Clive Owen has attracted thousands of female fans by smouldering his way through films such as Closer, Sin City and Duplicity. Yet behind closed doors, his own girls are keen to see him play a new kind of role.
The 45-year-old star says his daughters Hannah and Eve would like him to drop the moody anti-hero act and do more family-friendly roles.
“They’re very keen for me to do a film to give them bragging rights at school,” he says, chuckling.
“They’re putting me under such pressure, I’m going to have to buckle and do it. They’re going to say, ’You’ve got to do this one, Dad’ and I’ll end up doing it.”
Owen’s latest film, The Boys Are Back, is a step in that direction.
In the drama, based on journalist Simon Carr’s memoirs and shot in Australia, Owen plays Joe Warr, who struggles with being a single parent to his six-year-old son after his wife dies of cancer.
The 45-year-old admits his own experience of fatherhood was “a huge part of wanting to do the film”.“I’m a parent and parenting’s a big part of my life. I recognised and felt I had similar experiences to a lot of things in this movie, so it felt reasonably familiar,” he says.
And Hannah and Eve can finally see their dad on the big screen.
“The girls are very thrilled with this film because they can see it,” he reveals.
Besides its appeal as a more family-focussed drama, it was really the script that captured Owen’s imagination.
“It’s a very beautiful script, I was very taken when I read it. I thought it was unusual in its delicacy and intelligence in exploring these relationships, and a beautiful exploration of both grief and parenting.”
He adds: “It wasn’t sentimental, it was precise and I found it terribly moving when I got to the scene where Joe was telling the young boy that his mother might not be around for much longer – I found the whole idea of that conversation upsetting.”
The Coventry-born actor made it clear to director Scott Hicks that he wanted a film steeped in reality.
“I’d seen lots of family movies where the family is in this lovely, warm bubble, and even when things get tough, everyone is very lovely and it’s all very sweet. Real families aren’t like that – it’s much more volatile than that and this script explored that in a very honest way,” he admits.
Owen, married to wife Sarah-Jane, brought his real-life experiences as a dad into the role, particularly the trying times.
“I didn’t have the huge, big tragic loss that they have, but in terms of the ups and downs of parenting, I felt I’ve experienced quite a few of them,” he says.
“I was always interested in the scenes showing the tougher times in the film, for example when the kid has a tantrum in the car. I’ve been in situations like that with my kids – they go into a funk.
“I think kids below the ages of eight are kind of crazy and manic depressive, and they go into their funks and you have to bring them out of it. I could relate to that scene and I was interested to make that tough for my character because all parents will relate.”
The Boys Are Back follows Joe as he gets to grips with parenthood, and adopts his own way of parenting. In one scene, which has split audiences, he allows his son to ride on the bonnet of the car as they drive along Australia’s Aldinga Beach.
“It was a radical approach to parenting, because he was in a radical situation – it was like a crash course in bonding and he had this outlook that this was a fast way of bonding with his young one,” explains Owen.
“Those scenes tend to split people – some people say it’s very irresponsible and others think it looks like fantastic fun. The film isn’t advocating this way of parenting, it’s saying this is this guy’s approach to it. It’s not about being responsible or irresponsible, it’s trying to get their lives back on track.”
It’s clearly a different kind of role for Owen, but he denies he picked the part for that reason.
“People have said to me this is quite a departure, I never saw it as that but enough people have told me now so I have to accept it,” he says.
“I don’t set out (to do something different). A career is made up of all the individual choices that I’ve made, it’s literally an instinctive response.
“I respond to the material: I laughed all the way through when I read Shoot ’Em Up and I read this script and I wanted to do it for other reasons. I enjoy exploring new and different aspects of myself in the film, and this is one.”
Despite starring alongside Tinseltown’s most sought-after actresses like Julia Roberts and Jessica Alba, Owen admits there’s no chance for him to get caught up in fame, with his children keeping him firmly grounded.
“They’re pretty disdainful to me generally and Hannah the eldest’s favourite line to me is, ’If only they could see what you’re really like’.”
His home life is far from the glamour of Hollywood: “I do the washing up,” he quips.
His daughters are clearly the apples of his eye, so how would he feel if they showed a desire to follow in his footsteps?
“If they did want to go into it, it would be very hypocritical to tell them they couldn’t do it, because I’ve had such a fantastic time,” he says.
“I would make sure they were going into it for the right reasons, which is about the work ultimately. I think it’s a dangerous game to go into if you want to do anything else other than the craft of acting.”
Having played many anti-hero roles in his life, being liked isn’t high on Owen’s list.
“I never worry about being liked. I think it’s much better for people relate to, understand and appreciate what you’re going through rather than like you,” he says.
“I think actors make a huge mistake in wanting to play heroic parts – we’re all fallible and flawed, and that’s the most interesting thing to explore.”
There’s just one more dream theatre-trained Owen would love to fulfil – a return to the stage.
“I’m actually thinking and talking about doing a play,” he reveals.
“I haven’t done it for a very long time, so I’m trying to find a play I’m passionate about enough to want to do. But I’m certainly talking about the possibility of doing something – either here or on Broadway – soon.”
The Boys Are Back is released in cinemas on Friday January 22.
EXTRA TIME – CLIVE OWEN
Clive Owen was born in Coventry on October 3, 1964.
Mike Hodges’s 1998 film Croupier propelled him to international fame: “It opened the whole movie thing up for me really, so Croupier is one of the defining parts of my career.”
He’s been rumoured to be playing supervillain Kraven the Hunter in Spider-Man 4, but denies any knowledge: “That’s the first I’ve heard. The girls would like me to do it though.”
He has no dream role: “I’ve never had that, I just take it as it comes. I’m always excited by the idea that the next one could be a gem or something that sets me on fire.”
He has no regrets: “I have no regrets because I was never attracted to the material and if you’re not ignited by it and have no appetite, I don’t think you’ll be very good at it whatever the film is.”
Source: Wales Online