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Roth Happy to Defend His War Zone

By Tim Roth

My film is based on Alexander Stuart's debut novel, The War Zone, published in 1989. It was announced that it was winner of that year's Whitbread Award, but the judges had to withdraw the prize under pressure from one of the group who was offended by the contents of the novel -- it is about a seemingly happy family and the father's sexual abuse of his daughter. When I read it I thought it was the saddest story in the world.

I chose Ray Winstone for the father's role because I wanted a normal man, anybody's husband, anybody's father. For the kids I chose unknowns, Lara Belmont and Freddie Cunliffe, because I wanted them to be my child, your child. Tilda Swinton is the mum, and whether she knows about what her husband is doing or not is not clear.

I haven't had any abusers coming up to me but there were so many, many people who came up to me after the screening at the Cannes Film Festival to say thank you. For them it meant they could come out of the closet. Most of them had never spoken about it before. This is only a film, not therapy, but it's a film about a widespread problem. I believe there is a poster in Sweden that shows four men: one's a coach driver, one's a lawyer, one's an architect, one's a docker. It says, "One in four men in Sweden abuse. Which one?"

Letting my 14-year-old son see my film is a big question. I don't think I'll let him until he's 16 years old. He shouldn't see sex shown this way. I don't want him to lose his innocence like this. The film is not made for children. The fact that it's graphic means that the people it's not intended for shouldn't see it.

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