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Acting

By Beverley Perry

From acned wally to adolescent thug . . . young actor Tim Roth has refreshed some parts many RADA students wouldn't know how to reach. Ditching his sculpture course for the dole and a head-dive into the Royal Court, Cockpit and Oval youth theaters, 23-year-old Roth replaced his lack of training with dynamism; he leans on a street-bred colloquialism and observation, rather than turning to The Method.

"As soon as you start reading books on how to act, you get paranoid," he claims. "It clouds your judgment."

Being "not so sharp, academically," and spending his youth languishing in one of South London's roughest comprehensives was, he says, "probably the best thing that ever happened to me." After all, who better to play the vicious skinhead in Alan Clarke's Made In Britain than someone who's breathed and fought with the type? Or to make a convincing job of the hopelessly vulnerable, slobbering idiot Colin in Mike Leigh's Meantime: "Colin was based on a kid I knew at school, who spent five years hiding from the world." And only someone with a real appreciation of South London's transport problems could have pulled off that part in Ray Davies' Return to Waterloo: "We had to deal with British Rail timetables. It concerns a man's experiences on a train. His paranoia, his nightmares . . ."

Roth has a natural talent for handling weirdos and degenerates. As Myron, in Stephen Frears' The Hit -- billed beside John Hurt, Terence Stamp and Fernando Rey -- he's bagged an excellent role to make his movie debut. In a superb portrayal of the trainee hoodlum, what seems like a superficially charming character with a dangerously malicious streak turns out to be a doomed, misled youth filled with pure goo. The carve-up scene, with Myron wielding steel spike, knuckle-duster and scalpel seems a bit to convincing . . .

"I've never been involved in that sort of business. I was fairly quiet -- 'the joker,' if anything. But I know people like Myron. And if I'm doing research for a part, I go out and meet them."

Meeting the two stars of The Hit, however, was a nerve-wracking experience but Roth managed to master his anxiety: "I was terrified. But as soon as you meet Hurt, you find an actor who wants to work. So does Terry. We will see each other again. You get on the phone or pop round and have tea."

Tim Roth's healthy disdain for the round of 'drama circle' (self-promotion) parties is clear. "I hate all that starry shit," he promises. Unassuming, unaffected, for once the accompanying hyperbole -- "Britain's hottest rising actor" -- seems justified. So, who needs a BBC face to get on in life?

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