It’s a rare actor who wouldn’t be fazed by the prospect of an extended, technically challenging cinematic shoot-out at the Guggenheim, but “The International” star Clive Owen has been around the block a few times.
“Somebody asked me this morning, ‘How did you prepare for the Guggenheim sequence in terms of the guns and everything?’ and I’m like ‘Well, having done ‘Shoot ‘Em Up,’ I don’t need anymore gun training,'” Owen told reporters at the recent “International” press junket. “No, I think the sequence in the film, the Guggenheim sequence, is probably one of the most exquisitely realized scenes on film I’ve ever been involved in.”
That says a lot when you remember that in addition to the hyper-violent and cartoonish “Shoot ‘Em Up,” Owen’s action credentials include “Sin City,” “Children of Men” and a series of acclaimed BMW commercials shot by some of the industry’s most respected directors.
In “The International,” Owen plays an Interpol agent teaming with a Manhattan assistant district attorney (Naomi Watts) to investigate the shady dealings within one of the world’s most powerful banking institutions. In our currently climate of global financial instability, “The International” seems to have its finger on the pulse of our collective insecurity.
“I think it’s amazing how timely it’s become,” Owen reflected. “We finished a year ago. They were working on the script for another two years prior to that. They were using a lot of research then and since we locked that picture off, what has happened with banks around the world… The film ultimately does ask questions. Yes, it’s a big, entertaining thriller, but it does ask questions and open up doors to question whether banks use people’s money appropriately and whether they’re completely sound institutions and that’s what everybody’s doing right now with what’s gone on in that last year.”
To Owen’s mind, the level of realism helps set “The International” apart as more than just a big action movie.
“There was a lot of research materials that came with the script, articles from newspapers, articles about situations where banks had proven to be corrupt or whatever. It was a very well-researched script,” he noted. “The thing that attracted me to it was that it felt like those ’70s paranoid political thriller. It was intelligent, it was well-researched, it was based in facts, but at the same time it was also very obviously a big, international, exciting thriller and it was marrying the two together, and very well.”
“The International” was also shot on location in Berlin, Milan, New York and Istanbul, which offered a different experience from just shooting in Prague and pretending you’re globe-trotting.
“The only place I hadn’t been to was Istanbul, I hadn’t been there and that was pretty amazing,” Owen recalled. “That’s where we started the shoot as well, the roofs of the Grand Bizarre. But on a film like this, environment is hugely important, you’re trying to suggest that this huge international bank is almighty and all-power and my character runs around the world trying to get close to these people, because that’s how far their reach is. They were all great locations and the big set pieces in each of those locations, the places were chosen really well and they’re very evocative and for an actor in scenes like that, you’re incredibly supported when you’re doing a scene on the roofs of the Grand Bizarre in Istanbul, with the Mosque framed on either side and you feel like the location’s a huge part of what we’re doing.”
Also separating the movie is Owen’s commitment to playing action heroes as real people, not superheroes.
“This character isn’t a traditional heroic movie character,” Owen explained. “To me, when you’re doing a sequence like the one in the Guggenheim, it’s like doing a big dialogue sequence. My job is to put people in the place of understanding what your character’s going through. At that point, when that shoot-out takes off in the Guggenheim, that character would be terrified. You could do it in a movie kind of way and try and look cool with your gun, but I’m more interested in trying to convey what it might really be like to be in that situation. I always treat those scenes like that, so I’m never trying to look cool.”
That being said, it looks as if Owen spends a inordinate amount of time being cool in his next movie, “Duplicity,” a glossy corporate espionage puzzler from Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton”) and co-starring Julia Roberts.
“I literally grabbed the script the minute I read the last page and called my agent and said, ‘This is the one. Get me this one. This one is dynamite,'” Owen said of “Duplicity.” “It has some of the best dialogue I’ve ever been given on film. He’s brilliant at writing and it’s banter dialogue, it’s old school. It’s about a couple of corporate spies who decide rather than work for the companies they’re doing, they’re so good at what they both do, why not join together and scam the companies. At the same time they’re having an affair, so they’re meeting as this thing is progressing, but they don’t trust each other. They’re so good at what they do, they think that either of them is going to have the other one over, so ever scene is basically about trust. It’s a super-smart and really brilliantly written script.”
“The International” opens on Friday, Feb. 13.
“Duplicity” opens on Friday, March 20.
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