London calling. Cool guy on the phone. Clive Owen’s voice is unmistakable, even from 5,000 miles away. The deep, sexy voice with the thick English accent — a voice, we might add, that many industry insiders believed would utter the words ‘‘Bond, James Bond’’ in the next 007 adventure before Daniel Craig was selected — is calling to promote his new movie ‘‘Derailed,’’ which opens today.
The 41-year-old actor, who was nominated for an Oscar for the 2004 Mike Nichols film ‘‘Closer,’’ stars as a married advertising executive who meets an intriguing stranger (Jennifer Aniston) on his morning commuter train. She also is married, but the pair strike up an instant friendship, which leads to a romantic entanglement.
What follows makes ‘‘Fatal Attraction’’ look like a stroll in the park on a sunny day. The cheating husband’s life is sent spiraling through a nightmarish and violent series of twists and turns from which there appears to be no escape.
We should point out that the ruggedly handsome actor is happily married to actress Sarah-Jane Fenton (they fell in love while she was playing Juliet to his Romeo in a 1988 production at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), and they have two children.
Owen, whose film career in the United States began in 1999 with ‘‘Croupier’’ and continued with ‘‘King Arthur’’ and ‘‘Sin City,’’ talks about the challenges of his new movie, what he thought of all the Bond rumors and why he knew at the age of 10 that he wanted to be an actor for the rest of his life.
Q: What are you trying to say to us married guys?
A: Think twice (laughing).
Q: Is the movie a thriller or a morality play?
A: I don’t think it’s a morality play, although there is an element of that. The stuff that is inflicted upon him is so extreme that there is no way anyone could feel he deserves that. In fact, before we started shooting, we were worried that people would condemn him because he was having this affair, and that they would feel that everything that was happening to him was brought on by himself. We wanted to show them that he is a victim. He made a mistake, but he couldn’t possibly have deserved all that.
Q: How do you get an audience to empathize with a character who has already ticked off every woman in the theater?
A: We show that his marriage is not in the healthiest of places when he messes up. He makes a mistake and pays dearly for it.
Q: What appealed to you in the script?
A: I was very struck by how much it reminded me of those old Hitchcock films where a guy gets thrown into a nightmare world and nothing is quite what it seems.
Q: Did you want the James Bond role?
A: There was a lot of speculation floating around about that, but there was never any official offer, so there was nothing to turn down.
Q: But did you want it?
A: No. And I took myself out of the game by accepting a series of roles that would keep me busy until September of next year.
Q: Did you take those roles just so you couldn’t be offered the Bond role?
A: No, I took them because they were good movies.
Q: For someone with classical training and a strong background in the theater, you seem to like movies a lot.
A: I love making films; it’s always been my first love. There is a bit of snobbery in England that theater is where it’s at, and that you’re not a real actor unless you prove it on the stage. I’ve never been one to believe that. I believe that skillful film acting is just as challenging as stage acting. I love the magical collaboration of film in that everything has to come together perfectly in order for it to work. I’m very comfortable with that.
Q: Is it just the stuff of Hollywood legend, or is it is true that you played the Artful Dodger in a school production of ‘‘Oliver’’ when you were 10, and knew instantly that you wanted to be a professional actor?
A: Yes, it is true.
Q: What happened during that performance that changed your life?
A: There is no real way to describe what happened, but from that moment on, I knew. I was determined. Even on career days in school, the counselors would tell me to ‘‘get real,’’ but I never wavered. I kept saying, ‘‘This is what I want to do. I don’t know why and I don’t know how, but I am going to be an actor.’’