Published on AssociatedContent.com; TimesSquare.com.
by Christina M. Hinke
For AssociatedContent.com; TimesSquare.com
Sept. 4, 2007
It’s no surprise to see Clive Owen hefting a gun around in a movie--heck, he was first recognized by moviegoers as an assassin aiming a rifle at Jason Bourne in the first installment of the Bourne series. The shocker is seeing him play a shoot ‘em up, knock ‘em down, drag out gun-slinging, carrot-eating hero dedicated to saving, of all things, a baby.
Okay, so he was responsible for saving a newborn in "Children of Men" as well, and in "Sin City" he was a hero with a gun. But aside from the minute references to those other films, this is a very different bit of cinema.
"Shoot 'Em Up" writer/director Michael Davis was a Bond fan since he was a kid, and he sees his first action/adventure flick as an homage to James Bond and action flicks as a whole. He sold the movie to a trio of producers by constructing an animated video of scenes he had in his head. The transformation to film barrels on screen with an enraged Mr. Hertz (Paul Giamatti) and his heavies chasing down the baby safeguarded by the mysterious, gun-slinging Owen as Mr. Smith, who is even angrier than his adversaries.
This is not the usual shoot ‘em up flick. It has a lactating hooker named DQ (Monica Bellucci) a spoof on Dairy Queen--who gets it on with Smith in the middle of a bullets-flying gun battle and a raging gun fight in mid-air after Smith and foes jump out of a helicopter.
"Shoot ‘Em Up" offers a whole new era for the 42-year-old Owen. If the box office boasts well on the first, it could become his very own James Bond series, though Owen doesn’t see it that way.
Q: So many fans thought you should have been the next Bond. Since there is an underlying James Bond theme here, did you have moments where you thought you could make a jab at Bond?
Clive Owen: No. Michael is a complete Bond fanatic. He is crazy about the Bond movies. I saw this as a complete separate stand alone thing. It’s his crazy version of an action film. Nothing relates to Bond, really.
Q: Is this a sendup of Clive Owen; did you feel that was the case and did you enjoy it?
CO: Oh yeah, but the whole film is a crazy sendup [of] everything. That's why I wanted to do the movie. I thought it was fresh and crazy and funny. Even the action is funny; it's physically funny--the twists and turns, it had wit to it, and this big physical character. That's a gag. That's why I wanted to do the film.
Q: In "Children of Men," the violence seems realistic, but in this film and in "Sin City" it’s exaggerated to the extreme. Are you particular about the violence portrayed in a movie you are in?
CO: That's what it is and that’s why I justify the violence all the way. Anyone who says they have a problem with the violence--I say, look, it has nothing to do with violence in the real world. It’s Tom and Jerry violence. It’s so not related to real violence. I would see other films and I would question violence portrayed in certain movies. But this is the same as "Sin City." It is hyper-real. It has nothing to do with my real life.
Q: You've played many gun-wielding characters. Why have you chosen to play those roles and why do directors cast you as a character toting guns around?
CO: I don’t know. I must look like I’m capable of shooting people [laughs], which is a little bit worrying.
Q: Are you a skilled shooter?
CO: Only through making movies and going to the firing range for a part. I live in London and I love living in a gun-free environment as long may it continue.
Q: What was your favorite and most challenging action sequence in this film?
CO: The most challenging was the sky diving because it was wild--day after day after day--and tough physically. The car chase was my favorite because it was a brilliantly conceived action sequence and ends with a great catch.
Q: Were there opportunities to improvise?
CO: There was not much room because it was all so wild and wacky and so original. We did need extra scenes and other people attempted to write something and didn’t even come close. We went to Michael and he would come back with something so twisted and weird and wonderful. I thought, my god, there is only one guy who understands this world and that’s him. So I wouldn’t dare try to improvise.
Q: This is your second film protecting babies--as you did in "Children of Men"--so is this your new version of a modern dad?
CO: It’s the fact that I deliver two babies on camera as well that is weird.
Q: Is this a metaphor for our times?
CO: We must be worrying about the future in some way. There is only one where I was being shot at, at the same time.
Q: Having two kids of your own, did this film make you rethink your paternal instincts?
Q: Did being a father help you in these roles?
CO: Yeah, I'm sure it did in certain scenes. I was there for the birth of my two girls. Obviously I use that. I am comfortable around babies and children because I have two of my own.
