Interview: Clive Owen On Killer Elite, Intruders, Whether He Will Ever Direct & More!

Owen was incredibly affable throughout the interview and very interesting as we discuss his new movie Killer Elite in-depth and the current status of his career.

Killer Elite (my review HERE) is the new action packed thriller by first time filmmaker Gary McKendry that was premiered at the Toronto Film Festival. One of the main attractive features of the film is the stellar cast attached. Myself and a few other plucky journos€™ were lucky enough to sit at a round table and interview four people related to the film. Here€™s 1 of 4. Clive Owen is an actor that started out in theatre, but since has moved into film with a multitude of memorable roles in a vast array of different genres. Not interested in limiting himself in any way, Owen continues his noble quest as being one of the many great British actors who seek to dominate Hollywood. Though, arguably he still may not have eclipsed his work in Children Of Men, Owen has continued to confidently expand his resume and constantly seeks to test himself as an actor. Myself and the other journalists are sitting at a table discussing the craziness of Viggo Mortensen, related to a cool story a sound man told us about €œThe best interview answer he€™d ever seen€ (From what he said, and the sheer amount of interviews he€™s sat through, I€™m inclined to believe him.) Clive Owen strolls in, and there€™s a moment of confusion as we weren€™t expecting him just yet. He flashed a smile, perfect enamel (certainly didn€™t get that done in London, mate) and looking immaculate. I was in a Gojira T shirt (I thought it would be appropriate considering they€™re slow, heavy, crushing, representing the destruction of everything in its path€ sounds like Jason Statham to me!) I made a comment about feeling underdressed and Owen laughed €œYou€™re not on camera, guy!€ What follows is our discussion of theatre, filming action scenes, living in London and Owen€™s interest in moving behind the camera! He was incredibly affable throughout the interview and very interesting. We started off, by jumping straight in and talking about the impressive action scenes featured in Killer Elite€ (our questions in bold, his responses not); Two of the best fight scenes I€™ve ever seen in one movie.
(laughs) Great.
How hard were the fight scenes? Were there any injuries and what preparation did they take?
There was a lot of preparation, yeah, we had a really great stunt team. So we did the fights and we worked through them and I remember there was a couple of weeks of going in, working with those guys everyday and slowly developing it, making sure that everything was right and that the rhythm was right, and then it was really about bringing it up to speed. So, by the time we came to shoot the film we were ready to go.
Was it all you?
Practically all of it, yeah. Gary (McKendry, director) was very keen... and I think he€™s right about that stuff, because, for me, it€™s not all that different from doing a dialogue scene. It€™s still acting. It€™s got to be right and I don€™t want somebody else doing that for me. I treat it, like I do anything else, you want to make it believable and in a situation like that it€™s intense. It€™s life or death and you want to commit to it and be the one to do it.
Was it only acting or did you have to go through it before the shooting started?
No, we had that two weeks with the stunt guys. Fighting, working, perfecting it, learning some moves from them and then going in there. For me, as I said, I tend to treat it like other scenes in movies in that it€™s got to be believable. You want it to be intense, but believable. So, if there€™s a situation where I€™ve got to €œCome on guys, if I was like this I could do this€ and you take all the errors out and make it tight and that€™s what we do.
Is there also, perhaps a point of professional pride, because Jason (Statham) is very adamant about doing as much as they will allow him to do in terms of the stunts, so when you know you€™re in a film with him, does that put you in a position?
I can€™t remember ever being involved in a fighting movie where I haven€™t done most of it. I enjoy doing that stuff and I think it€™s important, as I say, it€™s an actor thing. It€™s not dialogue, but the intent and everything has to be right, you know? It doesn€™t work if somebody else is doing it for you. Not for me.
I don€™t understand the insurance, how do they let you guys do this?
It€™s safe. You know, the thing is, when you€™re working with someone like Jason Statham as well, safety is paramount. You know, it is pretty intense and one little thing could have serious consequences, you know? That€™s why we prepare and it€™s very much about rhythm and trusting each other and committing to it.
