It was as TV's Chancer that Clive Owen made his mark with British audiences, but the Americans have only just discovered him in recent big-budget epic King Arthur and as a lover spurned in Mike Nichols' Closer. That performance earned him an Oscar nomination, but his follow-up role couldn't be more different. In the neo-noir Sin City, he plays a man caught between warring cops and hookers.
How familiar were you with Frank Miller's graphic novels?
I wasn't aware of them at all actually. Robert [Rodriguez] called me up and said he was going to do this thing called Sin City. He sent me a bunch of Frank's graphic novels and this five-minute test he'd shot, basically to show Frank basically how faithful he was going to be to that original source material. He told me he was currently shooting with Bruce Willis and that he was lining up Mickey Rourke and Benicio Del Toro was going to be in it and Quentin Tarantino was going to pop in for a couple of days. So, I thought about it for about half a second and then jumped at it, of course!
But working against green screen all the time and sometimes without other actors in the scene, didn't that require an unusual leap of faith?
It's weird for a day. You're so used to using your location, your environment. You turn up on a set and that's a very big part of the scene you're shooting and you become a part of it and suddenly you're against this green screen and you've got nothing. You're in a void of nothing. It's strange for about a day or two, but the good thing about it is that all that's going on at that time is the actor's performance. All Robert and Frank are concentrating on is what we're doing.
How do you feel about the end result?
The astonishing thing when you do a film like this is that you do your thing for however long and Robert is telling you this is going to be here and it's going to look like this, and then three days before the American premiere I go to see the movie and I'm completely blown away. It's like I had no idea I was in that movie! The stuff that happened after we did what we did is, to me, nothing but completely baffling. It's groundbreaking actually.
It's been a great year for you what with scoring an Oscar nomination and all. Are you worried about how you might top this?
No, I don't think it's about trying to top anything really. It will be wonderful if this thing sustains, but for me, it's always been about trying to work with the most creative and interesting people and I've been given some fantastic opportunities. If it continues like this I'll be nothing but grateful and thrilled. Listen, getting a phone call from Robert Rodriguez saying, "Come over and join in on Sin City", is the sort of thing I'm talking about. I'm welcoming those opportunities, but for me, it's ultimately about the work and working with the best people around.
You've been asked about it a thousand times, but if you were offered the role of James Bond would you take it?
It's only ever been a rumour. There's been no kind of substantiation to that rumour whatsoever.
But if you were offered the role would you take it?
All I'm going to say is that I'm pretty booked out for the rest of the year.
Sin City is released in UK cinemas on Thursday 3rd June 2005.