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Tim Roth

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In Pictures

Text and photos by Tim Roth
Text edited by Jim McLellan

Wherever Tim Roth goes, his camera goes, too. And Tim Roth has been going places. From Reservoir Dogs to the upcoming Heart of Darkness, this is his Polaroid diary.

I think it all started properly around two years ago. My mum gave me a Polaroid camera for Christmas and I started taking it with me to shoots, when I went out, everywhere. What I like about Polaroids is you don't know what they're going to look like when you take them but you find out pretty quick. I always edit as I go along. In a day I might take 20 or 30 pictures, but I throw out the ones I don't like. I like the colours you get. Some of the stills photographers working on the films I've done have been amazed by the quality you can get.

Sometimes I don't take any pictures for months, or I might take hundreds in a week. I've got boxes of them in my flat, pictures from films I've done -- Reservoir Dogs, Bodies Rest And Motion, Heart of Darkness, Murder in the Heartland, and Vincent and Theo -- shots of family and friends. I was a bit wary of picking out pictures of "celebrities," but the shots here are all people I know or have worked with, so they're legitimately part of my record.

Lots of my friends and actors I've worked with are getting into it now, keeping their own Polaroid diaries. It's one way of filling all the time you spend waiting around on set doing nothing. I think Bridget Fonda took a few during Bodies Rest And Motion. She was always trying to dodge me when I took pictures of her -- she said I always caught her at the wrong moment. I try to stay out of the picture, too. When you do self-portraits you get self-conscious. Perhaps you're not when you take it, perhaps it starts when you're looking at the results. But it does make me cringe. Of course, when I pull out my camera, people always say "let me take one of you," but I always try to avoid it. I mean, I know what I look like.

I suppose the Polaroids are a bit like a diary, but they're not really to help me remember. I think it's better to keep things in your head. On my honeymoon I didn't take any pictures -- I was too busy having fun. Really, I just like taking pictures. I used to try to put them in order. I punched holes and put them on rings, but now I just sling them in the box. One day I'll go through them. Some of them have faded. I know they'll probably fall apart in time, but that's one of the things I like about them, that they're instant but also decay.

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The Heart of Darkness shoot was really tough. Every day some kind of minor or major disaster happened -- boats sank, people fell out of trees, got pneumonia. It happened even after we wrapped in Belize and came to London. Some of the film was on its way to the States via Miami. A guy in customs didn't believe there was films in the cans, opened up the cans and held the film up to the light. Things like that would happen, so it was hard. The picture of me and Nic Roeg and the Buddha, he's been saying that's how I made him feel by the end of it all. I was pretty tired by then too. I played Marlowe, the narrator, and that's the look I have at the start of the film.

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