Clive Owen Interview – SHOOT ‘EM UP

     September 6, 2007

If you’re a fan of action movies then I hope you have some free time this weekend. Why? Because one of the best films of the summer is finally opening… it’s from New Line Cinema and the title is “Shoot ‘Em Up.”

And I know by now you’re sick of me raving about the film and reading about it on every website. But there’s a reason the web community has embraced the movie…it’s fucking good. Seriously. The movie is 90 minutes of non-stop action and it has a cast that makes it even better. Who you ask? How about Clive Owen, Monica Bellucci, Paul Giamatti…you see where this is going.

So to help promote the movie I got to participate in some roundtable interviews with the cast, and the one below is with Clive Owen.

During our discussion we talk about carrots, Comic-Con, “Children of Men,” the rumors he was going to play James Bond, what he has coming up and the last bit… the challenges of filming a gun fight while having sex with Monica Bellucci. Yeah, the movie has everything.

As always, you can either read the transcript below or listen to the interview as an MP3 by clicking here. You can also download the audio and put it on an iPod or any portable player for listening later.

“Shoot ‘Em Up” opens tomorrow. Go see it with a bag of carrots. Trust me.

Question: What pulled you to the script?

Clive Owen: Its originality really. I’d never read anything quite as crazy and wild and mad as this script. That’s why I wanted to do it.

Q: How does it feel to kill someone with a carrot?

Clive: One of the challenges of the movie was trying to make carrots cool. That was the biggest challenge.

Q: What are your pet peeves, like your character with people who cut him off on the road?

Clive: I don’t really. I’m quite calm but I relate to the road rage one. When there’s an idiot driving crazily in front of you, that can wind the best of you up.

Did you create a backstory?

Clive: No.

Isn’t the best part that he has none?

Clive: That is. I like that. I think it’s important. Even when Paul’s character gives us that history, we don’t know if he’s right or not. And that’s good. All you need to know about that guy is that when it all goes off, he’s going to deliver. That’s all you need to know.

Which came first of the two movies where you save a baby?

Clive: Two movies where I’m delivering a baby.

Did you wonder if you’d want to do it again?

Clive: It was very bizarre, two films back to back shooting, with full on delivery scenes with my delivering a baby. It’s weird. I don’t know why, but I’ve been there twice in real life too so I felt I could draw on that experience.

Ever want to be a doctor?

Clive: No, but luckily when my two girls were born, I wasn’t being shot at.

Have you seen any of the Chow Yun Fat/John Woo movies?

Clive: Yeah, I love those films.

Did that influence your character?

Clive: Well, there’s no question he must have got his inspiration from Hard Boiled, with the scene with the baby. Those films are operatic in terms of their sort of action ambitions. I think they’re wonderful films, those early John Woo films.

How was your Comic-Con experience?

Clive: I made it out. [Laughs] I’m here. I actually, to be honest with you, I didn’t think it was as crazy as everyone built it up to be. There’s a huge amount of people that are very passionate about what they’re into and it’s a cool thing that they all come together and share it. If you’re crazy about some character in some comic book or whatever and you can go and share it, there was about 10 versions of Rutger Hauer in Blade Runner walking around that hall. And they all get together and can realize they’re not alone.

Are you able to walk around at your fame level?

Clive: It was a little tricky and there were some pretty crazy characters there. I could. Yeah, I did. I walked through there but I couldn’t hang about. I had to have a bit of a pace on.

How easy or difficult was the love scene gunfight?

Clive: He animated it. That was one of the scenes, you know he did all this animated pitch for the movie and that was one of the scenes he animated. All the action sequences, we kept very close to the animation shot by shot. That was a little trickier because some of it was physically impossible to do. Stick drawings could do everything but Monica and I, we had to adapt a little.

Did you ever want to do James Bond? Everyone wanted you to.

Clive: No, there was a lot of speculation about the whole Bond thing but it was all sort of media hype. I’m very happy doing what I’m doing.

What are you lined up to do next?

Clive: I’ve been taking a bit of time off and I’m about to start on a really exciting project with Tom Tykwer, the guy who did Run Lola Run and Perfume. It’s a big international political thriller that’s a really wonderful script.

Your character?

Clive: I play a guy from Interpol who’s trying to expose and bring down one of the world’s biggest banks. Every time he comes close, things get very strange, people are murdered, people back off and he obsessively follows them around the world trying to get people to believe. He’s trying to bring this bank down because they deserve to be brought down.

Where did you go to prepare such a hard boiled, cynical character?

Clive: It was really- – he’s a very classic, iconic action guy really. He was very contained. You don’t know much about him. There’s something very satisfying about shooting action because action sequences are very clear what your objectives are. You go shot by shot through the sequence. You’ve got to achieve it all. It was quite straight forward. It was just about keeping them as contained and cool as possible really.

Why does he care that the baby not get killed?

Clive: Because he’s a nice guy. He’s a nice guy. All those guys that get killed, they all deserve it.

Was it Michael’s personality that pulled you in?

Clive: That was certainly a key part of it, yeah. But it was more the originality of the script from the word go. Then it was about meeting Michael and seeing his take on the film. My biggest concern to tell the truth was not with the- – I read the script and said, “That’s wild. If he can pull this off, it’s just fresh, original and witty and really good fun.” But Michael hadn’t done a film on this scale, so the concern is can Michael actually pull this off? It’s one thing writing “This is John Woo’s wet dream.” John Woo is a master of the action genre. Then I met Michael, he storyboarded the entire film. Every time I asked him a practical question about shooting this scene or that scene, he knew every angle he wanted to do. He knew if he was running out of time he could compromise by cutting that guy out, then I just need this angle or that. I was like, “One, if he doesn’t make the film, he’s going to explode. I don’t want that to happen to the guy. And two, he’s ready to make this film. He’s been waiting a long time. He’s together and he’ll pull it off.”

