Tim Roth

Photo: Rainer Hosch

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.

The God Of Hell
At The Actors Studio Drama School Theater. Opens November 16.

Tim Roth