Owen plays a more human hero
Clive Owen gets down and dirty as the anti-Bond in the new financial thriller The International
By BRUCE KIRKLAND - Sun Media
LOS ANGELES — Call Clive Owen the reluctant movie star. He was happy not to sign on as James Bond, a role that fell instead to Daniel Craig. Now Owen is the rumpled leading man in The International, the essence of an anti-007 thriller.
The 46-year-old Owen, who makes the ladies swoon when cleaned up and acting cool, is unshaven, disheveled and a tad crazy as the hero of The International.
“It makes him so human,” says co-star Naomi Watts. “You can relate to the character a lot more if he’s not too slick and glossy.”
And his masculinity is intact, Watts says.
“There is no time for self-affection,” Owen — dressed in black Armani for his interviews — explains of his contrasting on-screen look. “There is no vanity there. It is not typical for a leading guy in a movie, but it was important because there is no time for him to be thinking about how he was presenting himself.”
Owen plays an obsessive and emotionally unstable Interpol investigator who teams with Watts. They track down a nefarious group of corrupt bankers running guns to terrorists and playing deadly politics with debt.
“That’s what I think my job is in this film,” Owen tells Sun Media about bringing realism into a paranoid action thriller for Hollywood.
Owen cites the example of how he behaved in the film’s action showpiece, a bloody shoot-out in the Guggenheim that leaves the famous New York art museum destroyed and littered with bodies.
“Yes, I could play that cool — just put a gun in my hand and pose my way around it,” he says.
“But my take on it is that anyone in that situation for real would absolutely crap themselves. And, however cool they were and however good they were with a gun and however experienced they were, it would be terrifying. And I want to put people in the scene. I want people to feel what it might feel like to be in this explosive, incredibly violent situation.”
Mission accomplished. But it stands in stark contrast to what 007 would have done in the same setting, even with the extra roughage Craig returned to the role. Bond is suave and his movies are slick. Owen gravitates to something else.
Owen, who was born, bred and still based in Britain with his family, shied away from opportunities he might have had to replace Pierce Brosnan as the new Bond. He laughed off suggestions he was eager for the role when interviewed for Beyond Borders (Owen laughs when reminded Sun Media was one of those pressing the issue then). Sure enough, he never seriously considered playing 007.
“I always wanted to keep it as open and as varied as possible,” he says of his freedom to choose roles. “That’s been my thing from a very young age. I got out of prime-time TV (after his first taste of fame in Britain) because I was fearful that I was going to just churn out endless prime-time TV programs, and just be the same kind of character.”
The Bond franchise is not his only career pass.
“I’ve at various points turned down what would have looked like golden opportunities — just to do something else, to keep things open,” Owen says, without naming titles.
“I just wanted to keep my options open. I’m trained in the theatre. It’s more fun when it’s varied.”
It is also more fun when he carefully paces himself, refusing movies scheduled too close together.
“I think you’ve got to have an appetite. To jump from one movie to another — one, it doesn’t give you enough time to prepare properly and, two, you get tired and that is not good.
“The rhythm for me in these last couple of years has been proper gaps in between, where there has been time to talk and prepare and get in the right place.” jam.canoe.ca