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Tim Roth

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Q & A

By Ben Mitchell

Tim Roth: Hard? Nope. He's useless in fights. And Phil Daniels can beat him at pool.

Do you get a lot of attention in diners?

Yeah, the manager always comes over and says, "You're not gonna rob me, are ya?" I get pursued for all kinds of weird things, for films that didn't work, like Four Rooms. People love it -- like, "Let's get drunk and watch Four Rooms." It is getting harder and harder to go anywhere. It's shocking. It surprises me because I've had a very low-key career.

After Reservoir Dogs, can you ever wear a black suit again?

I actually bought a couple of black suits. That whole thing all got really wild. Me and Quentin heard about those midnight screenings in London where everyone turns up dressed as the characters. We were desperate to just turn up one night and see what was going on, but we never managed to find the time.

What's in the briefcase in Pulp Fiction?

A lamp and a couple of batteries. No, I'm sworn to secrecy. I can't reveal that -- what the audiences come up with is much more fun.

What's the greatest tattoo you never had done?

If I wasn't an actor, I'd be covered. It's highly addictive. I'm going to have another two, but there is a limit. It takes hours and hours in make-up if I have to cover them, which is a very tedious process. I'd still really like to have a huge tattoo on my back.

What about on the face?

I'm not so sure, that's tricky. I'd have a lot of piercings, but facial tattoos are hard to live with. Maybe just on the earlobes, but that's where I draw the line.

How difficult is the driving test in LA?

If you can read, you can pass. You have a written test, then you drive around the block for three minutes, but I still managed to screw up five or six times. I've been driving for about four years now, I'm the first person in my family to own a car. My examiner was this 60-year-old Irish woman. She said, "You're English, aren't you? I don't like English men, they're terrible lovers." I argued with her, we pulled in and she said, "Oh, you've passed." That was it. Then you have to learn how to drive, which is the dangerous bit. I had a few crashes. I tried driving a righthand-drive car in Scotland during Rob Roy and couldn't deal with it at all -- I kept hitting the curb.

You gave quite an exuberant performance in Rob Roy.

I thought I was going to get fired because it was so over-the-top. I ended up really having a good time with that character. The bad part was that the wig was really itchy. I would have burned it willingly.

Has your career always gone the way you'd like it to?

I've made some mistakes and I've made some good choices. It's like Russian roulette, really. I was involved in Absolute Beginners for a while -- they wanted me to be the main guy. What disturbed me about it was taking this terrific book and turning it into a musical. It should have been a great street film, but it ended up as a bad music video.

Is it true that James Woods turned down Reservoir Dogs?

It's a better story than that -- his agent didn't tell him about it because there was very little money involved. James met Quentin at the premiere and said, "What a great film, I'd have loved to've been in it." Quentin was like, "Well, I tried," and that's how he found out. That would have been me firing my agent.

What's the secret to shooting a great rack of pool?

Practice. I don't practice -- I just play in pubs. I like to pick the guy that thinks he's shit-hot and, with a bit of luck, beat him. That's fun, because you're getting into mindgames. I'm not the greatest player, believe me -- my wife's much better. I tell you who is good: Phil Daniels. I met him when we were making Meantime with Mike Leigh. He said, "Let's go down the pub and have a beer," and we shot some pool. He whipped me, but I just thought I was in Quadrophenia. Chris Penn and his brother are good players as well. I like making films set in bars that have a pool table, but they usually take the balls away because they make too much noise. I never play for money, only for beer.

Can you open a beer bottle with your teeth?

I've never tried. My teeth would probably crumble in my head. But I like it when women do it -- very sexy.

Do you like the name Tim?

I was unhappy with being called Tim as a kid because it was a bit cissy. it was tough enough being a little kid, but I was a working-class school with a middle-class name. I'd have liked something a bit harder, like Jack. That's what I called my eldest boy.

Does anyone ever call you Timothy?

Only my mother.

What about Timbo?

I don't talk to people who call me that.

Are you fairly handy in a fight?

No, I'm useless. I was always the one on the run at school.

When was the last time you went out for a beer with Gary Oldman?

A good few years ago, when he wanted me to be in a film he was trying to get off the ground. I'm fairly sure Gary lives in New York now, but I don't think he drinks any more. On Meantime we'd certainly go out after a hard day's work and get smashed. When I first started acting I lived in Lewisham and he lived in New Cross, so I'd always see him outside the building society with his mum.

Would you consider moving back to England?

It's not a place I'd want to live, certainly not at the moment. Growing up with Margaret Thatcher happening, I just hated it. I love it when I go back. But John Major and the obsession with the royal family? Fuck that. If you're going to live in a corrupt society, you might as well live in America -- it's the biggest one.

Which of your female co-stars have you fancied most?

Amanda Plummer. Pretty faces in films are a dime a dozen. What I like are characters, and Amanda is a strange and wonderful character. It's like Gary Oldman -- he's not exactly the archetypal sex-symbol guy.

Have you ever done anything just for the money?

I've made the mistake a few times when I was really, really broke. It's so frustrating and hard to excuse in your own mind. Whatever the role is, I really try and make it interesting, but you're up against it because you didn't want to do it in the first place. I've made films I haven't even seen, but I'm not going to tell you what they are.

Was that quite a while ago?

No. Believe me, it was fairly recently. The film may come out and apparently be quite good, but the experience, was so awful that I don't want to see it. Likewise, you can have a wonderful experience and then the film's bloody awful.

Who was the last person you asked for an autograph?

I don't think I've ever done that. No, wait a second -- a few years ago, I got all of Duran Duran to sign an album for a kid who was a nephew of a friend. Things like that I'll do. If somebody wants Sandra Bullock's autograph, I can probably track that down.

What was the last holiday you went on?

A friend of mine was really broke, so we went on a road trip, jumping freight trains and hitching. Those trains go where there aren't any roads, so you see some wonderful countryside. I wouldn't do it again because it was pretty crazy. Jumping on and off those trains is dangerous enough, but some of the people on those trains are insane.

Do you read your own interviews?

Now I just skim over them. No-one said you had to be intelligent to be an actor. Who cares what we've got to say? For example, there was a thing on Bravo about actors who've worked in the Actor's Studio. Christopher Walken was on and he fascinates me. But how revealing is an interview? I just want to work with him.

If you could, would you never do another interview again?

That would be very pleasant.

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