Roth to follow up ‘War’ with ‘King Lear’

Playwright Pinter penning Shakespeare script

After making his directorial debut chronicling an incest-infested family in “The War Zone,” Tim Roth will make his followup helming the ultimate dysfunctional family tale, Shakespeare’s “King Lear.”

A script is being written by playwright Harold Pinter for Roth to direct, financed by Britain’s FilmFour, which financed and distributed “The War Zone” in the U.K. “War Zone” producer Dixie Linder, who’s Roth’s partner in Roth/Linder Prods., will produce along with FilmFour head Paul Webster.

“When I was doing ‘War Zone,’ we were sitting around talking about films revolving around a family and the biggest case scenario was ‘King Lear,’ ” said Roth, who won’t act in the film. “Soon, we were tossing around ideas and we were on the phone with Harold Pinter, who quickly said yes. It is absolutely terrifying to me, really, but I guess that’s the challenge.”

Pinter, whose film credits include “The French Lieutenant’s Woman” and “The Last Tycoon,” agreed to his first screen adaptation of Shakespeare after sparking to Roth’s debut film.

While the Oscar-nominated Roth is known as a talented actor, he was never big on the Bard, which makes this choice surprising even to him.

“I just wasn’t part of that whole team in Britain involved in Shakespeare, the closest I got was some community theater and ‘Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead,’ ” Roth said. “I always felt those Royal Shakespeare people over there did their stuff while my crowd did whatever we were doing. But it occurred to me there are some extraordinary actors who might be up to the challenge of playing that role as a real man, as opposed to the usual Shakespearean actor.”

Roth also isn’t interested in shooting a traditional staging of the drama about a king who invites tragedy when, while still alive, he divides his kingdom between his daughters. “King Lear” will be a close cousin to Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet” or Akira Kurosawa’s “Ran,” which set “King Lear” in Japan with daughters exchanged for sons.

“This is a very hefty piece to say the least, and I’m not interested in a bunch of people standing around a castle talking,” Roth said. “What Harold Pinter will do is rearrange, cut and then turn it from a stage piece into cinema.”

FilmFour head Webster also promised a departure from the usual eloquent-thesps-in-tights thing: “It’s not about gimmicks or pretty locations, but a new context for Shakespeare on film by putting our greatest modern dramatist together with a cutting edge British actor/director.”

FilmFour’s Jim Wilson will shepherd the pic, which Roth will begin next winter, after playing Hitler’s clairvoyant in the Werner Herzog-directed “Invincible.” Roth is now starring with John Travolta and Lisa Kudrow in “Numbers.” He’s repped by IFA.

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