'The Boys Are Back' Gives Clive Owen a New On-Screen Role: Dad

The Oscar-nominated actor and star of "The Boys Are Back" discusses his own life as a dad and how he'll respond if his two daughters decide to pursue careers in Hollywood.
Sunday, October 4, 2009

Clive Owen has become many men on-screen: a top-secret CIA sniper ("The Bourne Identity"), an adulterous dermatologist ("Closer"), even the savior of humankind as we know it ("Children of Men"). But the one role he hasn't played? A father.

That changes with "The Boys Are Back," an unabashed weeper about a journalist attempting to raise two sons in the wake of his second wife's death, and taking a decidedly liberal attitude toward parenthood. (His mantra: Just say yes. Meaning he isn't strict when it comes to things like nutrition, hygiene and strapping kids in to car seats.)

Owen -- who celebrated his 47th birthday Saturday and is himself a dad to two daughters -- talked to us recently while promoting "Boys" at the Toronto International Film Festival.

-- Jen Chaney

Like your character in the film, you must have to spend periods of time away from home because of work. How do you handle that?

It's about making sure if I'm away for a long period doing a movie that I take some downtime. I do that now. I make sure I never do anything too close together so that I'm never away from the kids too much.

The unusual thing about my game is that when I'm away it's for very solid points of time. And no matter how much time I spend at home, there's always this thing underneath: that there's a possibility I might disappear again and do a movie. Whereas most fathers, even if they're not around that much, there's a regular routine.

Do you parent at all like your character in the movie?

No, I'm not at all as crazy and loose as that. But I think there is an element of that to most fathers. Obviously mothers are more maternal and protective of their kids and dads are a little bit looser, I think generally. That probably goes across the board.

But the "just say yes" concept, when it's applied in moderation? I think there's something to that.

For sure, for sure . . . I'd say we sometimes are too structured in the way that we do things and that it is important to keep loose and go with the flow a bit with children.

A lot of times parents just automatically say: No, don't do that. Don't pick up the fork instead of the spoon or whatever.

Right. And it's like, why?

Who cares?


Obviously a lot of this movie deals with profound grief. How did you get to those emotional places in front of the camera?

It wasn't too hard, because when I read the script, I cried nearly every time I read it because I find that so devastating. The idea of any parent putting themselves in the place where you have to turn and say to your kid, "You know, your mum might not be around for much longer," is, to me, a devastating thing. . . . Whatever [my character] does throughout that movie, I forgive him everything because you have to remember they're grieving all over the place. They're trying to cope with a huge loss.

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