Finally, a really in-depth interview with Clive Owen in a men’s magazine. I thought the men’s magazines were only for half-naked women now, but Esquire has an interview with Clive up on their website. It was written by Tom Chiarella and it’s called “Just Another Day at the Ponies with Clive Owen”. I don’t even want to know how long this friggin’ article is, and how little of it is actually Clive answering questions. Let’s just say I’ve spent an hour deleting three pages of crap about horses at a racetrack. Oh, and if Tom Chiarella said once that one of the horses had an erection, he must have said it like fifteen times.
There’s not much breaking news in the piece, but it’s an interesting read. The writer met Clive Owen at a Paris racetrack and they spent the day betting and talking. The topics range from horses (duh) to soccer (football) to Berlin. Clive on working with Tom Tykwer in Berlin: “ I wanted to work with the director [Tykwer]…That’s as plain as it is…It’s really the era of directors right now. I also like Berlin. It’s a young city, despite everything. A lot of artists. I wanted to be there for a while.” And here’s Clive talking about learning to ride a horse for King Arthur:
He’s got this thing with sports, this deep bond with the spectacle, which brings out both the boy in him and the reflective citizen. He does not mind showing awe. “I had to ride a horse once,” he says. “In King Arthur. I said I could ride, but I had to call for lessons on the day the deal was signed. I started out on this little chunky thing and slowly moved up. It was months of work. On the first day, the director chose a horse for me and it was this big Arabian, well bigger than anything I’d ridden, with this clop, clop, clop walk. Bigger than any horse I’ve ever seen really. Christ, it was intimidating. First day I had to gallop across a field in full profile. You do it. You have to. Big, big horse.”
This writer, Tom Chiarella, has a total man-crush on Clive. He keeps talking about how cool Clive is. Which is true. If I got to go to the racetrack with Clive, I would try to have sex with him in the stables. Or in the seats. Or wherever. My point? He’s really cool. And really good-looking. Chiarella writes this line about Clive: “There is an immutable openheartedness to his face — fearless, not fawning — in the way he looks back at you. He looks like he belongs. He doesn’t screen out a thing; he doesn’t fear.” Perhaps Clive sensed Tom’s bromantic intentions, because Clive starts talking about his wife and how she doesn’t understand manly things like football matches.
There were two options for a writer to see Clive Owen stripped to his passions: this or soccer. Some people do think soccer is important, Clive Owen certainly being one. He’s a straight nut for the Liverpool red-and-white; it’s a condition of being him. “It’s questionable, really. A man caring so much about a team,” he says. “It puzzles my wife, my stubbornness in this. I think she wonders why men care so much about a game. She wonders what the world would be like if they put their energy into something that means something.” He raises his eyebrows on this last little couplet, rolling the weight of the words, considering the possibility. “She makes room for it. My whole family does. I’m at it in front of the television, on satellite, and I’m very loud, thrashing about. That’s a pure thing, that club. Not really explainable, really. My family endures. They don’t understand it.” He thinks about it a little, casts his gaze toward the parade of horses for the second race. And it seems to occur to him that he doesn’t care. He laughs. “But my wife’s never even been to a soccer game, so who is she to say?”
He says, “Outside of being home with my family, I prefer a crowd. At a soccer match, the big crowd, the singing, rocking around, it’s urgent as hell. There’s a ritual to it. I want to be in that mess. And no one bothers me. At a soccer game, everyone’s eyes are on the pitch, aren’t they? They don’t care about some f’ing movie star. They have their eyes on the right thing. They watch the battle.”
[It's] just that he doesn’t access his feelings when you ask him about movies. They’re tasks for him. “I do a lot better if I sit around and think about a character for a couple of months,” he says. “Before I climb into him for a run, I’ve just sat on my ass thinking about him, just reading, plodding around my house, driving my girls to school, fixing eggs. Like that. There’s not a lot of transformation in it. I’m still just a driver to my children.”
Some of the best parts are the interviews with people Clive’s worked with. Julia Roberts, Mike Nichols and Spike Lee all talk about Clive with something resembling awe. Nichols talks about Clive’s particularly British experience as an actor who doesn’t care about reaction. Spike talks about how he knew he had to cast Clive because he was one of the few actors who wouldn’t get mowed down by Denzel Washington. And Julia talks about how George Clooney is obsessed with Clive. I’m just going to do the greatest hits from these sections:
Mike Nichols, who directed Closer, thinks of it as a sort of ruddy professionalism. “Clive’s the best example of the actor stripped of the cum-Strasberg, cum-Actors-Studio torture of emotion,” he says. “Here’s a guy who comes to work, gets his coffee, knows his lines. Then someone will say ‘Action,’ he’ll terrify everyone in the room, then we cut, and he picks up his coffee again. It’s a job. Clive is full of feeling, don’t get me wrong… British actors are utterly different animals. You talk to a British actor and he’ll tell you about the night before very matter-of-factly: ‘I f*@&ed her three times.’ They don’t care about your reaction. And you’ll say, ‘Hmm, you f*@%ed her three times. How did it feel?’ and they’ll be blank. ‘Feel? Feel? What’s feeling got to do with it?’ They don’t cart around their emotions about the job. They have lives. Clive has to go home at the end of the day, he has his family. That’s where his feeling resides.”
“George Clooney is obsessed with Clive,” says Julia Roberts, who stars with Owen in the upcoming Duplicity, as she did in Closer in 2004. “Every good-guy actor talks about Clive as one of their very favorites. Because he’s English, because his successes have stood on the shoulders of his talents alone, because he hasn’t just been carried away by popular culture. He’s almost the most free of all of those guys. People just allow him to do what he does…The only surprise about Clive was how absolutely ferocious he could be on camera. When we shot Closer, he used to make me cry. He’s a kind of emotional terrorist, so vicious. The thing about Clive is the happiness and security he has in real life is what allows him to go into a room and grab everyone’s attention effortlessly. The secret is, everyone is really attracted to contentment.”
Spike Lee, who directed him in Inside Man, told me about the power of that face: “I used Clive because he’s one of the only actors that Denzel Washington can’t mow down. He just stood right up to him. Clive’s number-one thing was, how long did he have to have the mask on? You know, I couldn’t blame him. The face is his instrument. And Denzel, he didn’t much like the mask, either. It was hard for him to do a scene where Clive’s face is covered. Clive is a lot to react to, you know?”
[From Esquire Magazine]
Yeah, right, Julia! I’m sure Clooney is the only one obsessed with Clive Owen. The Spike Lee stuff is particularly interesting because I absolutely love Inside Man, and there are rumors that Clive and Denzel really want to do another one.
After reading this whole piece, I kind of came away with the idea that Clive is one cold, distant bastard, but I also think he might simply be a difficult man to interview. Maybe he just doesn’t like getting personal, the way so many other actors enjoy. He doesn’t revel in talking about his “process” or his “inspiration”, he just goes in and gets to work.
Here’s Clive Owen at the Cinema Society screening of ‘The International’ on February 9th. Images thanks to WENN.