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Clive Owen

'Closer'

THESP FILE
What actor/actress would you most like to work with?
“It would have to be Sean Penn. I’ve just always been hugely impressed by him.”
What’s your favorite film from the past five years?
“I was one of those who was a huge fan of ‘Adaptation.’ It was very smart, inventive and witty.”
Which character in a film have you watched and wished you could’ve played?”
It would have to be one of the Bogart films, like ‘To Have and Have Not.’ I love Bogart and that kind of character.”
What are you doing next?I’m currently shooting a film called “Derailed,” with Jennifer Aniston and Vincent Cassel. It’s a really well-told story directed by the Swedish director Mikael Hafstrom, who did “Evil”; he’s got a very strong, distinctive style.

It’s not hard to guess what drew Clive Owen to Mike Nichols’ “Closer.”

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Owen, who turned 40 this year, starred in the original 1997 London production of Patrick Marber’s play at the National Theater’s studio-sized Cottesloe auditorium.

“I remember first reading it and being very keen to do it, and then I got offered Dan” — the journalist and obituary writer played by Jude Law in the film — “and was delighted. So six or seven years later, to talk about playing Larry in the movie was just a huge thrill,” thesp says.

“It was a very intimate piece, doing it in the Cottesloe, and it had seemed very powerful. In some ways, I think the power increases on film. It’s brutal and pretty uncompromising.”

It helped, says Owen, that Nichols “never treated it as if we were filming a play. He just treated it as unusually long scenes and a lot of dialogue, which is unusual for a movie.

“It was a treat having the piece in Mike’s hands. When a director’s as smart as Mike, everything falls into place; everyone wants to deliver for someone that smart.”

One might assume the shoot was as tense and chilly as the material, but Owen says that’s not the case. “There was a lot of humor around,” he reflects, with special reference to Julia Roberts, with whom he shares the bulk of his scenes. “She’s lovely to work with, just fantastic. We’ve got a very similar sense of humor — very dry.”

The intensity of the role could move him further up the Hollywood ladder and may put the 40-year-old in the Oscar spotlight.

Unlike his jokester co-star Roberts, though, don’t expect Owen to sign up for any romantic comedies any time soon.

“The lighter things don’t interest me all that much, to be honest,” he admits. “Very often, especially with film comedies, I read them and I don’t think they’re very funny. Finding a really funny script is quite hard, I think, and I don’t like frothy; it doesn’t do anything for me. So why bother doing it?”

It is unusual, however, to return to material you’ve already played in a different medium, especially in a different part.

So which of the two men in “Closer,” Dan or dermatologist Larry, is closer to the real Owen? The actor laughs.

“Together, they sort of make up a whole person. That’s, I think, what it’s like.”