Clive Owen counts his many lucky stars, on screen and offBy Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY
NEW YORK — Pursuing corrupt bankers with Naomi Watts. Plotting the ultimate con with Julia Roberts.
It's all in a day's work for British actor Clive Owen. "I've been very lucky in the last few years, haven't I?" he asks rhetorically.
CLIVE'S FAVORITE ROLE: Father to Hannah and Eve
Owen blows into theaters with back-to-back high-octane flicks. In The International, opening Friday, he's a single-minded Interpol agent who works with a Manhattan D.A. (Watts) to take down a corrupt global bank. And on March 20, he reunites with his Closer co-star Roberts in Duplicity, a sexy tale of two secret agents with one diabolical plan.
Roberts calls Owen "one of those rare individuals. He is perfectly balanced in life and career. He is also a hell of a lot of fun to spend time with."
Owen, 44, married and father of two, knows he's in a professional sweet spot.
"I'm where I want to be, really, in terms of the opportunities I'm getting and the people I'm working with. If it keeps going like it is and I keep working with the caliber of people I've been working with, I'm just thankful."
He signed on to do The International to work with Tom Tykwer (Run Lola Run), who calls Owen "the thinking man's action hero. He is physically impressive, but he can still show that he's vulnerable."
Owen doesn't see much of himself in the character of Louis Salinger, a man who is fixated on destroying a bank — even if his job destroys him first.
"He's doing this at the cost of everything else in his life. He's a mess," Owen says. "I'm not like him.
"The nearest thing I have is work. My commitment and my passion — I work very hard when I'm doing it, but nothing like that, nothing that extreme."
Owen, Watts says, makes the hyper-intense Salinger real: "Clive is a big, tall, good-looking man. But he's not too groovy or too sexy. You relate to him."
In Duplicity, written and directed by Michael Clayton's Tony Gilroy, Owen plays Salinger's opposite: a smooth-talking scammer.
"I'd been reading a lot and hadn't been interested in much. When that happens, I start to think it's me, that I'm being too choosy. And then you read a great script and think, 'That's why,' " he says. "No. 1 on our wish list was Julia."
She read the script and called Owen. "She says, 'We should do this one, Clive.' I had such a great time with her (on Closer), even though it looked very serious. We got on very well, we trusted each other. This is now perfect."