Clive Owen is a Golden Globe and BAFTA-winning actor, best known for his roles in Gosford Park, The Bourne Identity and Sin City. What's next for the star of The Croupier?
The Oscar-nominated British actor Clive Owen was born in Coventry on 3 October 1964. His father, who was a country and western singer, left Owen’s mother when Clive was only three years old, and he did not see him again until he was 19.
Clive Owen was raised by his mother and his stepfather, who worked in a ticket office for the local railway. He was the fourth of five brothers: his oldest brother Garry now works as a salesman. Next came Alan and Lee who were both musicians, and collaborated together on a single called 'Heartbeat' - then came Clive and finally Scott, the baby of the family.
Clive attended Binley Park Comprehsive, and did quite well at school to begin with. But at the age of 13, fate took a hand in his future when he joined the local youth theatre group and was cast as the Artful Dodger in a youth theatre production of 'Oliver'. Clive took to acting like a duck to water, and was completely bitten by the acting bug. So much so, that his schoolwork began to suffer as a consequence and although he sat for 9 'O' levels, he only succeeded in passing one exam, which was English.
Given his mediocre academic performance, Clive initially wanted to leave school and just get a job. But one of his teachers encouraged him to try out for Mountview College, a drama school in London, and even bought him a train ticket. Clive was offered a place at Mountview, but in the end, he decided to stick to his initial plan, namely to leave school, find work and just keep on acting with the local youth theatre group.
But finding work wasn’t so easy and Clive spent the next two years claiming unemployment benefit, playing pool in between times and pursuing his love of drama by acting in the local youth theatre productions. By 1984, he had revised his poor opinion of further education, and decided to apply for a place at drama school again - this time at RADA in London. Again, he was successful, and found himself acting alongside Ralph Fiennes and Jane Horrocks. He was also lucky in that whilst at RADA, his class worked on a new Howard Barker play, which was then being performed at the Royal Court with Gary Oldman playing the lead. Then Oldman fell ill - and since Clive was the only actor around who knew the part, he was asked to step into Oldman’s shoes and take the lead.
After graduating from RADA, Clive focused on looking for stage work, rather than film or television acting. First, he appeared in the 'Cat and the Canary' at Watford. During his time at RADA, however, he had succeeded in building up his classical repertoire, including roles from 'Henry IV, Part I', and 'The Lady from the Sea'. In 1988, he was offered a place at the Young Vic, where he played Romeo opposite Sarah-Jane Fenton’s Juliet. This on-stage pairing soon led to a real-life romance, and Clive and Sarah-Jane fell in love! Despite a few ups and downs (the couple have split up several times, but always made up), Clive and Sarah-Jane have been together ever since. They were married in 1995, and have two daughters, Hannah and Eve.
Also in 1988, Clive Owen began to diversify his acting career, and made his feature film debut in a movie called 'Vroom'. In this story, he and actor David Thewlis restore a classic American car together and head off on a classic 'road trip', with Owen picking up an attractive widow, played by Diana Quick, along the way. Soon afterwards followed a plum role in the TV adaptation of R.D. Blackmore’s classic tale 'Lorna Doone', where he played John Ridd, the man who takes Lorna Doone to the altar: Clive played alongside Sean Bean, who portrayed the brooding character of Carver Doone.
Then in 1990 came Clive’s first “big break”. He was offered the TV role of Stephen Crane in 'Chancer', a kind of raffish, sharply-dressed wheeler-dealer character, a sort of likeable rogue. The series was an overnight success, and the public adored Owen which meant, of course, that he was suddenly immensely fascinating to the tabloid press, who invaded his privacy at every available opportunity. Clive totally hated all this unlooked-for attention, and since he refused to co-operate with the press, they soon dubbed him as a “difficult actor”. He had grave concerns about his success on a professional level too, as he soon became very worried about the possibility of becoming typecast, and finding himself unable to play any other role than that of a waggish villain.
Turning his back on his newfound fame and fortune, Clive abandoned the role of Stephen Crane. In his next major role, 'Close My Eyes', he courted widespread controversy by playing the role of Saskia Reeves’ brother in a tangled tale of incest. It certainly helped to dispel any danger of typecasting, for the viewing public were horrified at the notion of their beloved Stephen Crane getting up to such dreadful antics! 'Close my Eyes' not only cost Clive his popularity, it also lost him a lucrative beer commercial - for his sponsors were horrified at the notion that their Beer Man might be guilty of sleeping with his sister!
Undeterred by the sea-change in his fortunes, Clive decided to return to stage acting, and did not appear on screen again for a full two years. But it was nevertheless a busy and productive time for him acting-wise: he took a leading role in George Bernard Shaw’s play, 'The Philanderer', which was directed by Brian Cox (whom he would later co-star with in 'The Bourne Identity'). Then he played the role of a bisexual in Noel Coward’s 'Design for Living', at the Donmar Warehouse in London.
By 1993, Clive Owen was working back on screen again, but in America this time. First, he acted in a movie called 'Class of ‘61', where he played Devlin O’Neil, an Irish West Point graduate who is sent off to fight in the Civil War. Then Clive acted in another production by Stephen Playoff (the director of the controversial movie 'Close My Eyes') called 'Century', where he played the part of a medical researcher who unwittingly gets caught up in Hitler’s medical experiments.
