Clive Owen was not chosen to play James Bond, even after years of speculation that the 007 role was a natural fit. Yet in his latest film, The International, he does get to play a character who somewhat resembles Bond, and with a plot in which the secret agent would feel at home. Then again, although the impressive locations and the rooftop chases are there—and Owen does play a heat-seeking missile who will do whatever it takes to catch the bad guys—Interpol agent Louis Salinger is more like a plow horse on speed than a thoroughbred.
In a Los Angeles hotel room, Owen says he and director Tom Tykwer felt that his character had to be focused on solving crimes and care little about his personal attire or hygiene. “It was important to us that he had absolutely no vanity and took no time for self-affection. He is only looking one way and that is outwards. He is a passionate and obsessed character, so I had to look as though I didn’t care about myself because he doesn’t care what he is putting out in any way. That is not typical of a lead character in a movie, but there is no time for him to think about how he is presenting himself because he is so obsessed.”
In the film, which opens on February 13, Owen’s agent is working with an assistant district attorney (Naomi Watts) to prove that a financial institution is destabilizing governments through illicit schemes. He says the timing couldn’t be better for a movie about untrustworthy financial institutions.
‘The writers were working on the script for two years, and then we finished shooting a year ago. When you look at what has happened with banks in terms of the attention on them, it is incredible timing. When I was sent the script, I was surprised that such a huge part of the movie was looking at banks and whether they were using peoples’ money properly and asking if they were sound institutions. The whole world is talking about that right now.”
In the early years of the decade, Owen was a bit like Salinger. He was relentless in his pursuit of work and made several films in a row, including the appropriately titled I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead. He says that he has now determined that a long career comes with careful planning and being prepared for every role.
“A few years ago, I was making three films back-to-back and I realized I hated that rhythm. You have to have an appetite to jump from one film to another, because you don’t have time to prepare properly and you get tired. In the last couple of years, I have been able to prepare. The people I have been working for have incredible taste. There is a confidence going in that you will be looked after, and there is a good chance the film will turn out well. That keeps me going.”