The star of ''The International'' on action movies, method acting, reuniting with Julia Roberts, and more

By Chris Nashawaty
February 13, 2009 at 05:00 AM EST

Clive Owen doesn’t consider himself an action star … even if he does blow someone away in half his movies. His latest, The International, is no exception. We sat down with the brooding 44-year-old Brit to discuss the pros and cons of Method acting, why you won’t see him in tights, and the importance of a good night’s sleep.

The International plays like a 1970s conspiracy thriller, such as The Parallax View or Three Days of the Condor.
That was our goal. We watched those, The Conversation, The French Connection. When I did Inside Man, Spike Lee did this cool thing where he screened about half a dozen movies. It was a little film festival to get you inspired. [Director] Tom Tykwer loved that idea, so we did it on this.

You’ve done your share of action movies …
People say that, but apart from Shoot ‘Em Up, which was crazy comedy action, I don’t feel I’ve done a lot. I’ve done action within movies like Children of Men. Action scenes are not that different from other scenes. You put people in a position of what it would feel like to be there even if that means you’re s—-ing your pants.

In The International, you play an Interpol agent investigating a crooked bank. Did you spend any time at Interpol?
No. I was invited, but I couldn’t go. I don’t feel the need to immerse myself with a cop for months beforehand. I’m more instinctive.

So you’re not a Method actor?
No. I’m not one of those guys who makes you call me by my character’s name all day long. At the end of the day, it’s the result that counts. You hear all sorts of stories about Daniel Day-Lewis. But he’s an absolutely phenomenal actor. That guy can do any process he likes as far as I’m concerned. Because he delivers.

In the film, you look like you haven’t slept in weeks. I’m guessing you didn’t stay up all night before your scenes?
You can look that way with a good night’s sleep.

You tend to play serious characters. Does your wife ever say ”Lighten up a little”?
Obviously, I’m attracted to heavier movies. They tend to have characters that are in conflict, they’re grappling with something.

Your next film, this March’s Duplicity, is lighter. So much of it is about the chemistry between you and Julia Roberts. How important was it that you’d worked together before in Closer?
Crucial. Because so much is already a given: You haven’t got to check each other out, the trust is already there. I personally think she raises my game because she has skills in areas I can only stand back and admire. She makes it look so easy — and that, to me, is the biggest skill an actor can have.

Americans didn’t know about you until 2000’s Croupier. Was it good that you were in your 30s when you became a star?
I think so. I was in a hit TV show in England when I was young. So when it came in America, I felt like I’d already been through the process. I feel for those 19-year-olds who get thrust into the limelight that young.

Have you been offered a superhero movie?
I’ve had the odd one put in front of me and … it’s not something I’m after.