Clive Owen has taken on all manner of steely-eyed tough guys in his film career, including a sniper in 2002’s The Bourne Identity, a mysterious bank robber in 2006’s Inside Man and a baby’s bodyguard in 2007’s Shoot ‘Em Up.
But in The Boys Are Back, which expands to more theaters Friday, the suave Brit, who turns 45 on Saturday, reveals his tender side in a rare father role. He’s a globe-trotting sportswriter whose life is turned upside down when his second wife dies unexpectedly and he is forced to be the primary caretaker of his two boys from different marriages.
Thanks to director Scott Hicks, 56, who returns to his home turf of South Australia for the first time since 1996’s Shine, Owen can drop the gunplay and pick up dirty clothes, instead. “That’s Scott’s favorite scene,” the actor says with a chuckle. “Me doing the laundry.”While attending the film festival here last month, Owen, father to Hannah, 12, and Eve, 10, and Hicks, father to stepson Scott, 42, and son Jethro, 26, gathered to discuss their male-oriented family drama.
Q: Clive, did you want a break from your usual macho outings?
Owen: I’m a parent, but I always considered that slightly separate from my work. And, suddenly, I’m reading this script that really explores parenting. I felt very involved with it, because I’ve got two young girls and I could relate to an awful lot of it. Often, I find family movies a little cute and not very real. This felt honest.
Q: Scott, why did you think of Clive for this part?
Hicks: It was the year of Closer (the 2004 drama, which earned the actor an Oscar nomination as a spiteful cuckold), when Clive was very much in my consciousness. You rarely get the person you want, and it is kind of wonderful when those needs intersect. He was so enthusiastic.
Q: By filming where you live, you just went home at night?
Hicks: Exactly. I was in our beach house, and Clive was living next door. One scene was shot from the balcony of my house, so I didn’t even have to get out of bed.
Q: (To Owen) What do you think of your character’s “just say yes” style of parenting? It led to a lot of crusty plates piling up.
Owen: There’s certainly some validity to the argument about don’t be so quick to say no all the time. Go with the flow. But, obviously, no one is doing the washing up, no one is doing the chores. It’s going to collapse at some point. You do need an element of structure to bringing up a kid.
Q: Could you ever live in this sort of “hog heaven”?
Owen: Not like that, no.
Hicks: Come on, not even as a student? As a young actor?
Owen: Never that bad.
Q: (To Hicks) You’ve often worked with young actors with great success. In this film, there is a 6-year-old newcomer, Nicholas McAnulty from Sydney, who plays Artie. What is your secret?
Hicks: Some I’ve worked with have been incredibly experienced and focused, like Anton Yelchin (Hearts in Atlantis) or Abigail Breslin (No Reservations). For Nick, it’s all new to him, so you have to cut him a lot of slack. But when he turned his mind to it, he was always so accurate and truthful. His instincts were extraordinary. The big thing is not telling them what to do or how to react. The worst thing is giving them a template of what you want them to do.
Owen (with a smile): That’s true of any actor.
Hicks (laughing): Yes, they’re all children, basically.
Source: USA Today