SHOOT 'EM UP: An Interview with Clive Owen
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SHOOT 'EM UP
September 3, 2007
For as much as the world wanted Clive Owen to be James Bond, someone else got the job. Thank goodness! Being James Bond leaves little room to do something and Owen has a lot a range in his skills that we need to see them. Later this year, we will see him play opposite Cate Blanchett in 'The Golden Age’, the sequel to 'Elizabeth’. In the meantime, if you want to see Clive do a straight up action film, catch in 'Shoot 'Em Up’, a fast kinetic ballbuster of a film where he plays a no first name guy out save a baby from being in the wrong hands. In speaking to Owen, he goes over his role, doing a action film, and what’s next for him.
Do you see this is as a risky movie? This ultra violent, send them out cheering movie?
Clive Owen: No, not at all. That’s why I did it. When I was first pitched the film, I wasn’t sure. I was told that it might not be my thing and then I read the script and the opening was the shootout while delivering the baby and I was, 'This guy’s insane’. It was relentless from then on til the end, laced with really wicked wit, which is the thing that really sold me. I just found it really funny. And then question of Michael not doing anything which this scale and size came up. It crammed full of action. It’s one thing to write John Woo’s wet dream but it’s another thing shooting it. Then I met him and you can tell that this guy has been waiting a lifetime to direct this movie. He was bursting. He had story boarded the entire thing, every practical question thing about shooting and we were going to shoot this. He had the whole thing down, storyboarded and sequences. He was like, 'Clive, this is how we are going to do this, and we are running out of time, we can then do this’. This was in the initial meeting. I rang up my agent and said, 'He can do this’. He’s so prepare.
Were the drawings that Mike Davis did the animation part of what sold you on the film?
CO: That helped and I’ll tell you why. Again, it’s one thing writing action on a page, but when you saw the animation on a page, I was shocked. It was pretty much frame by frame. It’s a bit like 'Sin City’. That was the angle he wanted on film. I saw how witty the action was as well. The action has some wit to it and it’s very caught action. It keeps surprising you and it keeps being inventive and it did help sell it.
You’ve been known as the man who could have been (James) Bond and when you do this character with the guns and wit, do you see this as a rip on Bond?
CO: No. I’ve heard other people talk about this as a Bond film, but for me it relates in terms that it’s a film that sets itself up and says 'we are going to have some wicked action set pieces and you’re going to enjoy it on that level’ and it’s similar to Bond in that way but that’s the only way. I did it because I’ve never done an all-out action film and I thought that this was a genuinely original one.
Is this an all-out action film or is it a video game disguised as a movie?
CO: I don’t think it’s a video game at all. I don’t play video games. I don’t relate it to video games. It’s an original movie. From what I understand of video games, I don’t think they are as witty as this.
I just thought that when you were in the sky and doing all that shooting, I could envision the scene on a video game.
CO: no, I would certainly agree with one of the ways you can do the film is to make you feel like you’re the guy doing it and maybe that similar to a video game but that’s just his world of action. You want to feel like you’re the guy in the middle of it all. Michael is an action geek. For him, he feels he’s at his best when he’s in the middle of making this.
What about the baby? Was there a real baby throughout the shoot?
CO: They were twins. They were cast before they were born. They were a few weeks old and we used them as often as we could. It was amazing to have a three week baby in the context of a movie like this. It did change everything. We were careful. It was quiet. We didn’t upset the baby during all the noise and craziness, but it helped to have a real baby there.
What about the sex? You and Monica get it on during the movie. Will there be an unrated version to the scene released overseas?
CO: No. It’s not a porno.
How does acting school prepare you for this kind of film?
CO: It doesn’t.
Where do you come up with the skill and wit to do this?
CO: To be honest with you, it’s something quite straight forward for me. I’ve shot action in movie for me, but I’ve never shot so much action in one movie. The objectives that everyone is trying to achieve are very clear and it’s very technical. Action sequences are all about putting all the pieces together. All the beats and rhythms have to be right. You do an enormous amount of set up because you need so much coverage; and you just know and move on. It’s straight forward. It’s not like it a 4 page dialogue scene that has nuance and subtext and challenges that come with that. This is very different. It’s very clear of what you are trying to achieve.
