Personal detailsName: Tim Roth
Born: 14 May 1961 (Age: 53)
Where: London, England
Height: 5' 7"
Awards: Won 1 BAFTA, nominated for 1 Oscar, 1 Golden Globe
All about this star
Every decade brings a new Brit Pack, another disparate group of actors backed by the media to achieve simultaneous Hollywood stardom. And perhaps the strongest of all was the 1980s pack, featuring Gary Oldman, Daniel Day-Lewis, Colin Firth, Paul McGann and Tim Roth, all of whom, if not quite matching Tom Cruise in the celebrity stakes, would go on to win fame and fortune with a string of outstanding performances.
Being Brits and rising from the political and social ferment of the Seventies and Eighties, all of them were troubled by notions of artistic integrity. Firth would suffer badly before agreeing to become Mr Darcy, while Day-Lewis would famously leave acting altogether to become a cobbler in Italy. Roth, meanwhile, steered well clear of inane blockbusters. Indeed, in the first two decades of his career, he made only two studio movies. Carrying a massive chip on his shoulder from dark early days, he was constantly seeking to prove himself, to improve himself, seizing chances to work in different countries, in different stories and with the industry's greats. By his mid-forties his CV would include a stellar cast of directors. Alan Clarke, Mike Leigh, Stephen Frears, Peter Greenaway, Robert Altman, Quentin Tarantino, Nic Roeg, John Sayles, Wim Wenders, Tim Burton, Woody Allen, Werner Herzog and Francis Ford Coppola - Roth had collaborated fruitfully with them all. Indeed, given his longevity and spirit of adventure, it could be argued that he'd turned out to be the strongest of all those Eighties wannabes.
He was born Timothy Simon Roth on May 14th, 1961, in London. He might easily have carried the far more English moniker Smith had his father, Ernie Smith, not changed the family name. A tailgunner during WW2, Ernie had later become a Fleet Street journalist and, partly through solidarity with the victims of the Holocaust, partly because the English were far from welcome in some of the countries to which his job took him, felt more comfortable with the surname Roth.
Tim would spend his early years in Dulwich, a well-to-do district of south-east London surrounded on all sides by tougher, more ethnically mixed neighbourhoods. His mother, Ann, was a teacher who'd become a full-time landscape painter and, though Ernie was from a working-class background, Tim, along with sister Jill (later also a journalist) would grow up in a middle-class environment. Not that they were rich. Indeed once Ernie and Ann had split with Tim still at primary school, money was often scarce. But culture - art, literature, cinema - was high on the family agenda.
With Ann being Catholic, Tim would take an early interest in religion, at 10 even sending off for information on how to become a missionary. He'd be a voracious reader and be encouraged to paint both by Ann and Ernie, who'd never live far away, either being in south London or, at one stage, a village in Kent. Both parents would take the kids to art galleries, especially the Tate, and Tim specifically recalls accompanying Ernie to see The Sting in Brixton, with the cinema packed and cheering. He loved it. Summer holidays were spent in England, at Bideford and Clovelly in Devon.
But Tim's does not remember his childhood with much fondness. Having failed the 11-Plus examination he was denied entry to Dulwich College, a prestigious establishment that would have suited his calm temperament and artistic inclinations. Instead, he was forced to attend Tulse Hill School, a nearby comprehensive. Drawing up to 2000 pupils from Brixton, Clapham, Herne Hill and Streatham, the school had been part of a great educational experiment, where kids of all origins were to be given the best chance to succeed. The eight-storey building, serviced by four stairwells and four lifts, dominated the south London skyline. There were workshops and labs for vocational learning, there were kiln rooms for ceramic work, theatre and music were promoted, the Great Hall having professional stage lighting, the music rooms an orchestra of instruments. There was a gym block with six gyms, many sports were pursued (football, rugby, cricket, basketball, athletics), there were extensive open and paved grounds and frequent trips abroad, around the UK, into Europe and even to the Caribbean. The renowned stage actor Kenneth Cranham had attended Tulse Hill, as had mayor of London Ken Livingstone. Poet Linton Kwesi Johnson had studied there, as had reggae star Smiley Culture. Another early pupil had been Ken Morley, later famed as Reg Holdsworth in Coronation Street.
Unfortunately, by the time of Tim's arrival, Tulse Hill was on the slide. Due to a lack of funds, urban deprivation and increasing social unrest, the pioneering multicultural vision had become nightmarish. Former teachers would describe it as "a rather rough school" and "an interesting (but not an easy) place to work". One pupil would call it "a nutter school". Another would recall his first day when he was held by his ankles over a potentially fatal drop and forced to hand over his dinner money. Fights would occur around the rate of two an hour, bullying was constant. A year or so before Roth's enrollment, the school had even made front-page headlines when, in revenge for two pupils being set upon by a gang from Kingsdale School, Dulwich, around 500 Tulse Hill schoolboys attacked Kingsdale and trashed the place.
So Roth, disturbed by his father's departure, now living in the company of artistic females, was sent into this macho hell-hole. Being short (his nickname was Titch) and named Timothy only made it worse. The bullying was bad and Roth had no physical response.