The shadows and the limelight
Clive Owen is that rarest of Hollywood creatures – a movie star who cares not one jot for the trappings of fame. The Shadow Dancer star takes time out from family duties and footie friendlies to tell TARA BRADYwhy “you can’t listen to movie people – they’re movie people”
IT’S THE MORNING after the Olympics in London and the entire city seems to have a spring in its step. Clive Owen, too, is in jolly form though he’s deep into preparation for a sporting event of a different kind.
“I’ve just been to a friendly,” he says of his beloved Liverpool FC. “I’ve been watching them all summer. We’re looking good I think.”
It’s typical. While every British sleb was crammed into a stadium to see George Michael performing new material, Owen was off watching a low-profile kickabout. ’Twas ever thus with the star of Sin City, Closer and Children of Men, a man who lives quietly in Highgate with his wife of 13 years and his two daughters.
“They’ve only just started to realise what I do for a living,” he says. “They used to wonder when people came up to me on the street. ‘Who’s that man, daddy?’ ‘I dunno, sweetheart’. ‘Well, why is he talking to you then?’ They were totally confused. It was the funniest thing.”
Square of jaw and high of cheekbone, Owen looked like a movie star long before he was one. Raised mostly by his mum in his native Coventry, Owen has often described his childhood as “tough”. No one was more surprised than he when a school production of Oliver! opened up a whole new world of possibilities.
“It all comes back to that school play,” he says. “It’s funny because now when I watch my girls in a school play, I have such a strong memory and the sense that a life’s journey can begin there. And you do sometimes see kids who, even at that very early age, are totally cut out for it. They shine. They look completely happy doing what they’re doing.”
What did he play back then?
“The Artful Dodger,” he grins. “Yeah. I know. I’ve been playing the same bloody part ever since.”
Inspired by picking a pocket or two, Owen made for London as a teenager and ultimately enrolled in Rada. He graduated alongside David Mamet’s wife Rebecca Pidgeon and Liza Tarbuck before he won a position at the Young Vic theatre.
Television soon beckoned. By the early 1990s, Irish and British audiences knew Owen as the lead in TV’s Chancer. He was, he recalls, “a total working actor”, jumping between ITV prime-time slots and the stage.
“I was happy,” he says. “I never cared whether I was famous. I was pretty content with the way things were going. I could have retired happy working between theatre, small films and a bit of TV. You have to do this job for the right reasons. You can’t do it just because it looks easy. Not that I’m complaining. But for most of my career, if I had an offer to be in a film, I said ‘yes’ and thought, ‘Bloody hell, Im going to be in a film’.”