Q: What was it like working with a remote-control baby?
CO: Pretty weird. It was always better having the real thing there. The real babies were cast before they were born. She was pregnant with twins.
Q: What pressures did you find in shooting the action scenes?
CO: It’s weird. When you are shooting action, there is a satisfying thing because your objectives are very clear. You are moving very fast and you [just] do it. It’s not like carrying a film with five pages of dialogue and how you deliver them is going to nuance the whole film. It’s a physical movie. The most important thing is delivering action. It sets itself up. It will be a great ride. Michael Davis has put together some wicked action sequences.
Q: Do you think there'll be a Mr. Smith action figure?
CO: It would obviously include plenty of guns.
Q: What kind of a back-story did you come up with for the character to help you get into his head?
CO: None whatsoever. It’s like you don’t get to find out where he’s from or what he’s done. The important thing is the guy is going to deliver on action. I’m sure if there is a another one, Michael will come up with all of that. There is no point making a load of stuff up.
Q: There is alot of humanity in this film. Is that important for you in a film like this?
CO: There is, of course. Ultimately it’s the action and humor that sold it for me. That’s why I wanted to do it. The film has firmly got its tongue in its cheek. For me it was about delivering wicked action and humor.
Q: You are in a wild love scene with one of Italy’s most revered sex symbols, Monica Bellucci. What was that like?
CO: Work, work, work. Oh, the pressures. It was one of the wittiest things on the animation he did. It was like, wow. He tried to keep as close to it but it was physically impossible.
Q: Did it take much acting skill to maintain certain things?
CO: Easy, easy. It’s actually a big shoot-out scene. So you’re talking enormous amounts of rehearsals, working out, and making sure physically it’s possible. Then there are 25 people in the room. It was a big action sequence really.
Q: What were you thinking when you heard Monica Bellucci was attached to the film?
CO: When he told me he was going to cast Monica Bellucci, I said that lead's perfect, she’s beautiful, she’s a great actress, and has a wicked sense of humor.
Q: How do you take on the role of the angriest guy in the world?
CO: Michael Davis was always asking me to be angrier. I would have toned it down a bit. They were all his pet peeves. I could relate to some of them... but ponytails? He’s a strange guy.
Q: You don’t strike me as an angry guy.
CO: I’m not angry, no.
Q: What does make you angry?
CO: Rudeness can make me angry.
Q: You have done films with important content, such as "Children of Men" and "Beyond Borders;"--do you have an interest in doing more of these kind of pictures?
CO: I knew "Children of Men" was ambitious. It was a film set in the future, but tackling the real big issues of today. [Director Alfonso Cuarón] wanted to jump ahead to look back and say we have to be careful. The key issues were immigration, environment, and terrorism. They are incredibly important issues right now and that’s why I wanted to do that movie. He had a vision. It doesn’t always have to be about something though.
Q: With "Sin City" and this film you have played two iconic action characters. Do you enjoy playing characters that are action-figure quality?
CO: I try to do as many different things possible. I think one of the things that is most satisfying about my career is that the last three films are so different. The last three films you couldn’t compare any of those films. They’re wildly different.
I went from "Children of Men" to doing this and then to "Elizabeth: The Golden Age." I have never done an all-action [movie]. I thought it would be cool to do that [this time.] It was fun and I wanted to do a crazy action-packed film that had great, wickedly conceived shoot-outs.
Q: Why did you want to do "Elizabeth: The Golden Age?" You play Sir Walter Raleigh who had a strong relationship with Queen Elizabeth I [Cate Blanchett].
CO: It was a lovely thing. I was a fan of the original movie ["Elizabeth"] and they all came back. It was a pleasure.
Q: Are you doing anything more with Frank Miller?
CO: I got the rights to [detective noir novelist] Raymond Chandler’s character Philip Marlowe. Frank’s involved with me. We thought it too dangerous to do one of the big ones. The last thing I need is to be compared to Humphrey Bogart. We’re doing a short story, "Trouble is My Business." We are going to expand it a bit.
I got Frank involved because he is a noir obsessive and he adores those Chandler books and he would be great to be involved in the writing because he’ll make it relevant, he’ll bring it up to date, and give it a necessary edge. But he will be incredibly faithful to the source material because he adores it so much.
Copyright 2007 Christina M. Hinke. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.