Speaking of rhythm, a lot of what I think Gary did, in the editing gives you a sense of pace. I mean, there are times when you€™re just catching your breath because it€™s just happening so rapidly, but when you€™re making the film, of course, you can€™t edit, while you€™re making it, so, do you have a sense of that breakneck pace and what€™s going to be? Or does he show you rough cuts?
I think it€™s right what you say, you know, you just play the scenes for what they are and you do them as intensely and committed as you can and then it€™s really the rhythm is dictated by him, as you say... No, you can€™t foresee that, you know, when you€™re doing the car stuff, you€™re doing it beat by beat and section by section and you don€™t really get an overview of the whole thing until you€™ve seen what he€™s done and how he and his editor have put it together.
I think, it€™s almost akin to doing comedy where you€™re turning over the timing of the punchline to somebody else.
You€™re exactly right. I mean, I think it€™s one of those things I learned way back when I first started doing movies and having trained in theatre is that, it€™s the fundamental difference in acting in the two mediums. Theatre, you dictate the rhythm. If I€™m in the middle of a big speech on stage I will stop and hold, and take the audience where I want to take them. In a movie, an editor does that, not an actor. You show them, what you think, you would like it to be and say €œThis is where I think the emphasis should be€ and the rhythm, but they don€™t have to adhere to that and can take it away and do what they like with it.
You don€™t do theatre anymore?
Not for a while, no. I€™ve been thinking about going back for a little while now...
Your choice? By design? Or simply...
Just because I€™ve been doing a lot of movies and the plays I€™ve been offered... You know, it€™s been a while and if I go back I want it to be something I€™m really passionate about.
Why are you thinking to go back to the stage?
Just because, it€™s been a while and I just fancy going back there and re-exploring it and, you know, it€™s just been too long.
You say that like you already have something in mind?
No, I€™ve just been looking, and I€™ve got my eye out and there€™s been some stuff floating around... I€™ve just got to find the right project I guess...
In London?
In London, or New York, yeah.
I think it€™s very telling, that a lot of the questions are about the action sequences, but you€™re creating a character and action and fighting and driving is a part of what that character does... Does that get in the way of creating a character when you have to have that physicality?
It€™s all part of it. It€™s the same that I treat any scene I shoot. Whether it be a dialogue scene or an action scene, it€™s the same thing. You just still create something and it has to be in character. It€™s all acting. If you€™re in the middle of a fight you€™ve got to be able to believe you are in the middle of that fight. It€™s not just a technical exercise. It€™s an acting exercise as well.
So it€™s not you, it€™s Spike in the middle of that fight?
Of course, yeah.
What type of film makes you more happy? You€™ve done big and small films. Dialogue heavy and action heavy films. Is it all the same to you?
Yes, it€™s all the same to me. I have to say that being equipped with great dialogue is for me, the best thing. Again, because I was trained in the theatre, it€™s all about the language and when you get a great script with great lines to say, it€™s like you have all the equipment to go to work. I€™m equipped. I€™ve got everything I need, now it€™s whether I can pull that off. So, good dialogue is very important and also, if you say bad dialogue, it makes you look like a bad actor, however well you do it. (laughs)
Of course, I imagine one of the main attractions to this film, was this amazing cast. You, De Niro and Statham. Was this one of the reasons you took on the film?
Of course, yeah. It was an obvious attraction, and you know, I met Gary and I heard his ideas for the film and I liked them, so it was a pretty easy decision for me.
I think it€™s been a pretty good year for you, you€™ve worked with Fresnadillo on Intruders, amongst other things. Do you feel it€™s a good year for you?
Yeah, I mean, every year I think I€™ve been very lucky and I€™ve done some good stuff... I had a great time with Fresnadillo. I€™m a big fan of his, I thought 28 Weeks Later was a great movie, a really great movie, and I was a big fan of Intact and I thought he was just great.
Intruders is a horror, which is a bit different for you... Is it a change of pace?
Yeah, but it€™s not a conventional horror movie. It€™s not just a cheap thrill horror, it€™s really quite a cerebral, psychological horror, which I€™m very comfortable with.
