Interview: Tim Roth & Iazua Larios on 'Sundown" | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
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Tim Roth & Iazua Larios on ‘Sundown”

An Acapulco Story

Jan 24, 2022 Web Exclusive
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While he is best known as a pistol-toting goon in Quentin Tarantino classics like Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction, Tim Roth is far less intense in conversation than endearingly quirky. He’s yet to see his latest film, Sundown, for instance, confessing over Zoom that home viewing or even a glitzy red-carpet screening aren’t up to snuff, despite pandemic hurdles sometimes leaving no other option.

Coming across as a true cinephile-cum-artist with laudably lofty standards, he answered Sundown co-star Iazua Larios’ sly question about sneakily disguising himself to go unnoticed at his own movies among average audiences to see authentic reactions.

Later in the interview, he answered a particularly plot-specific question with a cheeky “spoiler alert!” Best of all, perhaps, was the beginning, when he fiddled with his Zoom settings to bring up his co-star and interviewer simultaneously onscreen. That left him saying: “That’s better. Now I can see both of you, except I can also see myself. Which sucks!” much to Larios’ warm laughter.

The veteran character actor’s chemistry with Larios—who is well established in her native Mexico—is all the more apparent in Sundown. Roth plays Neil, a vacationing Brit in the invitingly balmy but all the more seedy Mexican beach town of Acapulco. Taking inspiration from absurdly wealthy families like the Murdochs, Roth plays Neil as affably apathetic at the luxurious resort he’s checked into with his sister, exasperated audience surrogate Charlotte Gainsbourg, and her teenage children. When tragedy strikes and his relatives pack their bags Neil not only lies to stay behind, but also abandons the resort in favor of a nondescript hotel near a stretch of the Acapulco beach frequented by locals.

Shortly after meeting Larios’ corner store employee Bernice, one of the area’s few English speakers, Neil and she strike up a tryst as scorching as the Acapulco sun, which is followed by all the more intense violence, death, incarceration, and more. Through it all (or at least nearly), Neil remains unflappable to the point of numbness, leading The Guardian to praise Roth’s performance and the film in general as darkly comedic. That means Sundown might polarize like writer-director Michel Franco’s prior skewerings of Mexico’s classism. None of that deterred Roth, who also starred in Franco’s 2015 movie Chronic, and who along with co-star Larios praised the distinctive-yet-controversial auteur.

Below, Roth and Larios tell us more about Sundown and the stark class divides it sheds light on.

Under the Radar (Kyle Mullin): Let’s start by talking about what you admire most about each others’ performances, and how you might have brought the best out of each other in particular scenes.

Tim Roth: Oh, wow.

Iazua Larios: Tim, you start!

Tim Roth: We met there, didn’t we?

Iazua Larios: Yes.

Tim Roth: Right, in Acapulco. We were just thrown into it. I had no idea what to expect of the place. You had some idea, right Iazua?

Iazua Larios: I had been to Acapulco when I was a kid. In Mexico it’s a familiar place, at least to me. But I have not returned because it became very violent for awhile. So I wasn’t interested.

Tim Roth: Yes, [director] Michel [Franco] was the same. He’d go when he was a kid, on family holidays. And that beach is a weird one, isn’t it? Because it has real poverty and massive wealth. The two things are just on top of each other. So I think that’s what we were doing in the film: my character came from extreme power and wealth. And yours did not.

Iazua Larios: [Laughs].

Tim Roth: But we would improvise, and play around, right?

Iazua Larios: Yes! I think since we met, I had a good feeling that we could talk—talk about the script, about films, and about life. That felt comfortable.

Tim Roth: Yeah, because the dialogue wasn’t important. We’d do scenes where there was no dialogue at all. I haven’t seen the film, but I assume they’re in there. I think it’s one of the hardest things to do, right?

Iazua Larios: What’s that?

Tim Roth: When you’re doing nothing on camera. Because you get self-conscious.

