Owen's latest movie is one of the few his children will be able to watch. The Boys Are Back is the story of a sportswriter who, when his wife dies of cancer, struggles to raise his sons—an endeavor that at times results in conflict. "When we were casting it, everything pointed to Clive," says Greg Brenman, one of the film's producers. "It needed a character at the heart of it who was sensitive and volatile at the same time, and solid and unpredictable at the same time."
Part of this role came naturally to Owen. "I knew those scenes very well," he says as he finishes his coffee. He's talking about his own family drama, which involved his relationship with his dad, who sought him out when he was 20, after a 17-year absence. "It was a very bizarre experience, looking at someone you've never known and going, 'Oh my God, that's my father.'"
The kid in the film displays a lot of anger—was that something he experienced?
"When it comes to that personal stuff, I don't think it's something to be put out there and be expressed in public," Owen says.
At the end of the afternoon, he walks back up the hill to his home and his family, and to a pile of new scripts. He has some passions in his life—listening to Bowie, driving his sports cars—but his greatest love (apart from family) is classic movies. He collects old movie posters and helps support an old picture palace near his family's retreat on the eastern coast of England. As his film choices suggest, Owen knows a good script when he sees one. But for the first time in years, there is nothing definite in the pipeline. A lot of what he's reading is "not very good," he says. "And these are films that are funded and ready to go—expensive movies. You're amazed that people are funding them. I start to think it's me—that I'm being too choosy."
Remembering our earlier walk in the cemetery, I ask if that might be the epitaph he'd like for himself. He dodges the question but comes up with something better: the way he'd like to be regarded while he's still alive.
"I got in a cab in Glasgow years ago," he says. "And this quite surly cabdriver says to me, 'You're that actor, aren't you? You get paid to lie, don't you? That's what actors are, aren't they? Professional bullshitters.' It had quite an effect on me. I fucking get paid to lie. . . . I walked out of there and I spent a bit of time thinking about it. And then I realized I think it's the opposite: It's an opportunity to tell the truth. I try to do that in everything I do. And whether you like a movie I'm in or not, I want you to believe me. More than admire me or think I was brilliantly skillful, I want you to believe me."