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Clive Owen, 2019

Clive Owen: ‘I’m a sucker for punishment’

The ‘Children of Men’ and ‘Closer’ star on returning to the London stage after 18 years with Tennessee Williams’s ‘The Night of the Iguana’

By Andrzej Lukowski

You’ve been away from London theatre for a really long time, haven’t you?

‘It did get to the point where I thought: If I don’t return soon, I’ll probably never do it again. It really felt like that. I was sent “The Night of the Iguana” and I thought it was the most brilliant piece of writing. To be honest, after reading it I was confused. I asked everyone: “Why isn’t this performed more?” Because it’s up there with his great work.’

What’s your take on your character, Reverend Shannon?

‘He’s grappling with his faith, he’s a tortured soul, he’s a very flawed, fallible human being. What is contemporary about the play in that sense is that it’s about people desperate to connect, the longing to be understood. It’s a very human play in that respect.’

Have you seen the Richard Burton film version?

‘I saw it a long time ago. I had the weirdest thing of having been asked to introduce it the other day at the BFI when I hadn’t seen it really. I had a little peek to see the energy of what Burton was doing, but I didn’t want to stay and watch it – because I came to it so fresh, I wanted to keep that.’

What do you recall about performing in ‘Closer’, probably your most famous stage role?

‘I remember the impact it had when I read it. It felt hugely exciting. And I remember the impact it had on audiences. People walked out during that play. People were offended: the violence of the language, the impact of that language.’

And of your films, maybe 2006’s ‘Children of Men’ feels like the one that really stands up…

‘It was a brilliant choice of Alfonso’s [Cuarón, the film’s director] really. He was talking about everything that’s going on now. I think it was the New York Times or somewhere that ran an article on the film last year saying: “Why is ‘Children of Men’ the most relevant film of today?” It’s special in that way. It was basically considered sci-fi and it doesn’t feel like that now.’

Do you think we’ll see you on stage again any time soon?

‘I think it’ll be a long break planned after this, to be picked back off the floor. But I’ve been woken up. I’m already talking about doing another play. That passion has been reawakened and I’m a sucker for punishment.’

‘The Night of the Iguana’ is at the Noël Coward Theatre. Until Sep 28. 

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