November 12, 2005


The Man Behind His Lines: What Is Actor Clive Owen Really Like? Step Inside. (Robin Givhan, November 12, 2005, Washington Post )

The 41-year-old British actor wears a black Giorgio Armani suit that was selected, he says, without any aid. Owen is tall -- over six feet -- dark-haired and handsome. He is not a pretty boy in that glossy (but creepy) Hollywood way. He is not one of those wee gentlemen with an extra large head, Chiclet teeth, a spray-on tan and clothes that look as though they've been self-consciously rumpled by a stylist on retainer. Owen is attractive in a noticeable, but not distracting, way. One can imagine spotting him at a friend's party and thinking, "Wow, that guy is really good-looking." And then heading off to the bar.

If this were a fan magazine, the next paragraph would exclaim how Owen lit up this dismal room upon his arrival. But he did not! Instead, he's just a handsome man with a firm handshake who'd like some tea before he begins talking about his day job.

What is Clive Owen like? This question is raised upfront because he is one of those actors who are the subject of Internet message boards headlined: "Is Clive a nice guy?" From what can be discerned over the course of one conversation, he seems to be a pleasant man with a professional attitude about his press duties. One suspects that he can be charming, but he does not go about it in the manner of a golden retriever seeking approval. [...]

While his most widely acclaimed film role has been in "Closer," he has also had roles in "Gosford Park," "The Bourne Identity," "Croupier" and "Sin City." He was a much-discussed possible heir to the James Bond dynasty. He would have replaced Pierce Brosnan, but the role went to actor Daniel Craig -- a blond Bond. Owen was also the mysterious driver in a series of elaborate BMW commercials.

But his first encounter with fanzine fame was sparked by his role in the British television show "Chancer." It was the sort of blockbuster television phenomenon that made him a household name, remunerated him generously and . . . transformed him into paparazzi bait. When another offer of a television show threatened to heighten -- and prolong -- his small screen fame, Owen opted out. He focused on a series of intimate theatrical productions.

"I didn't want to turn into prime-time TV fodder, for everyone to get used to what I do. I want my career to be a long-term thing. I never want to be in a position as an actor with something to protect. And when you get to a certain level, you've got something to protect. Some things become too dangerous."

Owen is talking specifically about his professional accomplishments, but he also is alluding to the loss of privacy that goes along with fame. During the height of his TV success, he says, paparazzi were a constant intrusion. Actors often make a Faustian bargain with the media. Some feel the full assault of celebrity shutterbugs simply by doing their job. But others engage in a risky dance, inviting media coverage of personal milestones, welcoming photographers into their home and then suddenly realizing that their guests have no intention of leaving.

Owen, who is married to Sarah-Jane Fenton, an actress, and has two young children, lives in London and is proud of the fact that his life now is fairly normal.

"I can go into any pub and sit in a corner and have a drink," he says. But he also recognizes that he can't have it both ways when it comes to his private life. So he refrains, for instance, from taking his children to public events, knowing that later on he won't be able to protect them from prying telephoto lenses at a local coffee shop. Instead of taking his own children to a "Harry Potter" premiere, for example, he extended an invitation to the children of his friends.

He's been a guy to watch since PBS showed his short series Second Sight, but in everything he's done that I've seen, with the possible exception of Croupier, he's far outclassed the material he's been given to work with. He just seems way more intelligent than the scripts and this new flick doesn't sound like an exception to that rule.

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 12, 2005 9:33 AM

Sure, but he's no Vin Diesel.

Posted by: obc at November 12, 2005 11:57 AM

Doesn't have to be Vin Diesel for OJ to want to be his prison bitch.

Posted by: Tom at November 14, 2005 5:08 PM