Yeah, but not really a reaction to the scene as much as, everyone looked at each other and went, "Yep, that's Tim!"
TR: Oh, I know...it's very weird, we went to one screening in I think it was France at a film festival, and people...well, I said to James, I said "Y'know, they think it's going to be Reservoir Dogs!" They think it's going to be guns going off left and right and it's not, it's not that kind of film at all. And he said, "Yeah, I know....well, fuck 'em! What are we going to do?"
NC: And what was his other quote? "It's not him yelling and running around with a silver gun for a change."
TR: Ah...(laughing) -- well, I think James had a little bit of a competetive edge as far as Quentin was concerned. Because Quentin had cracked it, made it as a filmmaker. (Pause) But probably not the kind of filmmaker that James wants to be, actually.
NC: Now, what exactly *did* they do to Four Rooms in the editing room?
TR: Well, it was very strange. The idea was to do this experimental film, four independent filmmakers, kind of like a relay race that they would hand off to each other. And it *should* have been released very low-key, in a couple of arthouses in about three cities. But what happened was...first of all you had a very famous film director. Then, you had someone who while we were making the film, *became* very famous -- Robert Rodriguez. And Robert's section was the zippiest and the fastest, like a cartoon -- so, what happened was, we had a test screening in Santa Barbara and it went through the roof, people loved it -- the *original* cut. So everyone was set, that was what it was gonna be, and then when they screened it in New York, a group went, "Oh, we don't like this...but we like this bit! But not this, this is too slow," and all that. So, I think people just lost their nerve.
NC: Also, the trailer seemed to be around for so long beforehand -- I mean, my friends and I just couldn't believe how much of the trailer wasn't in the final cut.
TR: Yeah, I know. I think in the end, they wanted to cut it *all* like Robert Rodriguez' piece. And that was just going against the grain of the film -- each director was supposed to do something in his or her own texture. I think the financiers got into the editing room, actually.
NC: It seemed, to me anyway, that Alexandre Rockwell's piece probably suffered the most.
TR: Yeah, it did -- they cut about ten minutes from him.
NC: Let's see: "I've never really played a goody in the traditional sense." Who would you say is probably the best, I guess good-hearted character you've ever played?
TR: I was the good guy in Reservoir Dogs. It's hard to paint things in black and white in that sense, though, you know -- I mean, in Little Odessa, he was the bad guy. He was the *devil*, but he was the good guy in his own eyes to a certain extent.
NC: Not a lot of people saw Jumpin' at the Boneyard, but I thought that character was a pretty good guy.
TR: Oh, yeah, he was...that was another one, that was the first film that brought me to America, actually. And I thought it was a lovely story, but it came out the same time as Reservoir Dogs. (shrugs his shoulders) So, there you go...
NC: You've spoken a lot about being uncomfortable going into Rob Roy...congratulations on the BAFTA, by the way.
NC: So, at what point on that did you just say, "Okay, I'm not going to worry anymore"...or *was* there a point like that?
TR: Maybe about six weeks in.
NC: And how long was the shoot?
TR: Three months. Earlier on in the schedule I'd come in and out...do the occasional scene, and then split. And it was just *so* over the top, I couldn't see the overall character. It was such theatrical acting, which I'm not used to doing and just didn't want to do. But Michael [Caton-Jones] kept pushing me, pushing me...and I just thought I was going to get fired, I really did. (shaking his head) "They're gonna see the dailies, and they're just gonna *fire* me!" But he pushed me, and then I really started to play with it and enjoy it when we got to the solid block of my stuff. It's a different kind of acting.
NC: You've been pretty vocal about how the working class identity is missing from British films...
TR: It's getting there now...
NC: Exactly, what I was thinking...I mean, the whole Irvine Welsh fascination on top of it, and Mike Leigh's got one coming out...
TR: Mike Leigh's got one, and let's see, who else...Ken Loach has got The Civil War, that's coming out, and of course Trainspotting, Danny Boyle's film...
NC: (pouting) See, we don't get that until summer.
TR: Oh, yeah! (smiles) I've just seen it. There just seems to be more acceptance now of...other kinds of British films, than the picture-postcard ones.
NC: And the press seems be latching onto it, too -- that sort of "Eh, we can do it too, see!" That kind of mentality.
TR: Yeah! Although it's just starting to happen. A good part of why I never went back to England was part of that, I didn't want to be in those sort of flowery films. But I think it's a nice change of pace -- I don't know how long it'll go for. There will always be the Merchant-Ivory/Kenneth Branagh movies, but there's something else now -- really, it's always been there but the Americans getting to see it makes all the difference.
NC: What was, maybe not the best, but just the most extraordinary experience you've ever had with a director? Where it was so beyond anything you had expected?
TR: That would be the first thing I did, Made In Britain. My first time in front of the camera, and it was with an extraordinary DP (director of photography), Chris Menghes, who's now a director. And my director was Alan Clarke, who's dead now, who is one of our greatest directors, I think he was one of the best British directors ever. And I had the two of them giving me free reign, you know, teaching me how to be in front of the camera and how to act, everything. That was I think the most...incredible experience.
NC: There are so many filmmakers now, here and in Britain, that are coming out of the woodwork, it seems. Who are some that have caught your eye, that you'd like to work with?
TR: I'd like to work with Danny Boyle, I think he'd be great to work with. Abel Ferrara I'd like to work with. Jim Jarmusch. If Werner Hertzog does another film, I'd like to work with him. And James Gray, too, I'd love to work with him again, I think he's incredible.
NC: Now, I know your style is usually, just go straight into the role. Was it weird to do research for Murder in the Heartland?
TR: Well, I had to. You just have to when you're playing a certain type of character -- historical character, that is. I just wanted to make sure that they were keeping as close to the story - [Charlie and Caril's] story, in fact -- as possible. But they did lose their courage, to a certain extent.
NC: Was there any conflict between what you had wanted to bring to the character, versus...what belonged there, I guess, that you found out about him in the research?
TR: Not really...I wanted stick with as much reality as possible, but you know, you're dealing with a television company. And they're not going to -- well, I mean, they'll tell you a gun barrel can only be a certain distance from a person. It can't be pointing at the head, stuff like that. You can only show her leg so much, up to a certain level.
NC: Was there any battle at all to get the electrocution in?
TR: (smiles) Nope! That was the *one* thing that they were fine about.
TR: Yeah, cause that's *revenge* - a very American tradition! You can kill somebody at a public execution, which is basically what we were doing. But when you show what he did to lead up to that point, they were very stuffy and didn't like it. I think we got away with a lot, more than I felt we might. The research was horrible, though, mostly looking at autopsy reports.
NC: Dropping art for acting, I've read somewhere else that it's the difference between being an originator of ideas or an intepreter. Was it like that for you?
TR: Nah, for me acting's just great fun. A lot more fun than making sculptures, so that's what I wanted to do. It wasn't any great calling -- maybe years later, when I'm 60 or whatever, I'll pretend it was, who knows?! But acting is just the most fun I could ever possibly have in my life...and it still is.