Interview: Clive Owen (THE BOYS ARE BACK)

Kate Erbland

by: Kate Erbland
September 22nd, 2009


Last week, Los Angeles played host to the press junket for THE BOYS ARE BACK. Director Scott Hicks and star Clive Owen were both in attendance to talk at length about the film that became a true labor of love for the both of them. Owen charmed the pants off our roundtable interview, which may possibly have something to do with the fact that we were all ladies and his obvious passion for the project.

Read on for some highlights of the twenty minute chat with Mr. Owen, including his experience with the film's child actors, how he came to produce the project, and his personal preference - film or theater. And please be sure to check out THE BOYS ARE BACK when it opens in limited release on September 25.

On working with child actor, Nicholas McAnulty, who plays youngest son Artie:

There was very much an energy that a lot of the film was geared around Nicholas and his unpredictability and his energy level, so those sort of fun things where we were doing that were very much we kept as loose as we possibly could and there's lots in the film where he wasn't even quite aware that we were filming. You know, half the pillow fight is just me and him mucking about, and we were just sort of stealing it really. And we needed that, because you can' that out too much, you've got to keep it very, very loose. And Scott was very good about keeping both the cast and the crew very much on their toes, so if Nicholas suddenly did something that was very interesting, we were there ready to capture it, which is why it looks so fun, because it's kind of happening, it's not too controlled. It was a very different way of working for me, because you've got to keep very loose and available to that. It's like however much you prepare and are ready to go to work, there's an element that's really alive and unpredictable when you're working with somebody that age.

I loved it, and it was part of the challenge. But it was challenging, and before I started, I was nervous because of that, because however much you prepare, it was like really a huge amount was going to depend on what I get going with him, and how we do that. If you're too prepared and too controlled around a kid of that age, you look like you're acting, because they're so immediate - they're reacting, they're alive, they're sort of very present. And so the challenge, and the reason I wanted to do it really, was to do that with those kids, and sort of see what that felt like, and try and do that in a very convincing way.

On George MacKay, who plays older son Harry:

He is very different, because he's already super-skilled. He's like a very mature, beyond his years and very, very fine actor. There's nothing by accident from him.

On why he didn't want to meet Simon Carr, the author of THE BOYS ARE BACK, before filming:

I only met him right at the very end. I read the memoir and I read the script, and then Scott said, do you want to meet Simon? And I said, no, I don't actually, because I got an awful lot from the book and I really love the script and I had some strong impulses and instincts and even if I'd met him even for five minutes, I think just the physicality of him, the way he carried himself, all of that would have - I would have thought about it as I was doing it and I wanted to be free, I wanted to go in and interpret it and just instinctively inhabit it.

On the advantages of THE BOYS ARE BACK being an indie film, particularly in terms of his own character development:

I was always very interested on exploring the tougher side...Once they find themselves in the situation they're in, they've got this huge loss, I kind of forgave them everything. In some ways, it's the advantage that this is an independent film, because if it was a big studio film, people would be very concerned about the likability of the character - "well, he's so mean there, and he's not very nice to the boys," it's not like that. One, they're grieving. Grieving is very messy, it's ugly, it's volatile, it's not neat and clean and wholesome, it's unpredictable and not very nice. All parents can relate to the times when it gets was a huge part that it wasn't the sentimental version, the sort of version that we've seen before.

On the best parts of the film:

It's the small little moments that can sort of surprise you and make you very moved. The people that I know that have been really effected by it all pull up a different scene in terms of what it is that really got to them...It's a very rich film, it's very full, and I think it just taps into whatever it is that's been important in your life.

On serving as a producer for THE BOYS ARE BACK:

The exec-producing thing came about because I'd been attached [to the film] for a very long time, and it was very much a collaboration in terms of honing the script and doing all of that and it was to sort of protect all of that really, to make sure that I had a standing and a voice within that.

On film versus theater (the eternal debate!):

Film. Especially back home in England, people have a lot of respect for the theater, and I have a lot of respect for theater, and I love it, but I just adore making films. I think the collaboration of films, there's something, I just adore it.

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  • allisonloring

    Sparkle points to you for an awesome interview! (See what I did there – inside joke AND rhyming ;) Now I remember I HAVE seen the trailer for this movie and it looks phenominal – doubly jealous you already got to see it AND interview Clive!

  • allisonloring

    Sparkle points to you for an awesome interview! (See what I did there – inside joke AND rhyming ;) Now I remember I HAVE seen the trailer for this movie and it looks phenominal – doubly jealous you already got to see it AND interview Clive!

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