Clive Owen speaks about his new film The International

 He may have a number of Hollywood movies under his belt, but Clive Owen’s children are not impressed. He tells Rob Driscoll why he may have to consider more family-friendly roles in future

CLIVE Owen’s daughters are putting the pressure on him to make a movie they can actually see.

They may be pleased that their super-successful film star father gets to work with the likes of Julia Roberts, Jennifer Aniston, Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke but when those movies turn out to be adult sex drama Closer, gritty thriller Derailed and violent comic-strip Sin City, there’s no way he’ll let his girls, Hannah, 12, and nine-year-old Eve, anywhere near the finished product.“What happens is, they come on nearly every film that I do,” explains the Coventry-born actor whose Hollywood success hasn’t robbed him of his Midlands burr. “They meet everybody, they have a great time, they learn all about the film and then it comes out and they’re not allowed to watch it. And it’s really beginning to get to them.

“They’re like, ‘Why can’t we watch it? We know it’s a movie’. But the idea of them sitting down and watching Closer or Shoot ’em Up is a big no-no. So, they are putting serious pressure on me to do a kids’ film.”

It’s not going to happen just yet, though. Owen’s latest movie, The International – a slick and sassy, Bourne-style conspiracy thriller – is packed with fisticuffs, bloodshed and ear-popping gunfire that’s certainly not suitable fare for a pre-teen audience.

But its leading man role – a gruff, Interpol agent battling against corporate corruption – is the kind of subversively heroic character that is fast becoming Owen’s speciality, all crumpled masculinity with stubble and dishevelled wardrobe to match.

It’s also, quite possibly, the first big-budget spy caper for the credit crunch age – its villain is an international bank, with financial and political tentacles that reach into the world’s houses of government. Owen’s doggedly single-minded investigator teams up with Manhattan legal eagle Naomi Watts to uncover a myriad of reprehensible illegal activities, as they follow the money from Berlin to Milan to New York to Istanbul, determined to take down the bank, which has proven it will stop at nothing, even murder, to advance its own interests.

When shooting the movie across Europe last year, Owen confirms that the global economy hadn’t quite plunged. He’s now somewhat thrilled how relevant the movie is.

“Well, it was always a relevant script, but it’s amazing to think that Eric Warren Singer, our screenwriter, started writing it about six years ago,” says Owen. “When I read the script, it felt like it was a subject that was worth discussing and talking about now. But no-one could have predicted how timely it has become – the whole thing about pursuing a huge bank that we believe to be totally corrupt, and questioning whether they’re using money appropriately and whether they’re sound and trustworthy. It’s just become the big topic of the moment.”

Action-hungry tough guy: next page

Rumour once had it that the camera-friendly Owen was on a shortlist of actors to become James Bond, before Daniel Craig secured the gig; if that is the case, one could see The International as a timely payback, giving him scope to play an action-hungry tough guy, albeit with a less luxurious lifestyle.

He relished the more physical aspects of The International, in particular a shoot-out in New York’s iconic Guggenheim Museum.

“That was a sequence that felt like we were shooting it throughout the entire movie,” says Owen.

“They built a huge replica of the Guggenheim exactly to scale in Germany, with the same dimensions as the real thing. The studio in Berlin wasn’t big enough to house it, so they did it in a huge hangar outside of the studio. So, we started off with a few weeks on that set, and at the end of the movie we came to New York and got into the real place. So, it felt like that scene went on for the entire shoot.”

The movie is another example of 44-year-old Owen choosing his projects carefully and wisely. After a small-screen career with the ITV drama series Chancer, his big-screen break came in 1998 when director Mike Hodges cast him as a casino worker in Croupier, a low-hit drama that proved a sleeper hit, especially in America.

Critically acclaimed roles in Gosford Park and King Arthur followed, and then he grabbed a Golden Globe and Bafta, as well as an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in Closer, the smash hit 2004 film adaptation of Patrick Marber’s play, co-starring Jude Law, Julia Roberts and Natalie Portman.

Since then he’s hung on to his A-list profile with a string of big box office hits, including Sin City, Inside Man, City of Men and last year’s historical romp Elizabeth: The Golden Age, playing Sir Walter Raleigh.

Owen concedes that he’s fortunate to be enjoying this level of success somewhat later in life.

“Oh, without a doubt,” he smiles. “You know, I was in a big TV show when I was very young, so to a certain extent I’ve been through a process of dealing with that kind of attention that celebrity could bring. It’s something that nobody teaches you. You learn to negotiate it, you navigate it and you find a way of dealing with it.

“I think it’s important to remember that, ultimately, the few minutes a day you’re in front of the camera on a movie is when you have to deliver. That’s the work; that’s where it all stops, and keeping your eye on that is the discipline you need as an actor. When you’re young, it can be easy to be knocked off that.”

Owen has no desire to up sticks and move home and family to America. He lives in Highgate, North London, with his wife, one-time actress and now full-time mother Sarah-Jane Fenton, and the girls.

“I came to London 20 years ago and fell in love with the place,” he says.“I love living here, my kids are very happy here, all my friends are here, and there’s absolutely no reason for me to go anywhere else.”

Owen’s next film release is just weeks away. Duplicity, a glossy and quick-witted caper which reunites him with his Closer co-star Julia Roberts. He says he was thrilled to act opposite her again. “It’s so much easier when you’ve worked with somebody and you trust, respect and like each other.

“In a movie like Duplicity, which is very much a series of great banter scenes between the two of us, that whole trust thing is taken care of before you begin. You’ve been through that process already, so you get to the work that much quicker. It’s also much more fun and playful because if you’ve been through a whole thing already, there is a shorthand there.”

Duplicity is another film about corporate villainy, he explains, adding, “but hugely different in tone from The International. It’s full of very wicked humour, and it’s much lighter in tone – it reminded me, if anything, of those old Cary Grant movies, where the dialogue trips along.”

Might it be, at long last, a film that his daughters can watch? Owen lets out a raucous laugh. “It might be one of the few! Apart from Julia and me kissing a little bit…”

The International opens today. Duplicity opens on March 20

Source: Wales Online

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