Clive Owen says he never had any desire to play James Bond and that all of those rumors that circulated before it was announced Daniel Craig had landed the role were just that - rumors. "There was a lot of speculation about the whole Bond thing but it was all sort of media hype. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing," said Owen. But with the action comedy/drama/adventure film Shoot 'Em Up, Owen does tackle a role inspired by the ultrasmooth superspy. Writer/director Michael Davis loved the old Bond movies and those films served as the inspiration for Shoot 'Em Up.
Packed with some of the wildest gunfights ever on film, Shoot 'Em Up allowed Owen the opportunity to show off his action skills as well as his comedic side.
The Appeal of Shoot ‘Em Up: Owen explained what pulled him in. “Its originality, really. I’d never read anything quite as crazy and wild and mad as this script. That’s why I wanted to do it.”
Owen says that Michael Davis’ personality was also a key part of why he so keen on starring in Shoot ‘Em Up, but the script’s originality was really the main reason he was drawn to the project. “It was more the originality of the script from the word go, then it was about meeting Michael and seeing his take on the film. My biggest concern to tell the truth was not with the… I read the script and said, ‘That’s wild. If he can pull this off, it’s just fresh, original and witty and really good fun.’ But Michael hadn’t done a film on this scale, so the concern is can Michael actually pull this off? It’s one thing writing, ‘This is John Woo’s wet dream.’ John Woo is a master of the action genre.
Then I met Michael, he storyboarded the entire film. Every time I asked him a practical question about shooting this scene or that scene, he knew every angle he wanted to do. He knew if he was running out of time he could compromise by cutting that guy out, then I just need this angle or that. I was like, ‘One, if he doesn’t make the film, he’s going to explode. I don’t want that to happen to the guy. And two, he’s ready to make this film. He’s been waiting a long time. He’s together and he’ll pull it off.’”
Playing a Man Without a Past: While Mr Smith certainly has a past, neither Clive Owen nor the audience will ever know what from this character’s history made him the man he is in the film. Owen said he never made up his own backstory for the character, and that was part of the appeal of playing this guy. “I like that. I think it’s important. Even when Paul [Giamatti’s] character gives us that history, we don’t know if he’s right or not. And that’s good. All you need to know about that guy is that when it all goes off, he’s going to deliver. That’s all you need to know.”
So how did he go about building this hard-boiled character without building up a backstory? “He’s a very classic, iconic action guy really,” explained Owen. “He was very contained. You don’t know much about him. There’s something very satisfying about shooting action because action sequences are very clear what your objectives are. You go shot by shot through the sequence. You’ve got to achieve it all. It was quite straight forward. It was just about keeping them as contained and cool as possible, really.”
Clive Owen and Babies: He delivered one and helped it survive in Children of Men and he delivers one and tries to keep it safe in Shoot ‘Em Up. “It was very bizarre, two films back to back shooting, with full on delivery scenes with my delivering a baby,” admitted Owen. “It’s weird. I don't know why, but I’ve been there twice in real life too, so I felt I could draw on that experience.”
Asked his opinion of why Mr Smith cares so much about this baby, Owen offered, “Because he’s a nice guy. He’s a nice guy. All those guys that get killed, they all deserve it.”
Although he’s now sort of an expert on working with babies in action films, Owen joked that he didn’t think any mother would really want her three week old baby starring in Shoot ‘Em Up’s action scenes. “I’m not sure any mother would let me tear around shooting an Uzi with a real baby. We doubled the baby. We used the real baby as much as we felt was right and proper and fair. It’s a crazy, wild movie and we’re not going to be irresponsible in real life.”
The Amazing Love Scene/Gunfight: Owen explained how the scene went down. “[Michael Davis] animated it. That was one of the scenes - you know he did all this animated pitch for the movie - and that was one of the scenes he animated. All the action sequences, we kept very close to the animation shot by shot. That was a little trickier because some of it was physically impossible to do. Stick drawings could do everything but Monica [Bellucci] and I, we had to adapt a little.”
Describing the challenges of that particular sequence Owen said, “Oh, it was so difficult. It’s work, work, work. (Laughing) There were challenges because it’s actually a full-blown shoot out. It just happens to be whilst making love. But it was still a big technical [scene that] had to be prepared and rehearsed and worked out because there was such a lot going on. But it is one of the wittiest, funnest scenes in the movie.”
Killing with Carrots: Clive Owen’s character is no Bugs Bunny, but he does love his carrots. Or at least he loves to use his carrots as weapons to take down the bad guys. “One of the challenges of the movie was trying to make carrots cool,” joked Owen. “That was the biggest challenge.”