Clive Owen: The Movieline Interview
It's been a while since Clive Owen's had to carry a movie on his broad shoulders, and in the upcoming Scott Hicks film The Boys are Back, he's front-and-center with nary a gun or glamorous love interest at his disposal. In a more intimate turn, Owen plays sportswriter Joe Warr, who struggles to raise both his six-year-old son (Nicholas McAnulty) and a teenage son from an earlier marriage (George MacKay) after his wife dies of cancer.
Adapted from Simon Carr's memoir, The Boys are Back espouses Carr's philosophy of always saying yes to your children, and Owen says it caused him to examine his own relationship with his daughters, Hannah and Eve. In a conversation with Movieline last week in Los Angeles, Owen opened up about his cinematic and real-life families, the nature of grief, and whether or not he's gearing up to do a sequel with Spike Lee.
To me, your most striking scene in the film is when you're going through this tragedy with your wife, and your best friend tries to console you by telling you that things are going to be OK. It's as though you seize on his words to lash out at him.
It's funny you mention that scene. It was an important scene, and part of the reason I wanted to do the film is to explore all these areas. I thought the script was very good and I was very keen to make sure it didn't get soft and sentimental, because grief is tough. Grief is not palatable, it's not clean. It's very messy and all-over-the-place and that was a scene where... [Pause] I've lost somebody close. And the reality, when you really strip it down? You don't get over it. There's no real consoling with somebody who's lost somebody. It's just awful. You'll go through time and you'll carry on, but you never quite recover. That to me was a little scene of somebody saying, "It'll be OK," and it's like, "It won't be OK. That's what it won't be!" I'm sure over time we will live our lives and everything, but it's totally not OK.
For as much as the film touts Carr's philosophy of "free-range parenting," there are some downsides. His house becomes a total mess, for one.
The whole thing collapses, really! It does become really clear that you do need at least some structure. I mean, if nobody's doing the washing up, it's not going to work, d'you know what I mean? [Laughs] It's a guy pushing his sort of theory, and I think there's validity to the point that we say no too quickly, that we're sort of locked into our own thing, that we're not accessible enough to children's needs, but he takes it too far.
Do you say no too quickly?
It made me think about it. When I did this film, I thought that maybe we don't keep loose enough with our kids. But I mean, our house is not a strict house. I have the lowest status in my house -- my kids run the roost. They run free enough. I've always loved being a parent. I love my girls, I'm very proud of them, and the fact that they're such nice kids is something I take enormous pride in. It's different for me, though, because I'm an actor and I go away a lot. When I come back, it's hugely important to really spend the time and man-hours with them because I know that I might get a film and I might not be around for a few months, so when I am there, they are the priority. Doing the school runs, being with them, just experiencing their lives as much as possible is the priority.
Your character Joe goes through the same sort of thing: At the beginning of the film, he's away from home for work more often than he's around.
Exactly, and suddenly he's got to be there and fully available.