One on One In Rome With Clive Owen

NO MATTER WHICH GENRE OF CINEMA INTERESTS YOU MOST, CHANCES ARE YOU HAVE A FAVOURITE CLIVE OWEN MOVIE. AFTER MORE THAN 20 YEARS IN THE FILM INDUSTRY, THE PROLIFIC ACTOR HAS PLAYED MANY DIVERSE CHARACTERS WITH ALWAYS THE RIGHT RANGE OF INTENSITY. ONE OF HIS LATEST PROJECTS HAS RECENTLY PUT HIM AS THE STAR OF CAMPARI’S FIRST EVER SHORT FILM ENTITLED KILLER IN RED, IN WHICH HE PLAYS A MYSTERIOUS AND CHARMING BARTENDER WITH MANY SECRETS.

By Marie-Ève Venne

Highly infatuating and just as intoxicating as a drink shaken, not stirred, the film written and directed by Italian Oscar winner Paolo Sorrentino (The Great Beauty and The Young Pope) takes us back to the early 1980s days of disco and punk with the sounds of The Clash and Donna Summer. As the story unfolds, the plot is ripe with sexy intrigue that’s slowly unveiled one cocktail at a time. When Campari offered us the chance to meet Clive Owen at their official launch in Rome, we accepted with excitement. Let’s be real, it’s rare to meet one of your favourite actors while sipping delicious Negroni cocktails – Campari based, of course.

How did Campari approach you about starring in their first ever short film? It was really easy to say yes to their proposition actually. I liked the idea of doing a proper film instead of simply doing a commercial right away. And of course, the fact that it was directed by Paolo Sorrentino in a beautiful location like Rome didn’t hurt! What was it like working with such an iconic filmmaker like Paolo Sorrentino? He is so disciplined; it’s impressive. The atmosphere that he creates can be a little bit wild, but in terms of what he does and how he does it, he is very together and not crazy at all.

What can you tell us about your character in Killer in Red? I know as much as you do (little laugh). And I think that’s all we need to know to enjoy the story. In terms of building a huge backstory for my character, I didn’t need to do that. The script was very sharp and contained and it was pretty clear for me what was required on my part. He made my job real easy in a way (smiling).

You seem to often play characters with a dark, slightly twisted side to them, like the one you portrayed in The Knick. Is it a deliberate choice for you? I’m not sure about twisted. But the most interesting thing is to play a character in conflict. For me, it’s quite boring to play a character who is not in this kind of mental state. Most of the drama comes from conflict and when you’re playing a character grappling or struggling with something, that’s instantly more interesting. And more realistic than one that is clean and everything just sits comfortably. Life is not like that.

I love looking at a script and feeling challenged. I want to feel this way, but I also want the audience to feel challenged. If you look at The Knick, I play somebody who’s brilliant and a genius, but also a very flawed character. It’s a great journey to take people on rather than playing a very obvious version of it where he is a heroic doctor saving the day every week. That wouldn’t be relatable or realistic.

So the darker the better, no matter how likeable the character is to the audience? I don’t think acting is about being likeable. It’s about trying to make you understand why a character makes a decision about something when you would not make the same. I approach characters not thinking “I want people to like me,” but mostly wanting them to understand how difficult it can be for him. That person did this particular something because of the situation around him, and yeah you want people to understand and like him in a way, but you mostly want to tell his story in the most honest way possible.

How do you prepare yourself for a role? I am not a big fan of actors who talk a lot about the method they used to prepare for a role. At the end of the day, the work is good or not. It doesn’t matter how you get there. So, whatever my process is, it’s a quiet and private thing. I don’t feel the need to talk about it, but I do think it changes depending on what you are doing. Sometimes, very little research is needed. Ultimately, I think acting is about concentration.

I have to ask a question about Closer, because it’s one of my favourite films. Is it one of the most emotionally challenging movies you’ve ever done? Note: Owen played at first the character interpreted in the movie by Jude Law for the play, before switching to the role of Larry for the film.

I always like to see the material I’m going to play from the character’s point of view. I can’t read the script properly without looking at it from that perspective. That’s just the way I approach it. So, you do a play like Closer, and you play this particular character, and seven years later Mike Nichols (the director) asks you if you want to play the other part for the movie. It’s when you go, “wow,” because you saw the story from the first character perspective and a story that is so familiar now becomes totally new. I knew those scenes and their rhythm and I knew how the character worked because I was on the receiving end of it, but it was a totally different thing for the movie. It was a brilliant experience, because it was familiar but yet totally new.

Do you watch your own movies? I find it harder and harder to watch myself. I used to be fine about it (big laugh) when I was younger. Now, I tend to over-examinate myself and to feel more uncomfortable. I think it’s a bad thing to be self-conscious as an actor. If you watch a lot of yourself, you start to reflect on yourself all the time instead of simply putting the stuff out there and letting it be. That’s why I discovered Killer in Red along with everyone else for the first time today.

The new Campari campaign follows the ethos that “every cocktail tells a story.” Do you have an anecdote you can tell us surrounding a cocktail? I found a really cool speakeasy in Rome, from the time they took me to learn how to make proper cocktails at the beginning. I was there last night having a few cocktails and it was really fun!

As the interview came to a close, I didn’t have time to ask Owen which cocktail he was drinking. But something tells me there was a splash of Campari slipped into the mix.