I’ve always loved Tim Roth as an actor, but I really didn’t know much about his life until late last year, when I covered a fascinating interview he gave to The Guardian. Roth is a British guy, working class Brit, actually, and he currently lives in LA full-time with his wife and kids. He spent a lot of that interview talking about American politics and Donald Trump and why he prefers living in America. In that Guardian interview, he also talked a lot about how his grandfather had physically abused him and his father (Tim’s father). I didn’t excerpt any of that part of the conversation because frankly it really upset me. Well, here’s an interesting addendum to that part of the conversation – Tim now says that his father, who fought in World War II, changed the family name in an act of solidarity with the Jewish people. Isn’t that interesting?
If you were planning on inviting Tim Roth to your next Passover seder we’re not saying you should reconsider, but you might be surprised to know that his surname aside, the veteran actor is not Jewish. Many have assumed so — just as the British actor’s skill with an American accent has led many to believe he’s American. But if it weren’t for his father changing the family name in 1944, in an act of Jewish solidarity during World War II, the “Reservoir Dogs” actor would be Tim Smith today.
“My dad was from here — he was born in Sheepshead Bay,” Roth told us at the party to celebrate the 25th anniversary of “Reservoir Dogs,” where he was hanging alongside director Quentin Tarantino, producer Harvey Weinstein and co-stars Michael Madsen and Steve Buscemi. “Then he went to Liverpool to work in the factories and rebel against his father, who was an a–hole, and then he joined the Air Force when was underage — 17 I think. And then he saw stuff and took a Jewish name.
“I get invited to tons of Jewish functions which always involve alcohol and food, weirdly. I’m very honored by that. He was a great man. He was a flawed individual but he was a good human, so that would sum him up just for doing that.”
The “a–hole” in question is the grandfather Roth publicly declared in December had abused both him and his father. You might think speaking up about it would be torturous — but on the contrary, Roth said it was “easy.”
“My first conversation about it was with my father. (I thought), well that was pretty easy! So you just carry on from there,” he said. “I think you have to, in the same way that people talk about men’s aggressive behavior towards women.”
A lot of people feel shame about it, we noted.
“Well they shouldn’t. The shame is on the abuser. But it does need some vocal support. It needs to get messy before it can get straight and there’s enough of us out there that can quite easily add our voices and see what happens.”
So Tim’s father is actually American, and I would assume his paternal grandfather is American too. So Tim’s father went to Liverpool to work and to escape his abusive father. Then Tim’s dad ended up joining the Air Force, then he saw the Holocaust first-hand and decided to divorce himself from his abusive father and pledge solidarity with the Jewish people. That’s a really amazing story. Tim Roth: not Jewish, but his dad purposefully selected a Jewish name.
Photos courtesy of WENN.