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Badass To the Bone

Actor Tim Roth recalls the gutsy moves that led him to film glory.

By Aaron Richter

Need a villain, antihero, lowlife or snot-nosed punk? Tim Roth's your guy. He's robbed diners in Pulp Fiction, kicked a nasty heroin habit alongside Tupac Shakur in Gridlock'd and crossed swords in the Scottish period piece Rob Roy, which earned Roth an Academy Award nomination. But the 46-year-old Brit is now giving romance a try in Youth Without Youth, Francis Ford Coppola's first film in 10 years, in which Roth plays an elderly professor who miraculously regains his youth after being struck by lightning.

On growing up in London . . .

"I went to a school in a working-class area, and I came from a lower middle-class background. You couldn't last long there with my accent. You had to be quick about it, or you'd get the shit kicked out of you. I was able to blend in."

On perfecting an American accent . . .

"I have dialect coaches interview people, and I pick a voice that I like from that region, and we work toward that. Ever since I was a kid, homework's been boring. But I do more homework as an actor than I ever did in school."

On bartending . . .

"I bartended when I was in college, and then I've done it a few times in places where I'm having a pint. It's sociable, you know, good conversation. One Halloween I was in New York and a whole group walked in dressed as the Reservoir Dogs people. They didn't recognize me at all, and I was serving their drinks all evening."

On turning down the role of Severus Snape . . .

"There were only a couple of Harry Potter books out at that point, and Snape seemed underdeveloped. I've watched the films, and Alan Rickman does a good job. If you pass on a project and it turns out well, then it was probably the right thing to do. But at that point, no, I didn't really want to be on a lunch box, you know?"

On Francis Ford Coppola . . .

"When I was 18, I wrote letters to directors -- Kubrick, Scorsese, and Coppola. It was like, 'Dear Mr. Coppola, I really like your movies' -- very naive stuff, but I wanted to get a job. Years later when he was thinking about directing On the Road, I was in Hollywood. He called me in for a meeting, and he produced the letter. He had kept it."

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