Cinema Blend Interview with Clive Owen

Clive Owen walks into the room wearing a suit and a smile. Do you really need to know what happens next? He’s one of the most charismatic actors working today, and sitting in a room with him you feel a little bit of that glow hitting you, both warming you and reminding you you’ll never, ever be so charming. Such is the fate of the schlubby journalist, I suppose.

Owen was on hand to promote The International, with producers Charles Roven and Richard Suckle beside him as well. We’ll stick to Owen’s answers for now, though– he is the talent after all. Read below for his experiences shooting that gorgeous action scene in the Guggenheim, how very little he got to see Istanbul, and why he’s actually glad he didn’t get to make out with Naomi Watts.Could you talk about behind the scenes of the Guggenheim shootout? It’s one of the best scenes I’ve seen in movies in age.

I agree, I think it’s one of the most exquisitely-realized sequences I’ve ever been involved in. It was talked about from the first time I met Tom. He said it wasn’t an action film, but when we’ve got action, I want it to be as explosive and as intense as we can do. They built a replica of the rotunda – an absolute to-scale replica – and while we were prepping the film, Tom had the whole thing worked out and choreographed way, way in advance.

What was it like balancing the intense action scenes with the more low-key scenes?
They’re kind of not too dissimilar, weirdly. In terms of the shootout, it’s kind of the same things apply. Basically, my job is to try and put people in the position of what it’s like to be in there – and it’s not to run around the Guggenheim trying to look cool with a gun. If guys came in there and started shooting guns like that, the reality is you’d be terrified, and it’s about trying to make people feel that palpable fear and intensity of what it might actually be like to be in the middle of that. So it’s kind of the same acting instincts that apply for dialogue really. You’ve just got to put people in the position you’re in, and try and make them understand and believe what you’re doing.

What was it like shooting in all these international locations? What was the most exciting, or the most difficult?
Istanbul was the only place I’d never been to before, and that was a hugely exciting place, and an incredible location – the rooftops of the Grand Bazaar, and inside the Grand Bazaar. The amazing thing about this film is not just the places we visited, but the locations within the places. So you come to New York, and it’s one thing to come to New York, and it’s another to do a full-blown shootout inside the Guggenheim. You go to Milan, and you take over the main square there for two weeks, and it becomes a set. In Istanbul you’re on the roof of the Grand Bazaar, in Berlin all that incredible modern architecture we filmed against. But in terms of actually enjoying a place, you always think, “It’s great! We’re going to enjoy all these places!,” but you hit the ground running. You arrive, there’s teams set up, they’re ready to go, you have a quick prep time, and then you’re shooting. And once you’re shooting, it’s a hotel room, and a location, the set. You don’t get much time to really enjoy a place. Somewhere like Istanbul, I want to go back there and experience it properly without having to work every day.

Do you think it will be cathartic for audiences, given the economic crisis, to see you running around gunning down bankers?
I think no one could have predicted how timely the film is, really. I think it was always a relevant script, but with the collapse of the banks, the big questions of the film: Can you trust your bank, are they sound institutions, do they handle money appropriately? They’re all questions everybody’s asking now, and nobody could have foreseen how timely the film has become.

How did researching and making this film affect the way you view banks government policy?
When the script came, it came with a lot of research material. Both Tom [director] and Eric [screenwriter] had been looking at and basing a lot of the script on real events that have happened about corrupt banks and globalization, so it was always a very well-informed, well-researched script. Ultimately, it’s an entertainment. It’s a big, sweeping international thriller. But, it was very, very grounded, and it was quite eye-opening to see this. It opens up these kind of global questions.

When you’re the focus of all these close-ups, how are you focused on the action on the set as well as acting? I certainly don’t watch myself. I think it was Stanislavski who said, “Beware of the actor who looks in the mirror all the time,” or something along those lines, and I agree with that. I think it’s a very dangerous thing to observe yourself acting. I’m very aware of what goes on on a film set, in all departments, and I think it’s hugely important for me to be conscious of what the camera’s doing, and how I react to that – and that is not necessarily to be obvious that I know what it’s doing – is a hugely important thing, because it means that I can be more specific about what it is I’m trying to do at any particular moment. A good example I can think of is some of the stuff in “Children of Men” that was shot in a particular way that was supposed to feel like you were just there in the middle of it. It was very important that it didn’t look conscious for me, that it looked like things were happening as they were happening, and I think that’s what film acting is about really. You have to be conscious, but then not be obvious about it.

What was it about this character that attracted you to the role?
There was something about his passion, his anger, his obsessiveness, and how far he’s prepared to go, really, that is the thing that I liked about it, and why I wanted to do it. At any given point in the film most people would give up and not carry on in their pursuit of trying to bring down this hugely powerful corporation. He’s a very fallible human being, because it’s at the cost of everything else in his life, but in some ways he’s kind of heroic because he’s prepared to go that far, and he’s go an innate sense of what’s morally right and wrong. I was attracted to that.

What was it like shooting in the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul? I heard you didn’t even get to close it down, so you were running around there with a gun amid these huge throngs of onlookers.
had a security guy very close to me sticking by me at all times, but some of the reactions were pretty shocking. Some people would just see the gun and just laugh, and I was like, “If this was New York or London, I’d be put up against a wall by now!”

 What was it like working with Naomi Watts? It was an interesting relationship because you do have a bit of chemistry, but there are no romantic sparks.

It was great working with Naomi. I’ve known her on-and-off for a while, and we nearly worked together a few times and it didn’t quite happen, so it was great that we finally did. I was very glad that it didn’t descend into cliché really – the relationship. I think they are a partnership, and there is an attraction there, but it’s based on their work ethic really and their pursuit of the bank, and I think it would’ve been an obvious and cliché thing to do to descend into a typical romance. I think it’s a very delicately, well-pitched relationship, and I was happy that we didn’t do the obvious.

Earlier [director[ Tom Tykwer called you “The thinking man’s action hero.”
He’s so full of shit, I can’t tell you! [Laughs]

But how do you see yourself as an actor? And when did you know you wanted to become an actor?
I certainly don’t think of myself as an action hero. In my opinion, I’ve done one crazy action film called Shoot ‘Em Up, which was a comedy-action film, and every other film has got action in it, but it’s just the sweep of the story. I don’t see myself as an action guy. It’s interesting the parts that I’m attracted to. I knew from a very early age – I’m a bit of a cliché. I did a school play when I was 13, and from that moment on I decided that’s what I was going to do, and I’ve been pretty unwavering ever since. If it hadn’t have worked out, it’s a terrifying thought, because I’ve never wanted to do or been able to do anything else.

What part was it?
It was The Artful Dodger [from Oliver!] and I’m still playing the part over and over again!

Source: Cinema Blend

One Response

  1. ann February 15, 2009

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