“Nothing,” Tim Roth explained frankly as we discussed how much time he had to prep for the psychological thriller Resurrection.
He plays David, a narcissistic and abusive ex-boyfriend who inserts himself back into the life of Margaret, played by Rebecca Hall, 22 years after they split. His return sends her life spiraling out of control as she tries to hold on to her sanity and protect her daughter.
I caught up with Roth to talk about the movie that was already filming when he agreed to do it, whether or not his character exists, and what it’s like to rejoin the Marvel universe.
Simon Thompson: My first question was going to be about how this project came to you, but I understand it was your son who read Resurrection and said you should do it. Is that right?
Tim Roth: Yeah. It was weird. We were doing the Cannes thing and managed to steal a few days in Paris, and that’s when this script landed in my email. I didn’t know anything about it, but I think they were already shooting scenes that didn’t involve my character. It was a weird schedule. Anyway, they asked me if I wanted to do it, so I read it and asked, ‘What is this?’ My son was sitting just across from me while I was doing my reading, and he knew it was a horror movie or suspense movie, and I’ve made a couple of attempts at stuff like that, so he said, ‘What’s it like?’ I had no idea how to explain it to him, so I gave it to him. He read it and went, ‘Oh, you’re doing this,’ and I was like, ‘Okay, fair enough.’ That was it. It was one of those that you do because your kid likes it. I’m not sure if it came directly after She-Hulk, but we had no prep time. Nothing.
Thompson: Was that quite helpful? Resurrection is such a gear change from something like She-Hulk, and with the fractured relationship here with Rebecca Hall’s character, being on the back foot might have been a blessing.
Roth: I immediately got talking with the director about what to do with the character, playing around with ideas and stuff. It’s challenging to come to something with zero prep time, but there’s a sort of sweet chaos in that. Although things like line learning are impossible, the fact that you’re thrust into the mix, you’ve got to wing it, and play as you go is a lot of fun. It feels like the early stages of becoming an actor. You don’t know things and have to figure it out as you go along. You talk with the director every evening, we would meet and come up with ideas, and of course with Rebecca, who was working every day.
Thompson: Your character is a narcissist, but he’s calm, controlled, and very together. Rebecca’s character is someone who is fractured and falling apart but trying to keep it together.
Roth: From his perspective, she’s behaving kind of oddly, and he’s worried about her. I mean, he cares about her. It’s so sick. The thing about Rebecca is that you’re delivered an immense shortcut. She’s amazing, and everything she brings has cinematic essence but also a reality, and she manages to blend it in a unique way. She’s quite remarkable. As far as the character was concerned, I did have to be ready but flexible because whatever she brought to a take was pretty magical, so you had to be able to move with it, as she did with me. It’s actually quite a good pairing, but certainly, from my perspective, it was one of those where you go, ‘Oh, I love this one. I hope I can work with her again.’ That’s not me blowing smoke; it is true. When you find a really solid actor like her, you just want to play with them a lot.
Thompson: When I was watching this, probably for around the first half of the movie, I wondered if your character, David, was real and not a figment of her trauma. When you started reading this, did you always think David was an actual physical character?
Roth: Now that’s really interesting because I haven’t seen the finished film, so I don’t know how he’s played with it. It’s very interesting and hadn’t occurred to me. I always worked from the deeply disturbing notion that he’s very real. Of course, if someone like that is real, that is an awful thing. From where David’s sitting, it’s a wonderful thing, and he’s a caring human being. I wonder if that came up in discussion? I think that question should go to the director Andrew Semans because he’s the insane professor that came up with this nonsense (laughs). Honestly, when you haven’t met someone and then read something like this, you go, ‘Oh, God, what’s the director going be like? He wrote this thing.’ He’s the most charming and funny guy. You would never know that this came from him. It’s pretty remarkable.
Thompson: Is it also worrying that someone who seems so lovely and charming can come out with something that is so, pardon my French, f**ked up?
Roth: It is, yeah, but he has a twisted dark sense of humor, which is very much at play. The madness of it was also quite funny, but not in the film. In real life, Andrew’s as far from dark as it gets.
Thompson: Talking of darkness, I wanted to talk about the finale of this movie. I don’t want to spoil the film, but it is a really shocking ending. How did your experience match what you read on the page and perceived in your mind’s eye?
Roth: Andrew wanted to do practical effects as much as possible. I’ve had that experience before when I did Planet of the Apes and Skellig, which is another project I did for the kids but a totally different type of thing. That kind of makeup thing was very important for him to do in a physical, old-school cinematic way. I’m sure they did some CG, depending on the budget, but on set, it was all about the makeup team and creating enough time to do what we needed to do. It didn’t faze me because I’ve been down that road before. There is something in the movie that becomes real, or possibly real, as you pointed out, at that moment that has to have some authenticity even though it’s a fantasy film or whatever you call it. It was a question of getting the practical appliance and makeup as good as we could, and I think those guys were pretty damn good.
Thompson: Switching gears ever so slightly, She-Hulk took the stage at San Diego Comic-Con. What is it like to be back in the Marvel world again? It’s changed a lot.
Roth: Yes, because it’s as real as that gets now. When we were doing it initially, it was pretty unusual. It was pre-Iron Man, and those Robert Downey Jr. and Jon Favreau changed it all. For me, what we were doing felt like a big-budget indie. It had a bit of that going on. Trying to bring that kind of world to life was good and crazy. Again, it was one of those I did for my kids because I thought they would get a kick out of it at school as they were much younger. Coming back, I didn’t know what to expect. Once I started shooting on it, I didn’t know how to go about my business, and it was a bit disconcerting. Tatiana Maslany is incredible, and She-Hulk is a comedy, and she’s bloody good at comedy but, to be fair, she’s pretty, pretty good at everything. When Mark Ruffalo showed up to do his stuff that I was involved in and saw the two of them interacting, it was a penny drop moment for me, and I went, ‘Oh, that’s what we’re doing. Oh, okay,’ and then I knew what to do. Basically, on the first segment I was involved in, I got some serious direction from them about we go about our business there, and then it was all playtime. It was a lot of fun.
Thompson: I imagine it’s pretty funny to star opposite your second Hulk.
Roth: Yeah, I was like, ‘You’ve changed.’ (Laughs) It’s kind of fun. We used to hang around and muck about between takes, and we had a nice time. I very much respect Mark as an actor, so even under those bizarre and wonderful circumstances, that one was a treasure.
Thompson: Finally, I’m guessing a lot of people have pointed out that this year is the 30th anniversary of Reservoir Dogs.
Roth: Blimey. Yes, it is, isn’t it?
Thompson: Have you spoken to Quentin Tarantino or the other remaining cast members about doing something? Maybe a table read at AFI Fest later in the year or a screening?
Roth: I don’t know. It would be nice to do something. Quentin’s a dad now, so there’s all that, and I’m sure he’s prepping and getting ready to do whatever his last cinematic event will be. I’ve spoken to Steve a few times, probably most recently, and then Covid got in the way, but it would be lovely to do some kind of get-together.
Thompson: If it doesn’t happen at the AFI Fest, maybe something at the New Beverly Cinema would be good?
Roth: I’d have to be at New Beverly because of Quentin, wouldn’t it?
Thompson: It’d be almost rude not to.
Roth: I know, right (laughs)?
Resurrection is in theaters and available on VO
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