Selma: Tim Roth on George Wallace, Tupac & The Hulk
Tim Roth is very good at playing bastards. The star of Rob Roy, Planet of the Apes and The Incredible Hulk plays a very different kind of villain Selma, Ava DuVernay’s biopic about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Civil Rights marches in Selma, AL. This time he plays George Wallace, the former Governor of Alabama who tried to stop Dr. King from ending segregation in America. It’s a very real villain with a very complicated history, and as we learn in our one-on-one interview, he didn’t have much time to research the role or nail the accent.
But he pulled it off just the same. Selma is one of the best movies of 2014, so we’re very excited to bring you this interview with Tim Roth. And we’re also pretty happy to bring you the news that there’s a record of Tim Roth rapping with Tupac Shakur out there somewhere, and that The Abomination from The Incredible Huk almost turned up in one of the Avengers movies.
CraveOnline: I’m such an enormous fan of yours. It’s such a pleasure to be talking to you.
Tim Roth: That’s a good start. Well done. [Laughs.]
Thank you. Rob Roy is actually one of my top five favorite movies ever.
That’s a fun one.
It’s such a great film, and it’s the best sword fight ever.
[Laughs.] It is. It’s true.
“They’re not shy about their racism. It’s out there, completely, and to cheers and applause as well.”
Tell me about Selma. Did they come to you and say you’d be the perfect George Wallace, and did you think, “Yeah, George Wallace, I can do that?”
No, I got a script. It just went through the usual sort of channels. They sent me the script and immediately my wife said Wallace, for some reason. I don’t know why. And it was. I looked at it and the thing that jumped at me, because it was very worrying. Before I read it, I was quite worried that it wouldn’t live up to its subject. It’s been such a long time coming, nobody’s taken on Martin Luther King in this way. So I was worried that it wouldn’t live up to it, and it did. Just in the reading of the script I felt that it was a very smart choice to take that particular march, that limited amount of his life, a particular event and then focus in on that. Then you could tell the story of the man through that.
I thought that the Wallace element of it was very intelligently done. I mean, he’s an awful man, without doubt, but they didn’t just jump straight into that kind of a stereotypical sort of villain anyway. It had some kind of intelligence to it I thought.
That’s what I found fascinating about George Wallace. He is by all rights an awful man but it didn’t just come from a place of hatred. He found a way to politicize every aspect of segregation. Did that give you a lot to work with?
It’s extraordinary, right, if you think about it. If you go back and look at his speeches, when I was putting them together, it’s so brazen. They’re not shy about their racism. It’s out there, completely, and to cheers and applause as well. So it’s of its time and I found that to be kind of fascinating. I mean, now, I don’t think there’s been a particular change in their behavior, those particular kinds of politicians. They just do it behind closed doors and hope they don’t get caught. But back then, there was no problem with it. It was right out there.