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Clive Owen has more than one way to play spy

Clive Owen, who hasn’t been seen on the big screen since his supporting turn as Sir Walter Raleigh in 2007’s “Elizabeth: The Golden Age,” comes back strong with two lead roles -- both in spy thrillers, though with very distinct tones -- early this year.

First is “The International,” opening Feb. 13. Directed by Tom Tykwer (“Run Lola Run”) and set in various European locales, the film casts the British actor as a relentless Interpol agent who teams with a savvy Manhattan district attorney (Naomi Watts) to bring down a powerful world bank involved in illegal arms trading.

Written and directed by Tony Gilroy (“Michael Clayton), “Duplicity” arrives in theaters next -- on March 20 -- and finds Owen with Julia Roberts playing corporate spies with a romantic past involved in a race to corner the market on a medical discovery.

Owen recently spoke about his two projects in an e-mail interview.

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Tom Tykwer is so adept at big action sequences. What was that like as an actor?

I’m a big fan of Tom’s work. He’s up there as one of the very best directors I have worked with. He seems to have a grasp of all aspects of filmmaking; I trust him implicitly.

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Though it has a very contemporary story line, “The International” has that feel of those great spy thrillers of the 1960s that are set throughout Europe.

The locations play a very big part in the experience of this movie. My character literally travels the world in pursuit of bringing down one of the world’s biggest banks, and each location is hugely atmospheric.

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The lengthy shoot sequence set at the Guggenheim Museum in New York is absolutely dazzling but must have been extremely arduous to shoot.

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It took a long time and a lot of preparation. It’s a very good example of how talented Tom is as a director. It’s an ever-developing, exquisitely realized action sequence in an iconic New York museum. I think this sequence will be talked about for many years.

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You and Armin Mueller-Stahl, who plays a member of the powerful bank, have some crackling scenes together, especially the intense interrogation sequence. Did you rehearse?

Rehearsals were more about understanding the scenes than playing them. You have to be careful rehearsing for movies -- if you over-rehearse you can kill a scene by getting overly familiar with it.

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How is “Duplicity” different in style and tone than “The International”?

“Duplicity” is a very different kind of movie. It’s a very sexy, savvy, banter movie with fantastic dialogue -- some of the best I’ve been given on film. I thought “Michael Clayton” was an astonishing debut for Tony -- so smart and assured. And “Duplicity” is one of the best scripts I’ve read in a very long time. The two films have a couple of things in common -- great scripts and brilliant directors.

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susan.king@latimes.com


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