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Derailed - Clive Owen interview

Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston in Derailed

Interview by Rob Carnevale

Q. Did you seriously prepare for this character or was it a case of just going for it in the melodramatic sense?
A. I think the key is that for the film to work you’ve got to believe in Charles’ nightmare. It’s a very reactive part. The leading part usually drives the narrative forward but here the story comes at him. So for it to be convincing, you have to believe the nightmare and he has to react well. Audiences can be very judgmental. My character, Charles, gives in to a moment of temptation and ends up in a hotel room with a beautiful girl, even though he shouldn’t be there because he’s married. If the audience condemns him for that, he deserves everything that’s coming to him. So the challenge was to make him understandable – that he’s a fallible, normal guy, who ended up in this situation, but doesn’t really deserve this horrific nightmare.

Q. Would you be as gullible as Charles if you were put in his position?
A. I think it’s hard to say. The script’s there, the character’s there, Charles is one of those characters where you go, “Why are you doing that? Why don’t you do this?” But that’s the genre we’re in. He feels guilty about how he got into this situation, so every time he looks like he could do the thing to sort it out, his guilt gets in the way and it spirals out of control. It’s very much like those old Hitchcock movies – an ordinary guy thrown into a spiralling nightmare.

Q. What was it like working with Jennifer Aniston?
A. It was great. People who can do what Jennifer does that well, that light comedy thing, are inevitably underestimated. It’s the hardest thing to do, it’s much easier to do the serious stuff. People like her, who make that light thing look so easy, are seriously talented. This is a different part for her but there was never any doubt that she’s a really great actress who was going to do it. She’s been under a very serious, severe spotlight in the last year but she’s incredibly uncomplicated, grounded, lovely and easy considering all of that. I think most of us would go a bit weird trying to deal with what she’s had to deal with. But she couldn’t have been easier and nicer.

Q. Did you realise that Julia Roberts recommended you to Jennifer Aniston when she was thinking about taking the role? How did that make you feel?
A. I did hear about it afterwards. I think that Julia and Jennifer were hanging at the same place after I’d done Closer with Julia, and my name came up and she said some nice things. It’s very nice and I’d say very nice things about both of them.

Q. Are you are fan of hip-hop and your co-stars?
A. I am a fan and I’m also a fan of both those guys’ acting. Sometimes when guys from the music industry go into movies it’s all a little bit gimmicky, but I thought both Xzibit and RZA showed themselves to be really proper, good actors as well.

Q. Were you surprised by aspects of your career that they were perhaps familiar with?
A. I already knew RZA a little bit because we’ve got some mutual friends in LA.

Q. Where do you see your career being based now? Is it very much America-orientated? Or if a good TV part came up in this country, for instance, would you still consider taking it?
A. I’d consider anything. Nothing’s changed for me. Ultimately, to have a career in movies, to a certain extent, certainly in England, you can’t sustain a career in just English movies. The fact that it’s opened up in America has meant that I’m able to do films, which I’m hugely grateful for. But I live here, my family’s here and I’m based here. People keep assuming that I’ve gone to Hollywood or something, but I still feel very much that I belong and live here. I still choose my work in exactly the same way, which is you try and get the best scripts with the best directors.

Q. But are you more relaxed about celebrity and fame, in the sense that it lets you choose which directors you want to work with for the sake of your career?
A. I never think of my career in that sort of objective way. My career is the next piece of work that I do. I don’t make decisions based on trying to shape a career, I never have done. For me, success is about getting the opportunity to work with the best people. I’m not one of those actors who wants to get into a position where I’ve created, like “this is the kind of actor I am” and then finally I’m in a position where I’m trying to protect something. I’m much more interested in a career where you can move anywhere and do lots of varied, different things. I’ve always been like that and am just very lucky that the directors I’m now getting to work with are of a very high quality.

Q. What impact has winning the Golden Globe had on your career? Has it changed the kind of roles that come your way?
A. It hasn’t changed the kind of roles I get. The awards thing puts you on an international platform. So I’m very fortunate, I’m getting offered a lot of films, but how much that’s a direct result of the Golden Globe I’ve no idea.

Q. When you did the BMW Internet films, you worked with some great directors. Did that have a positive effect on your film career?
A. I think it certainly had an effect on my career. The only thing really prior to that which introduced me to America was Croupier, and I got the BMW gig from the back of that movie. There was an awful lot of attention heaped on that campaign because it was so unusual. I ended up doing seven or eight of those small movies with incredible directors from Kar Wai Wong and Ang Lee to John Frankenheimer. So there was an awful lot of heat just within the industry, people were fascinated to see why these directors were doing BMW spots. And it certainly helped in terms of making people more aware of me.

Q. Are you happy that the James Bond thing has gone away now?
A. Yes but there are far worse things than to be associated with than James Bond. I’m very happy. I’ve taken a number of films that take me through to summer this year and they’re all incredibly different, very varied and with really great people. I couldn’t be happier with the stuff I’m doing.