About Features Reviews Community Screenings Archives Home
November 2004
Closer: Cast Interviews

Closer: Cast Interviews

By Todd Gilchrist

This has been a banner year for actor Jude Law, at least as far as critics are concerned. After shepherding Kerry Conran's atomic-age epic "Sky Captain" into auditoriums across America, he followed up that critical smash with no fewer than three more high-profile projects: "Alfie", a remake of the 1960s British film of the same name; "I Heart Huckabees", David O. Russell's existential comedy; and the upcoming "Aviator", with Martin Scorsese. So working with the likes of Clive Owen, Natalie Portman and Julia Roberts comes as just another blip on his all-encompassing radar. In the meantime, Owen and Portman, who along with Law recently spoke to blackfilm.com about their new film, Closer, are all busy little bees with their fingers squarely planted in the Hollywood honey pot. In this interview, the trio discussed the prospect of getting raw with one another on camera for the year's most incendiary drama.

Do these people really exist?

Clive Owen: What do you think?

I think they're exaggerations.

CO: Have you ever in your emotional history never experienced any of those scenes in the movie?

How difficult is it to generate all these feelings on set and then put it away?

CO: I think ultimately, the unusual thing about doing a piece like this is because the scenes are so long, this is from a play and the scenes are so long, it just requires a lot of concentration. In terms of the emotional thing, it's like you absorb the piece, we talk about the piece, you work the piece and then at the end of the day you come and you try and go to those places.

Mike said you were laughing a lot.

Natalie Portman: Well, because Mike was there.

It was a fun shoot?

NP: Not always.

When not?

NP: Well, I mean, like your question, some of the things are really hard to do to each other, especially because all of them- - I think I can say this for all of us, we got along well and liked each other a lot. To be really awful to each other was very difficult at times.

Is this a conscious effort to change the image of lovable girl?

NP: No. It wasn't conscious, but try and keep it interesting, try and do different things every time and I haven't done a role like this before so it was a good challenge.

In the press notes, you said it's your arrival as an adult actress?

NP: I disagree. I don't know, I don't really feel like an adult yet myself, so I don't really think I can play adults. I think it's always a proportion, adult to child within you, and even when you're 85 you're still going to have that proportion. It changes with mood and with time. It's an arbitrary distinction between adult and child.

Clive, do you think Larry really cheated in NY?

CO: I personally think he did, yeah. Why is that? I don't know. It's not in the movie, I don't know.

When people say vicious things'|

Jude Law: I don't think that they're vicious. What you underestimate is what you don't see. It's a comp- - it's a condensed version of four years in these people lives. In between these moments of falling in love and splitting up, there's an awful lot of, as we all experience, happiness and joy and you can't underestimate that. It's an amalgamation of the high points, the dramas of life. I remember Mike describing once and I think if you do look back say 10 years ago, you talk about a relationship, you say, ' Well, yeah, I met her at this garden party and anyway, four years later we split up.'You don't necessarily go through that whole four years of memories, how you met, how they split up. So I think to call them vicious is very unfair unless indeed we're all vicious which maybe we are.

Isn't it vicious the way he traps Larry?

JL: I'm not saying they're not vicious, I'm just saying that just to accuse them of being vicious and nothing else is not- - they're not just vicious people. There are vicious acts indeed.

So why does he do that?

JL: It's certainly not malicious. He doesn't know who this guys is. He does it as a whim.

CO: It's also one of the funniest scenes in the film. I don't see it to be vicious at all.

Is he trying to embarrass Julia's character?

JL: I think it's fate playing evil tricks. I think it's as simple as him passing time and it's very clear that this woman is on his mind. He dips into what he knows about which is her name and her haunts and her interests.

Clive, isn't it worse that he slept with a hooker?

CO: Why? I don't know, I'm interested. It's an unusual thing to say. Why would it be worse? I find it odd to think that it's much worse the fact that it's a prostitute, but anyway.

What was the main difference between stage and screen?

CO: I suppose it was different. When you do the original production, when you're doing a play like that, it's very hard to know how it's going to go down on the audience. You rehearse the play and it was Patrick's second play and we didn't really know what we had until you put it out there in front of an audience. And then I think the most striking memory was the fact that it starts off very much- - it's very sweet, it's very romantic, it's full of possibilities, full of hope. And the feeling within the theater and the audience is that it's very witty, it's romantic and then by the end of the first half when Larry is laying into Anna, there's a feeling of oh my God, how did I end up here? And that was hugely powerful in the theater. You thought, 'My God.' And then once you've done that, then obviously the second half of the play, you were then free to explore all sorts of things as people find themselves in an unusual place. But as regards to the difference between, I'm sort of one of those weird actors who whenever I do a play, I think, 'Oh, we should film this.' As opposed to have to belt it out of ourselves in a theater auditorium. So it became unusually even more insular on camera I found. And having watched it, it becomes even to some extent more powerful than the theater because it's hugely intimate and it's scenes between two people sharing various sort of things and when you've got very intense scenes between two people and you feel that involved in a certain amount of time, it's very powerful. So in some ways, I find it more intimate than the theater experience.

