Fatherhood suits Clive Owen.
The actor’s daughters, Hannah, 12, and Eve, 9, have finally figured out what their father does for a living, even though they’re not allowed to see any of his very R-rated films. And they’re trying to benefit from it.
“Weirdly, they’ve become obsessed by Friends. My oldest daughter is obsessed, and she knows I worked with Jennifer Aniston (in 2005’s Derailed), so she’s like, ‘Call her up, call her up,’ ” Owen says with a smile. “I’m not calling her up. What are you going to say to her? They hit me up for weird things like that.”
Not that he minds. His International co-star Naomi Watts says he’s “very much a family man — he never stops talking about his daughters and wife.”
His wife, actress Sarah-Jane Fenton, and their girls will get his undivided attention at home in London — as soon as he’s done promoting his upcoming thrillers, The International (due Friday) and Duplicity (March 20).
“I’ve been traveling so much that I want to hang at home. We used to take the family on holidays and adventures, but more and more, I want to go home and stay at home,” he says. “I love getting up in the morning and taking them to school and picking them up and hanging with them. In the last year or two, if I go away for a certain amount of time to make a film, I make sure I have down time at home to keep the balance right.”
At the moment, he’s in no hurry to go back to work. A sequel to his 2006 Spike Lee-directed thriller Inside Man is an option, if the script — currently being written — is up to snuff.
When selecting his roles, emotion rules, Owen says. “I read something and I get passionate very quickly. It worries me if I have to think about it too long. I start to think there has to be something wrong.”
He broke through as a scheming casino employee in 1998’s Croupier, has worked with Robert Altman on Gosford Park and Alfonso Cuarón on Children of Men, and earned an Oscar nomination for 2004’s grim relationship drama Closer.
Despite his thriving career — and sultry good looks — he’s “totally without ego,” Watts says. “For someone who looks the way he does, he doesn’t spend hours worrying about his hair.”
In person, Owen wears his quiet sense of self-confidence as easily as the black suit he pairs with a white polo shirt. There’s no angst or insecurity, just a subdued sense of humor.
A Christian Bale-esque tirade on set from Owen would be unimaginable. The thought of it — and being caught on tape — amuses the actor.
“That could be just around the corner. You’d probably just hear me laughing,” he says, chuckling. “I enjoy making movies, so even when it’s tiring and tough, I still have a good time.”
So much so, says The International director Tom Tykwer, that Owen provided the comic relief on the globe-trotting set. “He’s got this amazing sense of humor. In the most serious moment, he’ll lighten you up. He would crack a joke when things get too intense. He’s the one who can release tension sometimes when other people get more stiff and can’t let go.”
Owen “has a huge sense of irony about himself,” Tykwer adds. “He’s so much not a person that ends up in a narcissistic tunnel. He never controlled me when I was trying to make him look more (messed) up or exhausted. The uglier you get him, the happier he is.”
Now that cinema has become his career staple, Owen wouldn’t mind getting back to his roots: the stage. He joined the Young Vic theater company two decades ago, met his future wife during a production of Romeo and Juliet, and starred in the West End production of the stage version of Closer.
“I’ve thought it more and more,” he says. “There’s no play I’m dying to do. I’m waiting for (Closer playwright Patrick Marber) to write another fantastic part, something that really sparks me, and I’ll go back.”
His girls, however, have been pressuring their dad to take his career in a totally new direction.
“They give me serious grief about doing a children’s movie,” he says. “They’ve started to understand what I do. They come to every film. They meet everybody. But they’re not allowed to see the film. Most films I do are not appropriate. When they turn 18, they can watch Closer.”
It’s fitting that his one bit of free time in Soho is being spent in service to his daughters doing some shopping.
“I do have a bit of time off,” he says. “So I’ll use it to get something for the girls.”