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Tim Roth Gets Silly

By Degen Pener

After Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs, the actor goes for something a little lighter.

Tim Roth is jostling about the Culver City set of Four Rooms, a film project so hip and high concept it is hard to believe it's actually getting made. Composed of four shorts directed by independent-film darlings Allison Anders, Alex Rockwell, Robert Rodriguez, and Quentin Tarantino, the movie revolves around a series of outlandish incidents at a dilapidated L.A. hotel on New Year's Eve. Roth stars as the bellhop, the only character linking all four segments. He appears nothing like the tough, edgy characters he's portrayed in films like Pulp Fiction, Bodies, Rest & Motion, and Reservoir Dogs. When he puts on his smart little bellman's cap, Roth looks cute and silly.

"This is physical comedy. It's fun. I've never really done this before," says the thirty-three-year-old British actor, whose career is now ramping off the hardscrabble independent road he's traveled since moving to Los Angeles four years ago.

Four Rooms is due out this summer, while next month Rob Roy, Roth's first studio film, is scheduled for release. A medieval epic starring Liam Neeson and Jessica Lange, it's the sort of costume drama, complete with sword fights and horseback riding, Roth swore he'd never act in. He even wears a foppish curly wig. "I look like a very, very ugly man in drag," he says. "The story is pretty formulaic, but it's written quite wonderfully."

What happened to the gritty actor critics love? Not to worry. This month Roth is at his best and most reliably sinister in James Gray's Little Odessa, a bleak story set in Brooklyn's Russian-Jewish crime underworld. Roth, with perfectly contained emotion, plays a hit man seeking peace with his dying mother (Vanessa Redgrave) and his unforgiving father (Maximilian Schell). "It's a great film, but I don't want to see it again," he says. "It's pretty hard to take." Yet it's the sort of role Roth insists he won't be abandoning. "I don't know if I've got a definition of integrity, but there are things I won't do, because I know my father would turn in his grave," he says. "That kind of guilt is good to hold on to."

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