Did you watch his previous films?

Clive: I haven’t actually, no.

They’re pretty good.

Clive: Are they?

Sometimes the baby looks like a stiff plastic doll.

Clive: Well, thanks. Thanks for that. I’m glad we achieved that. [Laughs]

Why did they do that instead of a more realistic baby?

Clive: I suppose it has something to do with a three week old baby. I’m not sure any mother would let me tear around shooting an uzi with a real baby. We doubled the baby. We used the real baby as much as we felt was right and proper and fair. It’s a crazy, wild movie and we’re not going to be irresponsible in real life.

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But making it look fake?

Clive: You better tell Michael that.

Does this movie say anything about guns in America? Do they still use sticks in the UK?

Clive: There’s not a big gun culture in England at all still. The rumor is that some police carry them. It’s all kept very quiet which is not a bad thing because I like living in a gun free environment. But no, I think the gun plot in this, the whole plot is just an excuse to get to the next action scene quickly, isn’t it.

How was the gun training?

Clive: There was a lot of weapons because I shoot a vast array of different guns. It was an experience.

Is this therapeutic from Derailed, where the character doesn’t do what you want him to do?

Clive: It was the same guy. I’m glad you spotted that. It was his revenge.

Where do you live?

Clive: In London.

What thought have you given to playing Mr. Smith again?

Clive: We’ll see how this one goes. Mike has already written a script and on my life, it makes this look like kids’ television. I honestly don’t think he’ll get it past the censors. That’s how ridiculous it is. The merging of sex and violence in the next one is verging on porn.

Can you talk about Elizabeth: The Golden Age and Cate Blanchett?

Clive: Well, she’s an absolutely phenomenal actress. I was a huge fan of Elizabeth the original movie. They all came back, Shekar came back to direct, Geoffrey Rush came back, it was a wonderful script. I think it’s going to be a pretty amazing film.

Why do you think Children of Men didn’t connect with more people at the box office?

Clive: It’s very hard to put your finger on why that happens sometimes. I know for a fact, I was actually with Chivo who shot the film, last night. He’s in New York making a movie and we got together and started talking about the movie. It’s certainly one that I’m extremely proud of and I know that it’ll be a film that years to come, when I look back on a career, it’ll be up there. It’s very difficult to know why sometimes people go or they don’t go but at the end of the day, I’m not one of those actors who judges films on just how they figure in the box office. I watch a film and the most important thing to me is what I think of the movie. I watch that film and I think it’s a bold, ambitious, visionary movie and I’m extremely proud of it.

Will it become like Blade Runner?

Clive: I think it will be- – I mean, it certainly gets an incredible reaction from a lot of people around me. People always come up to me and tell me how fantastic they think the movie is so I do think. And it feels like a movie that will stand the test of time. There’s something very real and authentic about it that I don’t think it will date because it’s a visionary movie.

If it has a life on DVD, could they make a sequel or prequel?

Clive: No, I don’t think there would ever be a sequel. Excitingly, Alfonso and I are talking about doing another film together. I do think he’s a really incredible, special talent. But no, it’s amazing the impact the film’s had. Even if it didn’t get a huge, broad- – it wasn’t hugely commercially successful but it certainly made a very big impact?

Would you and Alfonso make the movie for Universal?

Clive: They’ve got a deal, haven’t they? The old Mexican mafia.

How far along is he on the script?

Clive: We’re talking about a number of ideas but we’re just both very, very keen to have the experience because I adore the guy. We got on fantastically. It was one of the best collaborations I’ve ever had in my career. I think there is something so unique and authentic about the way he makes movies and what he’s after. I want to be in movies that stand the test of time. I think he’s the guy to follow if you want to be in one of them.

Have expectations of you gotten higher since your Oscar nomination?

Clive: No. I try every film I do to be as good as I can and that’s all I can do. I can’t step up again because I put everything I can into my movies anyway.

Do you do more research for a historical movie like Golden Age than a mythological King Arthur?

Clive: Yeah, I had to read about Walter Raleigh for sure because I didn’t know that much about him. I knew tobacco, potatoes and the cloak. That was about it. So I went off and read about him. You can make five films on that guy. He was an extraordinary character but you’re then playing him within the context of a film that’s actually about Elizabeth the Queen. So I would do more. I’d certainly do more. You talk about Shoot ‘Em Up, there’s not much research to do there but get comfortable with a huge amount of guns. But Walter Raleigh, yeah, I should find out a bit about him when I play him.

Are you at all in real life like your character in Shoot Em Up?

Clive: Not at all. No, I think this film exists in the crazy, crazy Michael Davis complete cinematic experience. The violence and the craziness in the film I think has no relation to my real life. It’s pure unashamed entertainment that says we’ll deliver certain things in this film. One of them will be wicked action sequences with a wicked sense of humor.

Do audiences get hung up on reality too much?

Clive: Yeah. I do. I think that this film exists in pure cinema. Occasionally people might get upset with the violence in Shoot ‘Em Up and they’ll ask you to justify it. I say, “It’s like Tom and Jerry. It’s nothing to do with real violence in the real world. You will never see a shootout with guys skydiving from a plane. It’s not going to happen. It’s entertainment.” You have to admit that watching a really brilliantly well conceived action sequence is a satisfying thing in movies.

Talk about the challenges of filming that love scene with Monica?

Clive: Oh, it was so difficult. It’s work, work, work. [Laughs] It was actually- – there were challenges because it’s actually a full blown shoot out. It just happens to be whilst making love. But it was still a big technical, had to be prepared and rehearsed and worked out because there was such a lot going on. But it is one of the wittiest, funnest scenes in the movie.

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