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Tim Roth is starring in two new films, both in a lighter, less intense vein than his usual characters, beginning with Woody Allen’s charming musical comedy, Everyone Says I Love You. In this exclusive interview, Paul Fischer discovers a shy but highly selective actor.

Shy, unpretentious and searching for new ways to fulfil his career, the Oscar nominated scene stealer of Rob Roy, 36-year old Tim Roth has enjoyed a reputation as a leading heavy in many an independent film, spurning mainstream Hollywood, preferring to participate in films "where the money is lousy but the work is exceptional."

Featuring an ensemble cast as diverse as Julia Roberts, Alan Alda, Goldie Hawn and Drew Barrymore, Woody Allen’s latest film casts Roth as an ex-con, released from jail at the behest of would-be social do gooder Hawn, and then tries to seduce soon-to-be-married Barrymore.

"…supposedly to be shot in seven days. Instead it took seven weeks to shoot…" - Tim Roth on his scenes in Everyone Says I Love You

Working with Allen was a dream come true for Roth. "It was loads of fun doing what is such a sweet film, but we shot it in such a weird way. I had only two scenes to do, really, and supposedly to be shot in seven days. Instead it took seven weeks to shoot, because Woody’s in that unique position of going: ‘Nah, let’s shoot THIS scene today’. With him, you never know what you’re going to film and when you’re going to film it. But the actual experience of filming with him was delightful. I mean, his worse movies are better than most of the movies that come out, and as a director, he gives you a lot of freedom."

In an age where the innocence of the old fashioned movie musical has been long forgotten, Everyone Says I Love You is something of an anomaly; and everyone in this movie sings, except Barrymore "who was too nervous to want to use her own voice." Everyone had the option of singing or being dubbed but Roth chose to sing, and found the whole experience "terrifying. I can carry a tune - just. But it’s still a very scary process, which I eventually managed to get over, and I even enjoyed it after a while." Don’t expect operatic performances, either, Roth hastens to add. "It was always his intention to make the singing real. He didn’t want opera singers or Gene Kelly-type performances; but human beings who were singing." Roth describes the film "as very sweet, romantic and old fashioned. The kind of film they don’t make any more."

"…was terrifying. I can carry a tune - just. But it’s still a very scary process." - Tim Roth about Everyone Says I Love You

It’s certainly different from his next movie, Gridlock’d, which casts him opposite the late rapper-turned-actor Tupac Shakur. That film is a black comedy satirising the depths of bureaucracy gone mad and revolves around Stretch (Roth) and Spoon (Shakur), two drug addicts who decide to go clean after a friend of theirs, Cookie (Thandie Newton) goes into a drug-induced coma. They encounter bureaucratic red tape, however, trying to get into a detox program and return to their drug dealer. During one of their visits to the dealer, though, they find that a local thug, D-Reper (Vondie Curtis-Hall, who also wrote and directed the film) and his henchman have killed the dealer. Realising that Stretch and Spoon have taken some of "their drugs," D-Reper and his henchman try to kill the two.

The police believe that the two are responsible for the murder. Thus Stretch and Spoon must avoid the thugs and the police as they try to enter the detox program. "Even though these two characters are addicted to heroine, for me, that was of secondary importance when I read it," Roth explains when discussing his attraction to this project. "To me it was about three people who love each other and come up against brick walls. This is really a film about red tape more than anything else, which I related to because most people eventually come up against bureaucracy, from signing up on the dole to immigration here in the US."

Roth’s career is defined by the fact that he has worked consistently with many first-time directors. On Gridlock’d, director Curtis Hall is best known as the co-star of the hit TV series Chicago Hope, and working with him was another fresh experience for Roth. "He makes directing seem very simple. He has an air of absolute confidence, no matter what may be going on inside his head. He’s one of those first-timers that doesn’t seem like they are."

" Sure I’d like to earn $20 million a movie, but that’s not really what DRIVES me." - Tim Roth

While Roth seems to have specialised in doing independent films, he denies an intentional shunning of mainstream Hollywood. "It’s just that the best scripts I get offered come from independent film makers. Sure I’d like to earn $20 million a movie, but that’s not really what DRIVES me. I just want to act until I drop." He continues to be busy. Next due for release is a slightly bigger film for Roth, and a studio movie, called Hoodlums, a gangster drama co-starring Laurence Fishburne. "The chance to work with Fishburne was a great attraction in doing this. It’s about the black mob in the thirties, how they took over the numbers rackets in Harlem, and how they went to war with the white gangsters. I play one of those over-the-top gangster characters which is fun. This is the kind of movie that’s either going to hit or miss."

Roth will also be seen "in a bizarre Hitchcock-type thriller" called Liar, followed by Animals "another bizarre independent film about a taxi driver who lives in his cab and goes on this journey to try and find his soul with an angel." And finally, Roth hopes to return to England later this year to direct his first movie. "It’s a very low-budget film that I’m not going to act in, called The War Zone, and it’s definitely not a comedy." Tim Roth may love his independence, but his dependence and passion for working on the bizarre and the best, never seems to wane.

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Drew Barrymore & Tim Roth in Everyone Says I Love you

Australian release: April 3 1997

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Thandie Newton & Tim Roth in Gridlock'd

Australian release: July 1997(date tbc)


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