Owen does action on his own terms

 Thanks to his roles as a globe-trotting Interpol agent in “The International,” a gun-toting baddy in “Shoot ‘Em Up” and a world-saving superman in “Children of Men,” Clive Owen has become the thinking man’s action hero.

But for his latest movie, Owen trades gun battles for the rat-a-tat of romantic banter. This time around, he’s a lover, not a fighter.

In “Duplicity,” the latest from “Michael Clayton” helmer Tony Gilroy, Owen plays Ray Koval, an ex-MI6 agent who obtains industry trade secrets for multinational corporations.Koval’s only rival in the corporate spy biz is Claire Stenwick (Julia Roberts), a former CIA-agent with whom he’s having a clandestine affair. As the stakes rise between their bosses (Paul Giamatti, Tom Wilkinson), the superspies must stay one double-cross ahead of the CEOs.

Owen admits he didn’t spend much time weighing the merits of “Duplicity” before signing on the dotted line.

“The script arrived at a time when I was turning a lot of things down,” he says. “But after I read it, I literally grabbed the phone and called my agent and said, “This is the one! Get me this one! This one is dynamite!’ ”

Asked what got him so jazzed about the project, Owen shoots off a laundry list of the film’s merits. “It’s smart. It has some of the best dialogue I’ve ever been given on a film. It’s old-school.”

For Owen, the heart of the movie is the depiction of the emotional warfare between a pair of romantically challenged, iron-willed lovers. “Both of these characters are so good at what they do that they don’t trust each other,” he observes. “They both think they’re going to have the other one over. So every scene is basically about trust.”

When writer/director Tony Gilroy first imagined the couple, one question kept coming to his mind: “How do scorpions make love?” Says the filmmaker, “I wondered what happens if two people fall in love who are both professional liars. It’s really hard for them; who else is there for them? They’re their own species.”

Owen didn’t bother delving into the world of corporate espionage, preferring to do his homework in front of the TV set. He rented DVDs of dialogue-driven movies like “The Sweet Smell of Success” with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

“The dialogue in those movies is dazzling,” he says. “You’re completely enraptured by the dialogue. It’s so smart and so clever.”

Great dialogue, notes Owen, is not a priority for today’s scribes. “A lot of writers these days write great stories but really good dialogue is rare. Almost no one but Tony writes dialogue that crackles and sizzles.”

Even when Owen doesn’t have literate dialogue to spit out, he aims to make every character he plays as authentic as possible. If he has a specialty as an actor, it’s bringing believability to the most outlandish of situations, be it the post-apocalyptic future (“Children of Men”), the distant past (“King Arthur,” “Queen Elizabeth: The Golden Age”) or the cartoony present (“Shoot ‘Em Up,” “Sin City”).

It was as the world’s smoothest card dealer in “Croupier” that Owen first came to the attention to American moviegoers. Since then, he’s become one of Hollywood’s most reliable leading men, even though he’s never officially made the move across the pond.

The 44-year-old actor continues to live in Highgate, London and Wrabness, North Essex, with his wife Sarah-Jane Fenton and their two daughters, Hannah and Eve.

Back in 2006, Owen scored one of his biggest hits with the Spike Lee-directed “Inside Man,” a heist film co-starring Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster. Rumor has it that a sequel is in the works — and Owen is ready for a return engagement.

“Listen, Denzel Washington is probably one of the best actors around and Spike Lee has become a great friend,” says Owen. “I really want that script to be good. I don’t want to do a sequel if it’s not as good as the original. But if it is, I’ll be there in a flash.”

Source: Courier Post Online

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