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Clive Owen Discusses "Children of Men"

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Clive Owen Discusses "Children of Men"

Clive Owen and Claire-Hope Ashitey in "Children of Men."

© Universal Pictures

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Putting Into Words What Sets Alfonso Cuaron Apart as a Filmmaker: “I was, and now am an even bigger, huge fan of Alfonso’s. He’s very, very high on my ‘directors I’d love to work with’ list,” confessed Clive Owen. “Even some of his films that were maybe not as commercially successful, I think are very special. He’s a highly original, talented [filmmaker]. Huge talent.

When he first sent me the script, I wasn’t sure about the part. I didn’t quite know why he wanted me to do it. It’s a highly unusual lead part. If you look at that character he’s in every scene, but it’s very unusual traits that he’s got. It’s not the kind of part where you can sort of do your thing as an actor, in a way. It’s about sacrificing yourself to Alfonso’s vision and not getting in the way of it, which seems to me more important than doing any acting. But I went and I met him and I talked to him, and I found him hugely exciting. He told me his whole vision of the film and his take on the movie. Then I came on board and the first thing he said is, ‘This is now the bit I love. I love working with actors. I love the collaboration of that. We’re going to do this movie together.’ And he was very true to his word.

I signed on well in advance of the movie. I was shooting other stuff, but we kept in constant contact. I then, as soon as I got a break, went and spent a few weeks with him in New York, just holed up in a hotel room talking about the movie, talking about Theo. The collaboration continued throughout. It was a genuine, really brilliant collaboration through the whole movie. He kept me completely in the loop in all the post-production. He sent me various cuts and edits. There were endless conversations and still now as we’re taking the film out there and sort of putting it out there, it still feels like that. It’s been a very, very special collaboration.

I do genuinely think he’s a very rare and unique talent. The thing about his movies is they are whole visions. He doesn’t do that thing of pandering to what he thinks the commercial market wants. He makes his movies. He has a very singular vision and he goes out there and does that. I think he’s very special.”

Running Around Without Shoes: Sometimes Owen’s character has sandals, other times he’s having to race around barefoot. “People sort of crack jokes about the flip flops and things, but it’s actually a real stroke of genius. There’s a point in the movie later on where suddenly Theo is becoming active. He’s become engaged again and he’s running around trying to save this girl which in turn could save the world. Alfonso, who has a huge aversion to sentimentality, to stop any notion of we’ve seen this cliché where our guy’s going to become active and do it, he put me in flip flops. That’s never going to become the cliché action guy. It’s not going to happen. So that was a very deliberate thing on his part. Then the thing just developed… (Laughing) The foot fetish developed throughout the movie.”

This Isn’t Your Ordinary Action Guy Role: “It’s a highly unusual lead character for a movie of this size really, because the first half of the movie the guy doesn’t even want to be there. The guy’s dragged into the movie. He’s very reluctant. It’s very unusual to play a lead character that is apathetic, cynical, depressed, drunk, sad, really. Overwhelming sadness was the thing. Now they are unusual traits. That’s not usually the sort of lead character of a movie. Eventually he does become engaged.

Theo sort of embodies the loss of hope. There’s a hopelessness about him. He’s given up. He’s given up. There is no point to anything. But through the movie he does become engaged again.”

Clive Owen Admits to Having a Few Concerns About Children of Men: Owen said there was a time when he asked himself if the movie was going to work. “With what I was doing, yes, because as I said before, he’s not a dynamic lead character and you’re holding a film. I’m in every single scene in the movie. When you’re holding a film of this sort of scale and size, and you are playing sort of sad and apathetic and the way you pitch that, you worry if it’s holding. You worry. It’s not like I can be proactive and take the character in the film and take people through the movie. That isn’t the kind of character.

My instinct from the very, very beginning was that thing I said is that I didn’t want to get in the way of his vision. It wasn’t about doing good acting in this movie. He thinks very wide, Alfonso. He’s about environment. He puts characters in environments. If you notice, there are very few close-ups in the movie. There are very few times where he goes in on something, and there’s a reason when he does. But most of the film is done wide. There’s an awful lot of just following me and you worry that as an actor that it’s holding. You can’t do the strong things because that’s not what’s required. It’s something else.

I felt I just wanted to serve his vision and not get in the way of it and bring something to it, but you don’t know where that’s pitching. You don’t know if you’re playing somebody who’s reluctantly dragged through the first part of the movie. You don’t know if the audience is going to go, ‘Why should we even be going with this guy because he doesn’t want to go on the journey?’ So there were times certainly where I was involved, but he… You know, for me, the opportunities I’ve been getting in the last few years are hugely appreciated and the opportunity to work with him was a really great one. I think the film is one of those that later on in my career when I look back it will be one that I am very particularly proud of, I think.”

Page 3: On Working with Michael Caine and the Status of Sin City 2

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