Clive Owen Talks Working on ‘Closer’ with Mike Nichols: ‘It Is About Keeping Up with Him’

Clive Owen has worked with many of the great filmmakers, from Robert Altman to Spike Lee and most notably Alfonso Cuarón in “Children of Men.” But Owen called his collaboration on “Closer” with filmmaker Mike Nichols “one of the highlights of his career.”

The 2004 romantic drama co-starred Julia Roberts, Jude Law, and Natalie Portman and screened recently at the Karlovy Vary International Film Festival for its 20th anniversary. In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Owen reflected on the process of making the film, as well as taking part in the original London production of the play.

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“There are a handful of scripts that we read where it’s really, really strong the way it impacts you and resonates with you. When I’m kind of reminded of why I do what I do. ‘Closer,’ the play, I remember where I was, where I was sitting, and what I was doing when I read that piece of writing,” said Owen.

He later added, “I played Dan in the original play and seven years later I got a call saying Mike Nichols wants to meet you for lunch, and he offered me Larry at this luncheon. It was like a gift from somewhere.”

Though he’d eventually earn an Academy-Award nomination for his performance in the film adaptation, Owen shared how, despite his previous experience with the material, taking on this new character with Nichols wasn’t an easy endeavor.

“With Mike Nichols, it is about keeping up with him,” he said, laughing. “He has such a brilliant mind. He is one of the most intelligent human beings — never mind directors — I’ve ever got to know. We did a rehearsal period for that film, which was a few months before we started shooting. It was just a couple of weeks in New York where we sat around. We would read a scene in the play and then just discuss the issues that it brought up. We wouldn’t discuss the scene itself. We wouldn’t work the scene. And then he left us just to soak that up for a few months.”

In discussing one scene in which he and Julia Roberts’ character get into an argument following her admitting to an affair, Owen said of Nichols’ direction, “The language is so graphic and brutal. It’s a brutal scene. We were reading it and it was feeling uncomfortable in some ways, and then Mike decided to move around the apartment. Julia goes to move and I follow her, and we go upstairs and we go back down. Mike was a great believer in scenes happening while things are going on. Not just standing there opposite the other actor and saying lines. You are involved in doing something and then the scene begins to play and breathe through that.”

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