Three Great Things: Tim Roth

The legendary English actor, who's currently starring in Punch, on some of the things that mean most to him in life.

Three Great Things is Talkhouse’s series in which artists tell us about three things they absolutely love. To mark the March 10 release of the coming-of-age drama Punch, starring Jordan Oosterhof, Conan Hayes and Tim Roth, the legendary British actor shared some of the things that matter most to him in life. — N.D.

Driving Home from the Airport
I spend so much time away from home, working in strange places and in strange situations, both good and bad, and sometimes I’m away from my home and my family for a lot of the year. For that reason, the drive from the airport to my house is one of the things I absolutely love: the gates open, I bring the bags in, I walk into the kitchen (which is where we live) and get to just put my feet up.

I don’t know how many times I’ve done that journey. I’ve been in America for 30-odd years now, and in Pasadena since the start of the century, so I’ve done that drive for about 23 years, and sometimes many times during a particular year. I love it so much because, more often than not, being home is a vacation. We very rarely go away to the beach, so this is where I truly get to rest and relax.

On the drive home, I go from the airport, past the Staples Center, and toward my house in Pasadena. I know I’ll have to wait out some traffic, but once I get through the tunnels that lead to the 110, I’m almost there, and I watch the landscape change from freeway madness and gradually calm down. The final part is weaving through the small streets, feeling the anticipation of seeing my house and just breathing it in.

I feel a sense of utter relief that I’m home, because sometimes the journeys I’ve been on while making a film have been wild and eccentric; as an actor, life can be immensely emotionally draining on any given film, good or bad. (Because it’s a fact that I sometimes have to do bad films too, to make sure the house is there.) When I get home, I just breathe in the air and the smells and the atmosphere, and I hold the people I love the most on the planet. And when I do that, I feel a deep sense of completion.

Shooting in Beautiful Locations
Another favorite thing is getting an acting job in a place I love and then having my wife meet me there and getting to explore the place together. What’s not to love about that? It’s a fantastic bonus. I get to do a job I absolutely adore – a job I’ve been doing for a very, very long time – and the icing on the cake is that in the middle of all the frenetic, crazy energy that a film set can be, I get to have quiet family moments. For example, one time I worked on a very long, technically challenging film shoot in Rome. I was there for about six months, but my family got to be with me. So there was a degree of madness on set, but during the downtime I got to be present with the people I love in the most extraordinary environment.

When you’re on a location shoot, you learn to separate your work from the rest of your life. There is a division. I’m very fortunate that once they say “That’s a wrap for the day,” unless I have homework to do, I can quite easily separate myself from the work. I know some actors live in their character; I’ve never once done it and have never wanted to do it. I have luckily been able to pick up the next day where I left off with the character, so when I come home, it’s something I let go of. A lot of the characters I’ve played have been very disturbing, so I wouldn’t want to bring those people home with me!

I’ve lived a life of cats. My family had cats when I was a kid; there were six of them, just doing their thing, running around, in and out of the house. My wife brought with her an insane white fluffy cat, a Persian chinchilla that was deaf, and then at our house in Pasadena we took in a couple of strays we found under a bush, who we had for a long, long time.

Now, finally, we have my son’s cat, which is a Bengal. You can play fetch with it! It doesn’t behave like a cat; it’s like a little wild animal that we have in the house (who is slightly troubled by heart problems). This guy is a service animal, in many respects. We’ve been going through some tough times recently, and he is an enjoyable, insane distraction and also a very comforting and weird little personality. He’s quite remarkable. He brings such a lively and odd energy to our house, which is something we’ve very much needed. He does little “drive-bys.” I’ll be having a coffee in the morning and doing some reading, and suddenly he’ll hop up and have a visit on my lap, to the point where my bum is numb an hour later! The power of animals is extraordinary. You can see why they’re used in war zones and why that kind of therapy is so needed. It’s fantastic.

Tim Roth is an English actor and director who is currently starring in the coming-of-age drama Punch, out now in theaters through Dark Star Pictures. He made his debut in the 1982 film Made in Britain and a mere two years later was nominated for a BAFTA for his role as Myron in The Hit. Since then, he has been a regular cast member of several Quentin Tarantino films including the director’s directorial debut Reservoir Dogs, and later Pulp Fiction. His role as Archibald Cunningham in Rob Roy alongside Liam Neeson earned him a Best Supporting Role BAFTA, and both an Academy Award and Golden Globe nomination in the same category. He has worked with other notable directors such as Woody Allen, Francis Ford Coppola and Michael Haneke. He has been involved in global franchises such as Marvel’s The Incredible Hulk and Planet of the Apes. From 2009 to 2011, he held the role of Cal Lightman in the TV series Lie to Me.