Between 1994 and 1996, Clive acted in a huge range of TV productions. Still keen to avoid any possibility of type-casting, he did a comedy called 'An Evening with Gary Linker' together with Paul Merton, Martin Clunes and Caroline Quentin. Shortly afterwards, he played a totally different kind of role in Thomas Hardy’s 'The Return Of The Native'. Then he acted in a contemporary drama pilot, 'The Turnaround'. But by now, America - or to be more precise, Hollywood - was calling again. So Clive answered the call…
First came a role in 'The Rich Man’s Wife', a thriller that also starred Bond girl Halle Berry. Next up was a role in the space age videogame 'Privateer 2', where Clive’s character wakes up on a strange planet, and is forced to go searching throughout the galaxy in order to recover his true identity. The film was a curious mish-mash, but it gave Clive the opportunity to act alongside some substantial movie “names”, such as Christopher Walken, John Hurt and Jurgen Prochnow - as well as British émigré actors such as David McCallum and Brian Blessed.
After his brief foray into the world of science fiction, Clive took on what some might consider his most challenging role yet, that of Max in 'Bent' in 1997. Here, he played a brash, reckless homosexual seducer, a role that was first created by Ian McKellen in London, and then transferred to America, where it was played by Richard Gere on Broadway.
In that same year, Clive returned to the London stage to act in 'Closer', a bittersweet, contemporary drama about modern relationships. The play opened in London and then moved to New York, where Rupert Graves played Owen’s part on Broadway. Still on stage, Owen then played the part of Hamilton in the play, 'A Day In the Death of Joe Egg', a taut drama about a couple who find their marriage disintegrating under the strain of raising a handicapped child.
Then came Clive Owen’s second “big break” - although it certainly didn’t seem like it at the time. He was cast as the lead actor in Mike Hodges’s film 'Croupier', where he played a feckless South African, opposite British actress Alex Kingston. Owen’s character takes a job in a casino, and embarks on a downward spiral into deception, crime and paranoia. Despite the fact that some critics compared Owen’s performance with that of Sean Connery (thus beginning speculation that he might be invited to become the next James Bond), the film flopped dismally in the UK. But 'Croupier' proved to be a massive hit with American audiences and the handsome box office revenues opened the door for a new round of offers from top Hollywood producers.
Owen’s popularity began to rise again in the UK, however, when he starred in a series of four 'Second Sight' telepics for the BBC, in 1999-2000, playing the role of detective Ross Tanner. His suave, debonair, Bond-like image was further enhanced when soon afterwards, he became The Driver in a series of short action movies sponsored by BMW, and directed by film directors such as Ang Lee, Guy Ritchie, Tony Scott and John Frankenheimer.
Back on the big screen, Owen wowed cinema audiences once again with his performance as Robert Park in Robert Altman’s period murder mystery, 'Gosford Park'. Next came a major Hollywood blockbuster, 'The Bourne Identity', where he played a ruthless assassin called The Professor, alongside Matt Damon. He followed this success by playing opposite Angelina Jolie in a low-key melodrama, 'Beyond Borders', which told the story of a relief worker who falls in love with an heiress. This movie did not enjoy the success that its producers had hoped for, but Owen bounced back with his next movie, another Mike Hodges film-noir piece, 'I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead' (2004), where he played an ageing British gangster who emerges from his retirement to investigate the death of his brother.
Clive Owen likes to vary his film and TV roles as much as possible, as evidenced by his next film role, where he chose to play King Arthur in Antoine Fuqua’s film of the same name, which is a de-mystified re-telling of the Arthurian legend. When casting directors came to consider who should play the role in the Hollywood version of Closer, some seven years after Clive had starred in the stage show, their first choice was Clive - who then found himself playing opposite one of the world’s foremost leading ladies, Julia Roberts, as well as Natalie Portman and Jude Law. His stellar performance in 'Closer' won Owen a Golden Globe Award for Best Performance in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture, as well as a BAFTA Award back on his home turf. 'Closer' also earned Owen his first Oscar nomination, once again in the Best Supporting Actor category.
Rumours were still flying thick and fast that Owen would be invited to become the next James Bond, but ignoring the speculation, Clive just carried on working! His next major starring role was in 'Sin City', a joint venture between director Robert Rodriguez and writer-artist Frank Miller. Owen played the character of Dwight McCarthy, who finds himself caught up in a battle for control of Sin City’s Old Town, ruled by armed and dangerous prostitutes.
Clive Owen was by now firmly established as a leading Hollywood player and in 2006, he appeared in no less than four major cinema releases. First came 'The Pink Panther', where he chased bandits dressed in a tuxedo (very James Bond!), soon followed by Spike Lee’s 'Inside Man' where he played a cold hearted crook in league with Denzel Washington. Next, Owen joined Julianne Moore in the futuristic chiller, 'Children of Men'; finally, he made another SinCity-style movie called 'Shoot ’Em Up'.
In keeping with his love of variety in his screen roles, Owen also portrayed English aristocrat, poet, soldier and explorer Sir Walter Raleigh in director Shekhar Kapur’s ‘Elizabeth: The Golden Age’ (2007). The costume drama co-starring Cate Blanchett as Elizabeth I and Geoffrey Rush as Sir Francis Walsingham was a moderate box office success and won an Academy Award.
Owen went on to star alongside Naomi Watts in ‘The International’ (2009), which saw him play an Interpol agent investigating corruption in a fictional merchant bank based in Luxembourg. It received mixed reviews from critics and was a moderate commercial success.
Teaming up with Julia Roberts once more, he starred in the romantic comedy/spy film ‘Duplicity’ (2009), similarly earning mixed reviews and succeeding at the box office. This was followed by a leading role in ‘The Boys Are Back’ (2009), in which he played a British sports writer raising a son in Australia with the help of his beloved late wife’s spirit. ‘Trust’, a 2010 film directed by former ‘Friends’ star David Schwimmer, ‘The Killer Elite’ (2011) and ‘Intruders’.
Owen has other interests other than movie making as he is an avid fan of English Premier League club Liverpool and has been spotted at two concerts of indie rock band Hard-Fi.