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"I'm a victim of child abuse," reveals Tim Roth

Bullied at school, abused as a child and memorably murdered in Reservoir Dogs - it hasn't been easy for the versatile actor

By Lina Das

After roles ranging from the foppish prince in Rob Roy to the wounded undercover cop who gushed seemingly endless torrents of blood in Reservoir Dogs, no one could accuse Tim Roth of a lack of diversity. On screen, his characters have tended to be on the unhinged side and although in person he exudes a similar kind of wiry, kinetic energy, he is as amiable and good-natured as they come.

Growing up in Dulwich, south-east London, with a journalist father and artist mother, Roth made his debut as a psychopathic skinhead in Made In Britain, and starred in films as diverse as The Cook, The Thief, His Wife And Her Lover, and Vincent And Theo. He earned a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his role in Rob Roy.

In 1999, Roth directed The War Zone, starring Ray Winstone, which was praised for tackling incest and child abuse. His latest role sees him donning wings in Skellig, based on the children's novel by David Almond.

Now 47, he has a 26-year-old son, Jack, by former girlfriend Lori Baker and lives in Los Angeles with his wife, Nikki Butler, and their two sons, Hunter, 14, and Cormac, 13.

Watching reality TV is like watching an accident from the top of a bus.

I truly don't like it and I find the buying and selling of people's misery and expectations cheap. I do worry that manipulative entertainment is taking over, but in a recession you're going to get a lot more of it because it's relatively inexpensive to make and I think a lot of studios want it so that they can stop making dramas. With something like American Idol, I can see the entertainment value of the audition stage, but the shows I hate are the ones where they put a group of people in a house and watch them bite each other's heads off. The whole Jade Goody thing was kind of tragic and it even made the news in the US. Her death became the ultimate reality-TV show, which I find quite disturbing.

I used to get beaten up at school because I was wimpy.

I know on screen I've got this reputation for being handy, but it couldn't be further from the truth. I think if you're the one being beaten up, you recognise the danger signals and get out of the way. You'll probably find that a lot of tough guys on screen have usually been on the receiving end of violence, so they know the signs and can translate it on film. My strategy was simple: I just used to run.

I'm a victim of child abuse.

It happened during my childhood up to my early teens and although I'm not going to say who it was, he's long gone now - and I hasten to add it wasn't my father or mother. Things happen to you in your life, but you don't want to consider yourself to be a victim - you want to be a survivor and the first thing that helps you do that and helps you get through it is speaking and finding your voice. I'd been wanting to direct a film for years and told my agent to start looking for a script. The first one that came through the door was the one for The War Zone. If you are a survivor of abuse and you get the opportunity to tell a story about that subject, then you can really get in there and tell the truth. It was a fantastic chance for me to exorcise a lot of demons. I'm very proud of the film and proud of the fact that it's even been used as a teaching tool.

I loved playing a grumpy old sod with wings.

When I got the script for Skellig (about a boy who discovers an 'angel' living in his shed), I didn't know what to expect because most scripts aren't too hot, but it was a great story told in a very adult way that wasn't sugary or patronising to children. I play Skellig not as an angel necessarily, but I thought of him as this tramp with a hidden aspect and I love the fact that this young boy, Michael, finds him and wants to look after him. I told my kids I was reading the script and it turned out they'd been studying it at school, so I had to make sure they didn't spoil the ending for me before I'd read it. It's a great story and actually quite raw.

What Tony Blair did was a war crime and he should be arrested and tried for it.

So should George Bush and his team. These two governments got together and they invaded a country and killed hundreds and thousands of its people. I feel there's a price they should pay for what they've done. I think that they're dangerous and they're criminals. I feel betrayed and let down by the Labour Party, but then the Labour Party has a history of betrayal - just look at the Cold War. I absolutely wouldn't vote for them again, not after Blair, and Gordon Brown's no better. He's part of the economic disaster we're living in, so it doesn't make any sense to get him to fix it.

President Obama's a great TV anchor.

He's handsome and all that, bless him, but I'm wondering what he'll bring to the country. You never know with politicians and although he's certainly doing some good stuff , he's still pushing the war in Afghanistan. Was I upset that Reservoir Dogs wasn't one of the DVDs he gave to Gordon Brown on his visit? Not at all. Brown should definitely have to pay for his copy.

On Reservoir Dogs, at the end of each day's shooting I had to be hosed down to remove the blood.

While we were making the film, we questioned whether it glamorised violence, but in the end I think you definitely saw the consequences of all the characters' actions and you could definitely feel the pain. But it was great fun to make. We were baking in hot red syrup most of the time and they had to hose us off the ground because we were stuck to the floor by the end of the day.

I spent six weeks filming on a sex offenders' wing in prison and it was truly horrible.

It was for the film Captives, with Julia Ormond and Keith Allen, and we saw some very, very scary individuals who looked like bad guys in movies. We'd be filming on the ground floor, while on the floor above would be the prisoners. Keith would be looking up shouting: 'F*** you!' and I'd be going, 'Yeah, easy to say when he's up there and you're down here!' It was a horrible place to work.

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