Clive Owen: Cloak and swagger

Clive Owen and Julia Roberts first co-starred in 2004’s “Closer,” playing a dysfunctional couple with trust issues. Now, the handsome Brit and America’s Sweetheart play another dysfunctional couple with honesty issues in “Duplicity,” a smart comedy set in the world of corporate espionage.

Owen and Roberts start out as spies for rival government agencies. They meet, fall in love and decide to exit the spy business for the more lucrative corporate world. Applying their spy skills, they then decide to hoodwink a corporate giant. Only problem is these two strong-willed lovers don’t trust each other, despite their amorous feelings.

The dark and handsome Owen says he was impressed with the script, written in a rat-a-tat style reminiscent of 1940’s screwball comedies. The writing, he says, has “great rhythm and wit.”“It’s the best dialogue I’ve read in years,” says Owen by phone. “I trained in the theater, and the opportunity to say great dialogue on film doesn’t come around as often as you’d like.”

To prepare for “Duplicity,” he watched classic films like “His Girl Friday,” starring Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell. He likens his role to driving a posh car. “You’ve got to just sit in it and not mess it up,” he says in his clear low baritone. “You can’t be too clever with it or try and mess with the rhythm.”

The 44-year-old actor was thrilled when he heard Roberts would co-star. He believes the Academy Award-winning actress was the perfect choice to play the lovely but deceptive Claire to his charming but untrustworthy Ray.

“Every scene I play with Julia was a great scene,” he says. “There was great joy and excitement about doing it.”

Owen and Roberts spent about two weeks rehearsing for writer-director Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”) in New York to get the timing and the rhythm of the dialogue just right. “It was necessary because it’s a very smart and layered piece,” recalls Owen.

Gilroy chose to tell his story in a non-linear way. Ray and Claire’s relationship unfolds in a series of flashbacks. Fortunately for the actors, Gilroy gave them a chronology so they could keep the story straight as they were shooting their scenes.

Owen credits George Clooney for recommending him to Gilroy while Clooney was shooting “Michael Clayton.” “I found out later,” recalls Owen. “So I have to thank George for this.”

Gilroy was familiar with Owen’s work in “Children of Men,” “Closer” and “The Bourne Identity,” which Gilroy wrote and which featured Owen as an assassin.

Though he has been acting for more than two decades in his native Britain, Owen went unnoticed by Hollywood until his starring role in 1998’s “Croupier.” Other credits include the Robert Altman ensemble “Gosford Park,””Beyond Borders” with Angelina Jolie, the title role in Jerry Bruckheimer’s “King Arthur,” and the noir comic book adaptation “Sin City.” In 2005, he starred in Spike Lee’s “Inside Man,” opposite Denzel Washington.

Most recently he was seen as an Interpol agent on the heels of a corrupt banker in “The International.”

Once considered a possible successor to the James Bond franchise, Owen was passed over in favor of fellow Brit Daniel Craig. Not getting the iconic role hasn’t hurt Owen’s career, though. It’s afforded him opportunities to tackle a wide range of projects, from the outrageously over-the-top “Shoot Em Up” to the costume drama “Elizabeth: The Golden Age.”

“I don’t see myself as the guy that does action films, apart from ‘Shoot Em Up,’ ” he says. “The gun thing isn’t something I think about that much. It’s just something I happen to do.”

Married for 14 years to British actress Sarah-Jane Fenton, whom he met when they co-starred in a stage production of “Romeo & Juliet,” Owen appears to have it all: wife, family (two children) and a thriving career.

After what seems to have been a nonstop slew of movies, the actor finds himself in an unusual situation. After wrapping a small family drama called “The Boys are Back in Town,” he hasn’t lined up his next gig.

“I have no idea what I’m doing next,” he says. “It’s not for lack of opportunity or choice of having scripts sent to me. It’s just nothing right now is inspiring me.”

He’s not one to mope about it, though. He insists that actors have to be comfortable not knowing what’s next.

“One of the joys for me is that in four weeks time I could be anywhere embarking on something I had no idea I would be doing, and I like that,” he says.

Source: AZ Central

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