BERLIN, Istanbul, London, Milan, New York, Adelaide. Clive Owen has seen them all over the past year, some for long enough to unpack and have his family visit, others flashing by like so many sped-up frames in a scene from the life of a successful actor.
Sometimes, such as when he was making German director Tom Tykwers’s thriller The International, he has to hit the ground running, ready to slot into major set pieces that big production teams had worked for months to organise.
“It takes real discipline to keep energising, keep on top all the time,” 44-year-old Owen says in a brief lay-over, this time in Los Angeles.
“You have to remember there’s no luxury of, like, a week to acclimatise.”On The Boys are Back, shot late last year mainly in Adelaide, the home town of its director, Scott Hicks, the pace was different.
Owen’s wife, Sarah-Jane, and their daughters Hannah, 11, and Eve, 9, came to visit and got to enjoy family activities such as a day on Kangaroo Island.
But given he’s also made Tony Gilroy’s Duplicity, co-starring Julia Roberts and shot in the Bahamas, New York and Rome, Owen’s London-based family and his global career require something of a balancing act.
“We take each film as it comes and now my daughters are very settled in school and have got to an age where it’s harder to pull them out of classes, it’s really just about when they’ve got breaks,” he says.
“When I was in Australia they managed to get out for a few weeks. On The International they came to New York and spent a few weeks in Berlin as well.
“I never take a job based on location. I won’t say no to a film because it’s taking me away from the family. I’ve never done that. I just take it and we make it work.
“We’ve been fortunate in that the rhythm has not been too bad. We never spend too long apart.”
Still, he says, separation anxiety has intensified, rather than faded.
“I am very close to my girls,” he says. “Obviously I go off and make movies but they come as much as they can. If they can’t, I talk to them every day so I feel very connected to them even when I’m away.
“But it’s tough going to literally the other side of the world and leaving your kids in London.”
He is likely to continue doing so, however, while the offers keep rolling in.
His Interpol agent Louis Salinger in The International attracted him because of his passionate, obsessed behaviour.
“There’s was something exciting about playing a character who is so driven,” he says.
Along with Manhattan assistant district attorney Eleanor Whitman (played by Naomi Watts), Salinger is involved in a high-stakes game involving illegal arms deals, money laundering, murder and a respected multi-national bank.
“It’s incredibly uncanny how timely this film is if you think that I was sent the script 18 months ago and along with it came quite a lot of research about the way banks operate, about globalisation, articles on corruption within banks,” Owen says.
“A big part of the film makes you question the way banks operate. Do they use our money appropriately? Are they totally sound institutions?
“With what’s happened in the past year, those are questions on everyone’s mind.
“Do I trust banks?”
Owen repeats the question and smiles.
“I think that you’ve got to be careful,” he says.
One of the climactic scenes in The International involves a shootout that supposedly takes place inside the landmark Guggenheim Museum on New York’s Fifth Avenue.
The interior of the museum was recreated to scale in an aircraft hangar outside Berlin.
“The very first time I sat down with Tom Tykwer, he said, ‘Look, this isn’t an action movie per se, but when we do have action I want it to be incredibly intense and incredibly explosive and this scene needs to be the most intense’,” Owen says.
“He was incredibly meticulous in his planning of that sequence and I think it’s one of the most exquisitely, brilliantly directed sequences I’ve been involved in. It’s pretty spectacular.”
The Boys are Back, based on Simon Carr’s 2000 book about being the widowed father of a small boy and another son from a previous marriage coming back into his life, is a complete departure.
“It’s a beautifully written script (adapted by Alan Cubitt), very moving and very charming, but it’s not sentimental or coy,” Owen says.
“Being a parent myself, it was something I was attracted to. I was very touched by it. It’s an intimate family drama, really and I had a good time doing it.
“The little kid we found in Australia (Nicholas McAnulty, who was six when they started filming) was really fantastic. He’s got as big a role as I’ve got.
“There is something very particular about working with children in that they’re so honest and so instinctive that they really show you up if you’re acting too much, because they’re so open and real.
“The idea of working a lot with a kid like that was very exciting to me and it is unlike anything else I’ve ever done.”
Owen’s older son in the movie is played by 16-year-old British actor George MacKay, who was one of the Lost Boys in P.J. Hogan’s Peter Pan (2003).
Duplicity reunites Owen and Julia Roberts, who previously co-starred in Closer (2004) for director Mike Nichols.
Owen describes the script by Gilroy (writer of the three Bourne movies starring Matt Damon, and writer-director of 2007’s Michael Clayton, starring George Clooney) as one of the most exciting to come his way in a long time.
He and Roberts play corporate spies who share a steamy past and hook up again to pull the ultimate con job on their bosses.
“Because they’re so good at what they do they don’t trust each other,” Owen says.
“Every scene is fuelled with this sort of banter. The dialogue is as good as I’ve read and there was nobody better than Julia to do it with.”
The International opens on Thursday; Duplicity opens March 19. The Boys Are Back opens later this year.
Source: News Australia