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Friday, February 27, 2009

Hero Material: Clive Owen

Nowadays Clive Owen is a big thing in Hollywood: he’s made the A-list, all of his movies are blockbusters and he’s one of Britain’s favourite exports in Tinseltown. Once upon a time though, Owen was just a normal lad from Coventry with a passion for acting.

Like many of today’s actors, Owen started out in theatre, wowing audiences at a school production of Oliver! with his portrayal of the Artful Dodger. He went on to follow his ambitions and joined the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art for a three-year period, during which time he starred in numerous Shakespeare plays and built up a solid resume. Sticking with the field, following his graduation from the academy he joined the Young Vic Theatre Company and continued to appear on stage. His youthful good looks and his genuine acting ability made him a natural lead, and during a production of Romeo and Juliet, in which he essayed the title role, he fell in love with the actress playing opposite him, Sarah-Jane Fenton. The two have been together ever since, marrying in 1995. They now have two daughters.

During the late 1980s, Owen started appearing in low-budget films and television series, including the 1988 movie Vroom in which he starred opposite Harry Potter actor David Thewlis. Still in his twenties, Owen then found fame playing Stephen Crane in TV’s Chancer in 1990. His bad-boy-tries-to-be-good character oozed charisma and confidence and won him a whole legion of female fans.

However, Owen made a decision to abandon his Alpha male character at the peak of the TV show’s popularity and instead he appeared in the film Close My Eyes alongside Alan Rickman. Owen’s decision to play a man having an incestuous affair with his sister was a brave one that cost him: the public turned off in droves and film work dried up. Undeterred, the star returned to the stage, appearing in a mix of plays and TV series.

The late 1990s saw even more controversy for the star, this time on the stage. He’d started hitting the big time by appearing in the likes of Closer, a bleak look at modern-day relationships which he later filmed with Julia Roberts.

His next role, in a production of Nazi war camp drama Bent, saw him as a reckless young gay man who found love inside a prison camp. However, the old saying that “no publicity is bad publicity” held true, and 1998 saw Owen cast in the lead role of the Mike Hodges movie, Croupier. This was a stylish thriller in which Owen played a casino employee who runs afoul of a femme fatale. The movie played to Owen’s strengths and won him fans across the pond in America, paving the way for his Hollywood career.

Over the next five years, Owen worked hard in all sorts of genres. He was a detective in the short-lived Second Sight miniseries, a prisoner in the low budget British rom-com Greenfingers and a BMV driver in a series of cool car-chase adverts directed by Hollywood luminaries like John Frankenheimer, Ang Lee, Tony Scott, John Woo and Guy Ritchie. Then he starred appearing in big films as a supporting player; he’s a hitman with a heart in The Bourne Identity and turns up in Robert Altman’s ensemble-cast-murder-mystery, Gosford Park. Mike Hodges also cast him again in 2003’s I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, a modern-day reworking of the director’s classic Get Carter.

2004 was the year that made Clive Owen. He hit the big time with his manly portrayal of King Arthur in the film with the same name and cemented his reputation as a bankable Hollywood leading man. At the same time, the filmed version of his play Closer saw him winning a BAFTA award for best supporting actor, providing he COULD act as well as look good on screen. Since then, he’s alternated between supporting roles in huge films (Sin City’s Dwight, Elizabeth: The Golden Age’s Sir Walter Raleigh) and leading roles in quirky films (sci-fi epic Children of Men, Spike Lee’s bank heist thriller Inside Man). He’s also made a neat sideline in thrillers, putting in a memorable turn opposite Jennifer Aniston in the dark Derailed.

Clive Owen is back on the big screens right now, starring with Naomi Watts in The International, a tense thriller in which he attempts to bring down the corrupt big banks. With proven acting skills and a rugged handsomeness that makes him an ever-favourite with the ladies, he’s an actor who looks to be around for a long time to come.

Thanks, Gray. You've reminded me why I've always loved Clive Owen - first as an actor, and now as our hero inspiration for Matt. I'm waiting, purely in the name of research (of course), for you to take me to see Clive's latest movie.

Come back next week for Gray's article about our heroine inspiration: Melissa George.


prassanna said...

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