Did you come up with any of the one liners?
CO: Only Michael Davis can come up with bad jokes like that.
What was with the carrots in the film?
CO: Let me tell you. That was the challenge of the movie, trying to make carrots cool.
Given your track record, do you see yourself doing a light-hearted film?
CO: But this is out and out comedy. It’s not a movie. It’s a comedy.
In working with Paul, was there ever a time when everyone just started look at what they are doing and laughing on set?
CO: All the time. The film’s insane from the beginning to the end. From the minute I read it to the read-thru, I was like, 'What the hell are we doing here?’ But that is why everyone got involved, really. Monica, Paul and myself were his first three choices and he got them all. We all got the script and we’re sitting there in our countries and I was like, 'This is so wild’ and wondering if he could pull it off. It’s rare to get a genuine original script and I seriously thought this was.
Do you know if Michael wrote the roles specifically for each one of you?
CO: We were all his first choices. I don’t know if he wrote it in mind for us, but we were the ones he wanted for the parts.
With the all the films you have coming up, is 'Sin City 2’ anywhere in the mix?
CO: You know as much as I do.
Is there a start date?
CO: Not that I know of.
How was it going from this film to 'Elizabeth: The Golden Age”?
CO: It was like different planets. It’s been amazing to do different film. 'Children of Men’ to 'Shoot 'Em Up’ is pretty radical, and from this film to 'The Golden Age’ is all so different. I don’t go out and say that each film has to be different from the last one but I’m very happy that it’s widely different.
You’ve proven that you have a sense of humor with your cameo in 'The Pink Panther’, which drew the biggest laughs; so what’s your next comedy?
CO: I haven’t got one.
Mike has written another that could possibly be 'Shoot 'Em Up 2’ and that it could be more extreme and violent…
CO: Let me tell you, honest to God, he gave me a script and said this could be the next one and I read the first page and had a belly laugh and told myself that this guy is absolutely insane. He takes the film to another level. I can’t believe he can actually get it made.
One of things mentioned in Details magazine was that your father left when you were three years old and that you were raised by a single mother. One of things said about actors, men and women, is that they go into show business looking for that kind of love that they may have never gotten.
CO: I wouldn’t necessarily think that. I got into it because I did a school play and I love it and it went very well and I just got addicted to it and wanted to do theater.
What was the first role you did?
CO: It was the artful dodger in 'Oliver’.
The musical version?
CO: Yes, but I couldn’t sing.
What did you do for your summer vacation or are you going to go on one?
CO: It’s weird because the American and the English summer are different. The kids here get out almost a month before the kids in English do, so we people talk about summer vacation here, the kids there still have another five more weeks. They are on holidays now and we’re spending most of it at home and they we’ll spend some time in France as well.
What do you like about France?
CO: I think France is a beautiful country.
What’s the best advice you can give as a father?
CO: That’s a tough question. I wouldn’t give one.
Can you talk about the experience of doing 'The Golden Age’?
CO: I was a huge fan of 'Elizabeth’. I thought it was an extraordinary film. I thought Cate (Blanchett) was extraordinary and that they were trying to get that film off the ground for a while and they sent me a script that was fantastic. Cate was back in. Geoffrey Rush was in and so was Shakur and it was like a no-brainer. I think it’s going to be an amazing film.
Was there a romance between Elizabeth and Sir Walter Raliegh?
CO: They were close. There was never any evidence of any romance but he was a very favorite ally of the queen for a very long time.
Can you go back and talk about the sex scene with Monica? Was it just the two of you? Were there others around?
CO: No, there were always other people around because we were doing a full blown shoot out during the sex scene. There were stunts and doubles and technical people, but it’s one of the wittiest scenes in the movie.
Did you go to movies as a kid and was there any film that was significant?
CO: I didn’t start off going to movie a lot. I come from one of those families that watched a lot of television. So I watched a lot of TV and then I got into theater. I did one play after the other and then I found out there was a youth theater and joined that and did a whole number of productions and one the things that must relate to my career as a whole is that the man running that youth theater at the time, and it was probably a volunteer job for him, now runs the 'Artsy’. Michael Boyd
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