A few weeks ago, the New School theater came through for Sam Shepard, mounting his political play The God of Hell super-fast, getting it into previews on October 29, just in time for the election. Tim Roth stars as an unscrupulous G-man who sets upon a rural couple (Randy Quaid and J. Smith-Cameron). He spoke to Boris Kachka.
How did you get into this project?
I met Sam in New York about twelve years ago at a bar; I just went in to watch football. And we got talking, and he said, “Do you fancy doing a play?” I couldn’t do it—I was about to do Reservoir Dogs. Then I was on set this summer working with him on this Wim Wenders movie, and he said, “Listen, I’ve written this play. Do you want to do it?” I haven’t done a play in fifteen years, so the idea was terrifying to me.
Why’d you agree?
It’s a really good role, and the politics are fascinating to me. I play someone who works for the government, who comes into a small farming house in Wisconsin and turns it upside down. But I don’t know how much Sam wants to keep quiet.
There’s something involving plutonium?
It’s involved, yes. [Laughs schemingly.] And it’s a comedy, and it has a farcical kind of nature to it.
You play a Republican?
He’s a political creation, a political monster. I’d say if the Republicans are in, he’s a Republican. I’ve probably played many Republicans, although it wouldn’t cross their minds.
Are you trying to change minds?
I don’t think it was about changing minds so much as having it up in the political season. When the politicians are at their most backbiting and greedy and obnoxious.