You worked with Tupac Shakur a few years after that on Gridlock’d.What was your impression of him?
Tim Roth: I adored him. I initially didn’t want him for the role – it just shows my white ignorance. I was just this pasty-faced London boy who didn’t know who he was, despite the fact that he’d gone double platinum by that point, I think. But what happened was, I was attached to the project and we had another actor who was interested in the role, then backed out at the last minute. So we suddenly found ourselves without a second lead. Tupac’s name came up – “He’s a rapper, he’s a really interesting guy and he’s really up for doing this” – and I just said, “Can you get me an actual actor, for fuck’s sake? Please?” I had no idea he was an actor before he was a musician, that he’d gone to the Fame school in Baltimore, none of that.
While this was going on and they were looking for someone else, I got nominated for Rob Roy. And during one of those silly party things you have to go to while it’s Oscar season, Quincy Jones came up to me and said, “Hey, Tupac, you should really give him a chance.” And it’s like, Aw, fuck, okay. Quincy is vouching for him. Let’s set up a meeting.
So the director Vonde [Curtis-Hall] and I are sitting in this restaurant I used to go to, waiting to meet him, and in comes a security team. sweeps the place and then they go out. Then a group of women enter; they go and sit at this table in the corner. And then in comes ‘Pac, who sits down, politely says, “Hi, how are you?” At which point, he proceeded to totally lay out the character. He had it down. And I’m just thinking, This guy is fucking amazing! I want to work with this guy! What do we need to do to get him in the movie? Meanwhile, Vonde is sitting there with a Cheshire Cat grin on his face, just going “I told you so…”.
I had two issues with him. One was the fact that he was writing, he was directing and starring in music videos and recording an album. He’d show up on set exhausted, and I just told him, I need you for five weeks. Let’s make this together, concentrate on this and then you can back to doing the other things. Which he did, and he was really cool about it.
The other thing was guns. We were sitting on the back of a truck, waiting to do a scene in Downtown L.A., and I said to him, “What’s with all the guns, why is there all this drama, what have you got yourself into?” And he very calmly explained to me the world he was living in at that moment, then said, “I think there’s a bullet out there with my name on it, man.” He and I were supposed to hang out the day after he ended up getting shot; we were really excited because he was coming back to L.A. and I really missed him a lot. The joke was that he had to re-record some dialogue for the film, and since I’d already been in the Death Row Studios with him and we’d recorded stuff, it was like, “Okay, 'Pac, you’re in my territory now!” And then, you know, we got the word he was in the hospital, and then a few days after that, he had died. I still miss him.