Ever since I saw Croupier while visiting London with my folks years ago, Clive Owen has been one of my very favorite actors. No one does that British brooding thing quite like he does (see: Gosford Park, Closer, Inside Man), and when he’s bad-ass (i.e. King Arthur, Children of Men, Shoot ‘Em Up), he’s thrilling. But in his latest movie The Boys Are Back (directed by Shine‘s Scott Hicks), Owen sheds that stoic persona to play Joe Warr, a father of two sons who, following the death of his second wife, is faced with raising both of them on his own. He adopts a laissez-faire attitude towards parenting, which makes for some lighthearted scenes (the younger kid cannonballs into the bathtub—splash!), but what hooked me is how beautifully tender Owen is with these kids. Now, I never doubted the guy could do pretty much anything with his terrific talents, but when you’re so accustomed to seeing an actor in certain roles, wow is it ever a kick to see them play against type as fantastically as Owen does in The Boys Are Back. (Here’s the trailer, which IMHO, makes the movie seem far sappier and run-of-the-mill than it actually is.) I sure hope the Academy recognizes Owen for his work here.

Check out my colleague Dave Karger’s recent interview with Owen (after the jump) about unveiling his softer side in The Boys Are Back.

Photo Credit: Matt Nettheim; Jaap Buitendijk

So, tell me: Are you psyched to see the Family Man Clive? What other against-type performances have you loved over the years?