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Feature: King Arthur

Clive Owen as Arthur

We discovers what made respected actor Clive Owen choose a re-telling of the King Arthur legend as his latest venture…

Sandwiched between the release of two major historical epics – Wolfgang Petersen’s Troy and Oliver Stone’s much-anticipated Alexander – there is one other film that will do battle for the title of this year’s Gladiator. Directed by Training Day’s Antoine Fuqua, King Arthur is also this summer’s annual Jerry Bruckheimer production. Following the success of the Bruckheimer-led Pirates of the Caribbean a year ago, don’t bet your armour against this one being another monster hit.

Reuniting him with his Pirates female lead Keira Knightley – who plays Guinevere – Bruckheimer has yet again exercised his talent for star-spotting, albeit this time banking on a reluctant one. Playing King Arthur is the working class Coventry-born Clive Owen, the one-time lead in TV drama Chancer currently undergoing something of a career-renaissance. Already touted as a possible successor to Pierce Brosnan as the next James Bond, Owen became a minor star after Mike Hodges’ 1998 Film Noir Croupier became a cult hit on the US art-house circuit. Since then, roles in such diverse high-profile projects as The Bourne Identity and Gosford Park – as well as this year’s I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead, which reunited him with Hodges – has brought Owen to the Bruckheimer’s attention, offering him a potential cross-over to the A-List.

When we meet, the stubble-sporting star has been in Pinewood studios, putting the finishing touches in post-production to some of his lines in King Arthur. But the last thing you’ll find is his ego inflated by all the attention that the new movie should bring. “I find it very difficult to get excited,” says Owen, with typical reserve. “What happens will happen. It’s lovely to keep as many options open as possible, and keep the possibilities open. For me, if you want to work with the best people… the best people can only give you the best parts if the Hollywood accountants say so. So it would be lovely to be in a film that made serious money, just in terms of what that could open up. Above and beyond that, all you can do is just go in there and do your thing.”

Bearing in mind the inaccuracies in Bruckheimer’s previous ‘historical document’ – Pearl Harbor – expect some creative licence taken with the Arthurian legend. Owen’s Arthur is “half Roman, half British,” says the star. “It’s set much earlier than when King Arthur is usually set. It’s not medieval. It’s 500AD. The Roman Empire is crumbling, they’re pulling out of Britain. Arthur is a man who feels very Roman, and has a lot of faith in Rome, and that faith is beginning to crumble. He begins to question his identity and where he belongs. Eventually, he becomes a man of his land and a man of his people.”

by James Mottram

Get the full interview in
Film Review (Jul)

Photo © Buena Vista Pictures
Feature © Visual Imagination 2004. Not for reproduction

Taken from
Film Review (Jul), see below for ordering options
Film Review (Jul)
#646, July 2004
ships from Jun 17 2004
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