What do you make of the source material of this (Killer Elite)? Do you believe that these Feather Men existed? The novel would have us believe that... and it€™s nice to say €œinspired by true events€, but does that help you in creating a character?
No not really, I€™ve done a number of things now that were based on a true story and based on people, or based on books. I€™m a great believer that ultimately, film€™s a different medium, as soon as you start transferring a true story and things based on true events; you start having to adapt it really quickly to the medium and a film narrative and that€™s a very different thing and I€™m a great believer in that you have to cut off and just play the script. At the end of the day, you€™re doing something from an epic novel? You can€™t keep going back to the novel, it€™s going to get frustrating and you€™re going to go €œOk, this is what we€™re doing now, that€™s its origins, but we€™re making a movie from this script.€ So I always work like that. It wasn€™t particularly helpful, for me to use the book, I was much more interested in just playing the role rather than recreating.
One of the things I really enjoyed about the film was its internationalism: The way in which the world is connected now in so many ways, not just electronically, but politically and economically. Are you attracted to things that have a complex, realistic background?
Yeah, of course. It€™s always better than if it€™s simplistic... (laughs)
Well, these are all big issues.
Yep, it€™s always, you know... At the end of the day, I think film, a 2 hour piece of pure entertainment, is very valid. I love watching them as much as the next guy, but if it€™s about something then it€™s always better.
In terms of Spike and his two different eye colours. The film is set in the 80s and I know you are a big fan of David Bowie...
Was that a personal homage, or just coincidence?
No, not at all, no. That€™s just what the character was that€™s why he left the SAS and, you know, his backstory is that he was in the middle of this and this happened and he had to leave and he€™s having a hard time letting go. He€™s never really dealt with that and wishes that he was still in there really. And really, the whole thing about that for me was, pitching that whole thing so it was believable, and avoiding all of the obvious things There€™s no need to make him ghoulish or anything. It was about making sure it was there and was present, but not intrusive.
In the opening of the movie, there is no specified time period, yet there are certain themes that are ever present today. Economic crisis, wars for oil etc. Drawing parallels today, was that deliberate for this movie?
Yeah, I mean, it€™s as relevant now, as it was then, yeah.
When you talked about the theatre... It struck me as you miss having some power and a lot of theatrical actors have switched to directing their own films or just getting behind the camera in any way... Is this something you have considered?
I€™ve thought about directing, but I wouldn€™t misconstrue what I said about acting in theatre and film, as if I miss the power. I don€™t miss the power. I€™m a director€™s actor. I love working with great director€™s and I love offering them up... and I€™m completely comfortable with accepting that it€™s their thing and they have their way of putting it together. That collaboration is what I love. I don€™t miss the power at all. I€™m not one of those actors who feels the need to direct the film. I don€™t want to do that, I want to just do what I can do, to offer what I€™ve got and let them play with it. I€™m very comfortable with that. I have thought about directing, yeah, I just... I€™ve never found a piece of material that I€™m passionate enough about to stop the whole acting thing, and the time and rhythm of a director is totally different to an actor. It€™s a much bigger commitment and I only want to do that on something I am truly passionate about.
Would you write as well, or just direct?
No, I mean, I always get involved in the scripts I€™m in, but not really as a writer, I€™m very good at reading a script and telling you what€™s right and wrong with it. (laughs)
(laughs) Good skill to have.
I€™ve done that on a whole number of films and sometimes I go to the director and say €œLook...€ I€™m a bit of a logic monster. It has to be logical, it has to add up. Sometimes you read very smart, great scripts, that each individual scene is very witty, very sharp, but they don€™t track... So, going to act in them, becomes really difficult because they don€™t really add up... It has to be logical.
You€™re still based in London?
Is it because you€™re a married man?
Yeah, I mean, I€™ve always lived there and I€™m very comfortable and happy there.
No plans to move somewhere else?
Thanks Clive Owen for your time!
No problem. Thank you guys. Take care.
Killer Elite is in cinema's today. My review HERE.

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