Photo credit: Matt Nettheim/Courtesy
of Miramax Films
An Actor for All
By Beverly Cohn
live Owen is one of the most sought-after international film stars.
His body of work speaks for itself and includes Croupier, Children of
Men, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, and his award-winning performance in
Closer. His versatility is reflected in the broad spectrum of characters
he has portrayed. Perhaps his most shining moment is in his new film,
The Boys Are Back, in which he plays Joe Warr, a man whose wife dies
of cancer and the ensuing struggle to define his role of single dad
to two young boys. Although the story is a difficult one, under the
outstanding direction of Scott Hicks (Billy Elliot, Shine) the film
never gets maudlin and is a tribute to this familys ability to
overcome an incredibly painful experience. Owens multi-textured
performance is worthy of an Oscar nomination..
Bev: Good morning and congratulations on a brilliant
performance. Get your tuxedo ready. (Laughter)
Clive: Thank you.
Bev: Despite the sadness of the story, it seemed like
you had a lot of fun filming the movie water and pillow fights,
playing hide-and-seek, high jumps into the bathtub. Was it as much fun
as it appeared on the screen?
Clive: It was a lot of fun. That said, much of the film
is geared around seven-year-old Nicholas (McAnulty) who plays the younger
son Artie. Because of his age, he was unpredictable so we had to be
flexible. Scott was great at keeping the cast and crew on their toes
so if Nicholas did something interesting, we were ready to capture it.
George MacKay as Harry, Clive Owen as Joe, Nicholas
McAnulty as Artie. Photo credit: Matt Nettheim/Courtesy
of Miramax Films
Bev: Did you find it difficult working with two kids
for most of the film?
Clive: I loved it but was nervous because this was a
very different way of working. When you work with someone as young as
Nick, you must be ready to react instantly. If youre too controlled
and too prepared, you look like youre acting. That was the challenge.
I had to be spontaneous and make it as honest and true in depicting
the pain of the wife and mother dying.
Bev: What was it like working with George MacKay? (the
older son, Harry)
Clive: Working with George was very different. Hes
a super skilled fine actor mature beyond his years. Theres nothing
by accident from him.
Bev: How did it feel to actually meet Simon Carr who
wrote the autobiographical book on which the film is based?
Clive: I only met him at the very end. I read the memoir
and then the script and Scott asked me if I wanted to meet Simon. I
said no because I got a lot from both the book and the script and had
strong impulses and instincts on how to proceed in developing the character.
Even if I had met him for five minutes, I would be have influenced by
his voice, physicality, how he carried himself, etc., and would have
thought about it as I was working. I wanted to be free to do my own
interpretation and instinctively inhabit the character.
Bev: What was it like when you finally met him?
Clive: He showed up with his two boys on the last day
of shooting. It was a very memorable day standing on the train station
when the two young actors met the real boys.
Bev: Would this have been a different film it was a
studio film perhaps more sentimental?
Clive: Its a great advantage that this is an independent
film as it gave us the freedom to explore, without studio restrictions.
If it was a big studio film, it might have been more sentimental and
committees would be concerned about the likeability of my character
such as hes so mean there or hes not very
nice to the boys. Theyre grieving and grieving is messy.
Its volatile, its not neat and clean and wholesome. Its
unpredictable and not very nice.
Bev: Did making this film have an effect on your own
Clive: My own parenting has been infused in my work
by remembering that I had been in a particular situation. I can generally
relate to saying no pretty quickly to our kids so I can
understand my characters instinct to give more freedom to his
kids by just saying yes to everything.
Bev: How has the film been received in advanced screenings?
Clive: The advance screenings have been hugely encouraging.
It is a difficult film but people are terribly moved by it as they can
connect to it on some level whether its a death, a divorce, etc.,
as it explores the whole world of parenting.
Bev: What would you like an audience to take home with
Clive: At the end of the day, this is a very hopeful,
positive film. Its not heavy, but is very moving. This family
experiences a terrible tragedy, but you are left knowing that they are
ultimately going to move forward.
Bev: What was the biggest challenge you faced in your
Clive: I dont really know. I just always carried
on in my career and opportunities just opened up. When the movie thing
opened up, I was quite contented as I had a very full career in England
doing theatre, television and moves. Ive been very lucky and have
tried to keep my eye on the main thing, which is the work.
Bev: As an international movie star, how do you retain
your family values?
Clive: When Im at home with the girls, I do the
washing up, the laundry and other chores around the house just like
any other dad.
Bev: What do you do with your guy friends?
Clive: Theres a lot of football watching
a lot of soccer.
Bev: Best of luck with this film.