Iazua Larios: I don’t know. Yes, it’s not easy at all. But I was feeling very confident because of you. And also Michel, the director, was really good, and let us work. In a simple, profound, way. So for me, it felt like having a super intensive workshop.

Tim Roth: [Chuckles]. We really did have a film within the film, me and you. That story was quite a big part of the film I was in. At least I’m assuming, because I haven’t seen it yet. And we had our own journey, me and you.

Iazua Larios: It’s crazy you haven’t seen it.

Tim Roth: I want to see it with an audience, which is hard to do now. But not at a festival.

Iazua Larios: So, you will hide yourself?

Tim Roth: That’s what I do. If I am going to see a film — and I want to see this one, that I’m in — I sneak in at the back when the lights go down, watch it, and then sneak out real quick.

UTR: I bet any audiences you join will be floored by the movie’s prison scenes. How did you prepare for those, Tim?

Tim Roth: We looked at photographs of prisons around the world. Michel’s inspiration as well was to take that white, powerful wealthy man and put him in such a circumstance, and see him not necessarily disturbed by it. That was a very strange image. And the audience has to make up their minds about what that says about him. And why.

So when we were filming it, it was very simple. The thing I had to hold onto was Neil was just at ease. In the same way he would be on the beach. In the same way he would be with his sister. It was just another moment in his day, as he drifted through it. Very strange.

UTR: Speaking of your character’s privilege—what do you think this movie has to say about classism, and why was that appealing to you both?

Iazua Larios: It’s all about that, our story. It was quite interesting, because the reality in Acapulco is like that. We were filming on a beach that was not touristic, it was deeply rooted in the town. So you could be around the people who were really humble, who are low social class, I suppose you can say. Our characters’ relationship is all about that: two people getting together from different statuses, and finding love and communicating in a strange way. Because our characters don’t talk that much. But there is a meeting point where both of them are kind of lost. But they are searching to break these walls of social status.

Tim Roth: When I was working on the character, before we even got to Mexico, one of my inspirations was Rupert Murdoch’s family. Thinking: if you were born into such a hugely powerful family, and chose to leave it, how would that be? And Acapulco is really good for that. Because it’s so working class. But there’s so much power around it, so much money and criminality at play. And we filmed in the middle of that population, where locals go to swim and congregate. So what if you took someone very powerful and just had them walking down that beach?

So two people, from two different worlds, meet and break down those walls. From my perspective, Neil finds himself in the presence of this extraordinary environment. And he’s letting go. Originally the film was called Driftwood, which felt right. He finds himself drifting there, with this woman, and comfortable in his existence. However, the effects that he’s having on other people, he’s either oblivious to or cares not to engage with. It’s very very strange. A good story.

UTR: I’m sure it’ll be satisfying to finally see it, Tim. And Iazua, have you had a chance to see it yet?

Iazua Larios: I’ve seen it twice. The second time I was very touched. I saw the movie, not my performance or anyone else’s. When that happens for me, it means that there is a movie, a good one where I do not have to watch myself.

Tim Roth: That’s why I stop watching, though I’ve watched what I did with Michel. Because you get in the way of the film, when we watch it, me and you Iazua. It’s good you said that, because when you can get over seeing yourself and actually watch the film, that’s wonderful and very rare.

Iazua Larios: And watching this movie was meaningful for me, because class differences have hit Mexico very hard. A lot of places here are like Acapulco, with a lot of wealth, and who knows where it came from. Then we have the working class, and I absolutely feel very close to them. Yes, it’s a huge problem over here. And I am glad the movie explores it.

Tim Roth: Do you remember when we were filming, and there were those tower blocks that were completely empty?

Iazua Larios: Yes, and there was an entire aquarium that was completely empty. Many things were abandoned.

Tim Roth: Like you say, you can see the class system at work, and we filmed that. We got to show some of that. Which is good.


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