Natalie, difference between Mike on stage and film?

NP: I didn't, but it's also a different comparison because they were different pieces so it's not a direct comparison. But Mike's technique was a little bit different. With the play, he gave us more- - he let us find everything a little bit more ourselves, I think because we had a much longer time and also the theater is like every time you do it, you find new things and it sort of builds up and builds up whereas on film, you do it and that's it. That's it for eternity. And so I think he directed us when we were sitting together in our rehearsal period, he sort of laid out very clearly the structural theme of the film and we were all sort of aware of the shape of it as opposed to when we worked on the play, it sort of came together.

Did you learn how to do pole dancing?

NP: Yes.

CO: We all did.

NP: They're very good. They're very good, these boys.

What makes you light up when you see Mike?

JL: Personally, what struck me when I first met him was obviously, you go to meet someone like Mike who has achieved and created so much and he comes with such generous wisdom. It's not like- - he's someone who's experienced and accumulated a huge amount of experience and understanding of the world. And then sort of holds reverence with it. He sort of takes you into his world very abrasively. And actually, going with what Natalie said about adult and child, he's absolutely the perfect example of that. He has great king of impish humor and outlook on life. He also has a deep sort of sensitive understanding of life. He's fun to be around and he's so inspiring, it's a great mix.

Did you rely on Mike to feel comfortable enough exposing your characters?

CO: I think just working with someone so smart and so lovely, you feel in very, very good hands. So you sort of do anything. I think that's probably why we love him so much, because you just feel very secure. You know if it's going awry, he'll put you on the right path and you trust him implicitly that you're just in very, very good hands.

Did it hurt to do the splits?

NP: No, I'm extraordinarily flexible.

CO: There's a headline.

JL: As an actress.

NP: Thank you.

Decision to remove the nudity?

NP: Well, back to the trust issue, when you trust someone, you're willing to do everything and make mistakes and really expose yourself inside out. So we made sort of a pact that before- - while we would shoot, we would just do everything and then he cut it the way he cut, showed it to me, see if I agreed and that's what happened. We both kept our parts of the deal.

Why did you decide not to show it?

NP: I just think- - I didn't think it was crucial to the scene. I thought it was distracting if anything to have it at the head of the scene. Yeah.

Why are women more willing to forgive than man?

NP: I don't know. First of all, I don't think that four characters necessarily extends to their entire gender. I think there's variations within humanity that aren't - - these aren't epitomes or types that represent their entire sex. And second of all, if that's the conclusion you come to, you can think about it. I don't need to teach you or tell you, you know. That's the beauty of a piece that's full of the inspiration of questions like this that makes you go home and think about that. I could talk for hours about why, but.

Why did Larry want to know details of what's going on?

CO: Within this piece, I think it is- - that is one of the things that Patrick's dealing with in the piece. He's looking at that male thing of not only winning the girl but making sure you kill the guy as well.

Can you pick a favorite scene from the film that the other actors have done?

JL: I think Clive's scene with Julia where he comes back from New York is amazing. Because it's such an intimate piece, of course it's probably obvious, but none of us were there when the others were doing their thing, so I knew the scene and I love that scene, but it blew away all my expectations. I think it's absolutely brilliant. And I think Natalie's amazing in the scene when I come home and dump her. It absolutely broke my heart on the day [of shooting] and moreso when I saw it back.

Clive's work on "Sin City"?

CO: It was extraordinary. It was Robert Rodriguez, who is like [a] Renaissance man really. He's a complete one-off. I've never met anyone quite like him. He does absolutely everything. He shoots, he edits, he operates, he lights, he composes the music. He's the most amazing cook. He really pissed me off. It's an extraordinary project. He's doing this strip, cartoon, picture book, Frank Miller thing [i.e. graphic novel] and he's been so faithful. He re-creates image by image by image. To us, it was very weird. We were just standing in [front of] a sort of green screen every day, and everything else will be added. It was an extraordinary experience, but my most overwhelming memory is how hugely impressive the whole thing he's got going down there in Texas is.

Which story are you in? Your character?

CO: I'm in "The Big, Fat Kill." Dwight.

Last film of the trilogy more intense? Scenes with Hayden Christensen going Darth?

NP: As far as from filming, yes. It's darker. Yeah, it was really intense. We worked really hard -- Hayden and Ewan were both amazing. And Ian McDiarmid. We all worked hard and hopefully we'll see a good movie when it comes out.

What about the source material attracted you to the movie? Seen the play before?

JL: I saw the play when Clive was in it and I saw it again in the West End. I'd seen Patrick's first play, "Dealer's Choice," and I was also a big fan of Patrick's work prior to that with "Alan Partridge" and "The Day Today," and I was just desperate to work with him. Then, to have a call from Mike Nichols who was working on Patrick's script was just a team made in heaven really.

What did you like about the script?

