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Clive Owen is the anti-Bond in ‘Shoot ’Em Up’

He has all the coolness of 007 — a role Owen was once reportedly considered for — but is as gritty and street-tough as an anti-Bond can get.
/ Source: The Associated Press

While costumed comic-book fans fill their tote bags with freebies at Comic-Con, Clive Owen, in a slim-fitting suit, sits coolly in a corner — his brown hair mussed, his green eyes piercing.

Thanks to his starring turn in the graphic novel-inspired “Sin City” in 2005, Owen is a god at this pop-culture convention. But he didn’t come to participate. He traveled from his London home to the San Diego Convention Center to talk about his new movie: the pulpy, gun-filled “Shoot ‘Em Up,” in theaters Sept. 7.

Owen, 42, plays Mr. Smith, an angry anti-hero who shoots every type of weapon in every way imaginable as he battles to protect a newborn baby from the bad guy, creepily and convincingly played by Paul Giamatti. Owen’s character is aided by a lactating prostitute (Monica Bellucci), with whom he shares a tenderly damaged love affair.

He has all the coolness of 007 — a role Owen was once reportedly considered for — but is as gritty and street-tough as an anti-Bond can get.

Before braving the Comic-Con floor, Owen talked with The Associated Press about guns, babies and the appeal of a tough-guy role.

AP: What attracted you to this character?

Owen: It was probably the wildest, freshest script I’ve read in years. ... I just thought it was a take on a genre but it was such a fresh take, it was such a sort of individual voice. For me, probably it was the wit. The wit, the humor. Even the physical wit. ... I like the fact that it unashamedly says from the outset: Don’t take this too seriously. On certain fronts, we will deliver, like the title, we will satisfy, just sit back and just enjoy it. That’s why if anyone shows any concern about the violence, it’s like, it’s the best kind of violence, it’s my kind of violence, it’s crazy movie violence. It has nothing to do with my real life.

AP: You did most of your own stunts. How challenging was that?

Owen: I trained pretty damn hard. (Writer-director Michael Davis’) attitude toward the action is he wanted to make you feel like you’re the guy. Like, he’s an action fanatic and he knows action inside out. He hates it when action becomes so spectacular and you’re always stepping back, and it’s obvious the actor’s been doubled because there’s all these explosions and there’s a stunt guy running away. He wants the opposite, he wants to go in and keep in like you’re in there, so you can feel like you’re the guy actually doing the (stuff). Which made it out to be me a lot! And you can see it in the film. ... I was in a harness for 10 days being spun around and flung and all that stuff at the end. It was physically demanding for sure.

AP: What about the mental and emotional challenges of playing such a dark character?

Owen: It was actually satisfying mentally. There’s something satisfying about doing action because you just deliver. It’s so clear what’s required. You have an action sequence, and we’re going beat, beat, beat, beat, beat, beat and it’s very specific. And I’m a bit anal when it comes to things like that.

AP: What do you look for when choosing roles?

Owen: I’m never interested really in route one, everything very obvious, the good guy and he’s clearly good. I’m always into sort of a bit of conflict. And I think there’s something hugely attractive about playing a guy like this because the bottom line is he’s the cool guy with no name. Basically, the bottom line is when the (stuff) hits the fan, he’s going to deliver. I like playing that guy.

AP: Is this your anti-Bond?

Owen: Anti-Bond? Not at all, but certainly I had a great time playing it.

AP: Was it more difficult working with the guns or the babies?

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AP: What do you like to do when you’re not working?

Owen: To be honest, hang out with the kids (daughters ages 8 and 10) as much as possible. I miss them so badly when I have to go and shoot. ... It becomes very precious just hanging with them, spending time with them, because it costs when you have to go off and make a movie.