Is a picture worth a thousand words? Or more? That's the central conceit of Clive Owen's newest movie, "Words and Pictures," in which the handsome Brit plays a public school teacher who goes head-to-head with an artist and fellow educator over the age-old question.
"He's (gotten) very tired and jaded, and I think the whole arrival of (art teacher) Juliette Binoche's character kind of wakes him up and galvanizes him and sort of gets him going again," Owen told Savannah Guthrie on TODAY Wednesday. Of course, at the same time, the rival teachers begin falling in love.
It wasn't words or pictures that helped motivate Owen in one key scene, where his character has to wreck his house: It was a David Bowie song, "The Stars (Are Out Tonight)." Owen, a Bowie fan, helped the song get into the film.
"I chose that song," he revealed. "I get a little drunk in the movie and I've got a tennis racket and ball and I trash my house. And I needed some music to inspire me to do it, and I asked (director Fred Schepisi) to play this track, play it loud ... and Fred got so used to the song he had to get it in the movie."
During the film, Owen had to memorize large swathes of dialogue; he quotes author John Updike and poems in some scenes. But the actor admitted that his total recall doesn't last: "I need it as long as I need it," he said. "And then I have to make way for other things."
"Words and Pictures" will be in select theaters on May 23; it goes nationwide June 6.