Clive Owen: Beyond the Pale

American audiences generally know actor Clive Owen by his menacing manner and brooding British reserve from supporting roles in Gosford Park and The Bourne Identity. Some are even aware of the shadowy sway of Owen's dark and debonair demeanor in the sleeper independent film Croupier, or his leading role in BMW's Internet short feature series, The Hire, helmed by a host of Hollywood heavyweights. But the actor, who once spent a good deal of time playing pool on the dole in Warwickshire, attended London's Royal Academy of Dramatic Art and made a name for himself in England on the BBC's popular series Chancer and PBS's Mystery long before Hollywood took notice of his distinctive talent and fantastic furrowed brow.

Owen now, no doubt, has little time for pool the 39-year-old father of two (Hanna and Eve) is simultaneously juggling promotion for Beyond Borders while filming Jerry Bruckheimer's King Arthur (in which he plays, ahem, Arthur) and gearing up for a film adaptation of English playwright Patrick Marber's Closer (costarring Julia Roberts, Jude Law and Natalie Portman). He is also repeatedly responding to rampant rumors that he may be the next Bond, James Bond.

Perhaps this flurry of activity and relatively sudden exposure, at least stateside, is what causes the heroically handsome actor he's over 6-foot-2 with tousled jet-black hair and sapphire eyes to hang his head and stare ominously into the distance during a recent interview to discuss Beyond Borders, a film that addresses the plight of refugees and refugee workers, but which is ultimately a love story told among the din and chaos of just a handful of the world's most haunting human tragedies.

Luckily, Owen is extremely articulate, and somehow manages to diffuse a glowing warmth when he speaks about his life and work. "I had a very strong response to the script," says the actor. "After I finished reading it, I called my agent and said, 'If you can get this one for me, this is the one.' I was desperate to do it. I thought it was an important film to do. An amazing character, an amazing story to tell."

While casting agents have often capitalized on Owen's edgy energy, it is hard to imagine that Kevin Costner was once on board to play Nick Callahan, the roaming refugee-devoted doctor whom the British actor embodies in Beyond Borders.

"His only objective is trying to keep these people alive as long as he can," says Owen of the role. "It's a complicated character. There were some people who were very nervous that he would seem too arrogant. I never saw that. I finished that script and I found him completely redeemable. He didn't care what people thought of him, so I thought that was the best way to approach the character. It wasn't about being charming, it wasn't about being likable; it was about achieving his objective. He's fallible, he's a human being, he's not perfect, he's not a hero. To me it was all completely believable because of what he was trying to do."

Originally an Oliver Stone project Martin Campbell (Vertical Limit, The Mask of Zorro, GoldenEye) directed the fiery and fraught onscreen romance between Owen and Jolie might have been left to the questionable chemistry of Costner and Catherine Zeta-Jones (once cast as Sarah, an expatriate American leading a lost life in a bourgeois British marriage).

"It becomes about two extraordinary people. And there are two actors out there actually doing it that is the way you are invited into these worlds," says Owen. "It's also a love story, and you're constantly grappling with the combination, but ultimately you have a choice. You want to make a movie that's about something.

"I love making movies," he continues. "And in order to be able to make movies you have to have some measure of success. You want to make movies with good people. It is a business. They won't employ you if you don't have a certain amount of success to justify a certain project. So for me, the whole thing is just trying to open up the opportunity to work with the best people," says Owen.

So what about the 007 rumors? "You read what I read," smirks the actor. "There's so much bullshit in the game. I don't waste time thinking about it and I try not to talk it."

Very well, but costar Jolie is behind him 100 percent: "I think Clive would make a great James Bond," she raves, "and if he is, I'm going to audition for the bad guy."

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