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Bev Cohn: Clive Owen: An Actor for All Seasons

Clive Owen
Photo credit: Matt Nettheim/Courtesy of Miramax Films

Clive Owen
An Actor for All Seasons
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 family’s ability to overcome an incredibly painful experience. Owen’s 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, Clive Owen & Nicholas McAnulty 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 you’re too controlled and too prepared, you look like you’re 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. He’s a super skilled fine actor mature beyond his years. There’s 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: It’s 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 ‘he’s so mean there’ or ‘he’s not very nice to the boys.’ They’re grieving and grieving is messy. It’s volatile, it’s not neat and clean and wholesome. It’s unpredictable and not very nice.

Bev: Did making this film have an effect on your own parenting?

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 character’s 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 it’s a death, a divorce, etc., as it explores the whole world of parenting.

Bev: What would you like an audience to take home with them?

Clive: At the end of the day, this is a very hopeful, positive film. It’s 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 career?

Clive: I don’t 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. I’ve 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 I’m 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: There’s a lot of football watching – a lot of soccer.

Bev: Best of luck with this film.

Let Bev know what you think about her traveling adventure.

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Thanks so much for those lovely tourism photos, especially of Ireland. I certainly enjoyed all the places you suggested, and am working towards my next vacation. Don’t forget Cuba. That’s an exciting place.

Rosalie, Los Angeles

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Enjoyed your article on Mira Sorvino. Such an interesting background – family, education, career and now human rights activist. I'm not a gossip mag fan so getting more meaty news about movie celebrities from you gives me hope that there are some inteligent life forms in Hollywood.

Peter Paul, Pasadena, CA

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Thank you, Bev. This reminded me to go see the movie, "An Education," which I had already almost forgotten about, having seen the preview a few weeks ago. I enjoy this actress quite a bit--she has a uniqueness about her and she pulls me in. I enjoyed this.

Sandeee, Seattle, WA

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Thank you Beverly,I really enjoyed reading about your intimate conversation with Forest, of whom I am a great admirer. I look forward to seeing the film "Our Family Wedding."

Yoka, Westlake Village, CA

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Thank you for the sending me the beautiful article you wrote about Ireland. We will use your recomendations for hotels in the Southern part. We plan to also go to Dublin and some other Northern cities so I will get some recommendations for these from others. After reading your article, I am getting more excited about going. I think we will be in Ireland for 8 days altogether.

Leah Mendelsohn, Santa Monica, CA

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Very much enjoyed Ms. Cohn's article about Munich, especially the visuals. Though it has been 25 years since my last visit, the piece brought back countless pleasant memories of the city and the people!! Many thanks.

Lawrence, Los Angeles

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Marianplatz and that general area is truly one of the best Christmas celebrations in the world. Between that and Oktoberfest (which I can only imagine) Munich is one of the greatest cities in the world for major annual events.

Christopher Dale, New York, NY

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Hi Bev, you have done some wonderful pieces on some great celebs...Great work. The travel articles are just wonderful too.

Scott Mueller, Huntington Beach, CA

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Your great Zurich article makes me want to go there for the holidays! I love the photos, too, especially the ones of you in the sleigh, the view over the houses and the zoo!

Anna Marie, Santa Monica, CA

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Lovely article! As a European, and having been to Zurich (albeit in summer) I can vouch for this lovely city. Great pictures, too!

Helene Robins, Santa Monica, CA

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Hi Bev,

Nice review, nice seeing you, nice website interface "...Talk to Bev" - Enjoy your Thanksgiving!

Richard D. Kaye, Marina del Rey, CA

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Hi Bev,

Your interview with John Cusack is very interesting. I always wondered why these actors/actresses always get top billing when really, if you think about it, the real work come from the animators, writers and tech whizzes who spend far more hours on the movie than those actors. I know, I know, it's the all about marketing. The names of these actors are what bring in the big bucks. Still, I think these actors are way overpaid for the "little" that they do.

I remember that once upon a time, the early animation classics never mentioned the voices behind the characters. I think it was only later when Walt Disney tapped into the voices of known celebrities like Walter Matthau in the Jungle Book or Zsa Zsa Gabor in The Rescuers that the voices became a marketing magnet.

Keep up the good work. I enjoy your interviews as you peer into the lives of the Hollywood celebrities.

Peter Paul of South Pasadena, CA

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