JL: I liked its honesty. I liked the fact that there was such a condensed arc of a journey for each and everyone, that there was an opportunity for each and everyone to show just about everything about a person, vulnerability, strength, anger, innocence, cynicisms. And I just liked the words. I think the word walk a very, very fine line of being at times being very much sort of very, very dramatic and other times unbelievably realistic. Personally, to me that's what it's all about -- great words. I like great writing, and it was clear that this was great writing.

Something about how Natalie fitting character?

NP: Personally, your physical self fits, inescapable whenever you're playing a character. That and imagination and everything. It's always a sign that I should do something if it scares me.

Refreshing to get back to acting with sets and not green screen?

JL: Very much so.

NP: Oh yes, definitely.

Now done with school and open to other things. Would you commit to a career

in acting?

NP: I really love acting, but I just want to do interesting things, not just through my characters. So there's many things I'd like to explore and try and see.

Will you take time off to do this?

NP: I take time off all the time. I only do like one or two movies a year. It's a very, very lucky job to have because it's wonderful, but also affords you a great deal of time to live and to see.

What do you think about the Oscar race and this film?

CO: It's just lovely to be involved in a movie that does go back to the basics: characters, great writing. It's unusual. You forget really. You go back to those films of the '40s and '50s and hear the dialogue, the way the people played off each other, the wordplay. I think we've really lost that in movies. It's very unusual to hear fantastic dialogue, to hear intelligent people interacting. And to do that in this piece is hugely exciting and to be involved in a film for adults. It's an adult movie. It's about adults relating, about adults having sex. It's for grownups and I think that all of that is very exciting.

Thoughts on reception of "Alfie"?

JL: Gosh, lots of things. Critically, I was thrilled that people seemed to get it. The irony was that in England it got really bad reviews and it stayed at No. 1 for like two weeks, three weeks. Here, we got fantastic reviews and no one went to see it. I mean the fact that they moved the date into the path of "The Incredibles" to me was utter nonsense. Why they did that, I have no idea. But you've got to believe in the things you do in the moment and try to get from the moment enough of a sense of achievement and self-pride. And you can't kind of get beaten down if it's -- I think it's a very cynical world if a film's life is all about an opening weekend and how much money it makes. I'm sure a list the length of the red states of great film that never made any money that are still. And I'm very proud of it. I did it for very personal reasons. And I'm proud of what I got from it, what I learned from it. It's not to say there wasn't a little dusting down (mimes dusting himself off) the day after. Well, I guess I'll pick myself up, let the (???) back on. But so be it. Hey, I've got "Closer" coming out.

Matt Damon says you ran a better campaign.

JL: Yeah, I put a lot of time in it.

Natalie, what do you like to pursue in free time?

NP: I like to travel and read and meet people and go to new places, try new things.

Clive, Mike Nichols says you'd make a great James Bond. What do you think about that?

CO: (laughter) What do I think about that? I don't really think about that. I just never really think about it. The Bond rumors have been circulating for a while and that's all they are. I learned a long time ago not to waste time thinking about things that..

Clive, why play Larry instead of Dan (which you did on stage)?

CO: Well, one, I'm that much older so I don't think Dan was ever an option. And Jude was already cast as Dan in the movie, so I was thrilled. I think it's four fantastic parts, great piece of writing. To be involved in any way was hugely exciting for me.

Did doing this movie make you think about your own relationships? What did it make you think?

(long silence, then)

NP: Yes, it did.

Natalie, how did you see your character? Little girl lost? Interesting?

NP: Well, the way I saw her is what I did. People can take away what they want. I came to it. I don't know. I had a lot of ideas and had a lot of people I sort of stole from.

Do you see her as damaged in some way?

NP: I don't know. The way I see her is how I did it. So, I don't know.

What were rehearsals like?

NP: It was like English class.

JL: It was an opportunity to get to know each other really. There were a lot of conversations that kind of came out of the script that sort of branched off. It was a process of learning to understand the piece, understand Mike's overall view of the piece, understand each other's opinions, stirring

questions, share experiences, listen to music.

Did you fill in those missing years (that are skipped over) in the film?

JL: Yeah we did, didn't we? Kind of early on. Right at the beginning.

CO: Yeah, we sat down and (???) worked it out. Yeah, we did do that.

JL: From the beginning, I think -- I remember Mike saying, "You've got to look at it like this: boy meets girl, boy meets girl, boy meets girl, boy meets boy, girl meets boy ..." That's the structure of the piece. Obviously, as we just said, we filled in all the in-between parts. I think the opening sequence with Dan and Alice is incredibly romantic, and I'd love to have a day like that. And same with you guys (to Clive), when you guys meet. What it turned into is a wonderful moment.

Natalie, with your beauty and after this movie, they say you'll be an Internet sex icon. Thoughts on this?

CO: And the answer is: go to www...

NP: Exactly. Nudecelebrities.com

JL: Portman

NP: Portman. Just my ass... Yeah, I'm not scared. I'm brave, I think. I think I've reached a point that I'm not so reliant on my -- I think I've gotten to a point in my life where everything I do is active rather than reactive. I'm not doing things to prove anything that I'm like or unlike what other people think of me. That makes me comfortable with whatever people walk away with. I can still carry on my own life without being hurt.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy