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How do you protect your child from something that can’t be
physically harmed? That’s the situation faced by John Farrow (Clive Owen) when
a supernatural being called “Hollowface” threatens his young daughter Mia (Ella
Purnell) in INTRUDERS, the new chiller from 28 WEEKS LATER and INTACTO director
Juan Carlos Fresnadillo that opens this Friday from Millennium Entertainment.
Fango spoke to Owen about the terrors the movie explores, both on screen and
FANGORIA: INTRUDERS is the second genre film you’ve done
with a director from the Spanish-language realm, after CHILDREN OF MEN with
Alfonso Cuarón. Are you drawn to working with filmmakers from other countries?
CLIVE OWEN: Just good filmmakers [laughs]. They could be
from anywhere. Alfonso Cuarón is a really special, visionary director, and I
was a huge fan of Juan Carlos’ two movies. I came across 28 WEEKS LATER and
really loved it; I thought it was a great, visceral take on that kind of movie.
That was a huge influence on me in wanting to do INTRUDERS.
FANG: Are you a father yourself, and if so, how did that
play into your role in INTRUDERS?
OWEN: I don’t think it’s any accident that over the last
couple of years, I’ve done three films playing a parent. I did TRUST, THE BOYS
ARE BACK and now this, where parenting figures highly, and that’s because it’s
something I know about now. I’ve got the experience with it. And also, I enjoy
working with younger actors. It’s quite refreshing, because they’re so instinctive
and reactive. It’s less a sort of honed craft thing with them; it’s much more
raw and real, and demands that you act in a similar way. [Purnell] was great—I
mean, way mature beyond her years. She’s a fine actress, and she’s the anchor
for the suspense and tension and anxiety of the film. It’s her fear of what’s
around that sets the tone, and she did a great job.
FANG: Like TRUST, INTRUDERS has you in the position of
trying to protect your onscreen daughter, with a sense of helplessness and not
being able to save her.
OWEN: Yeah, big time. I did TRUST because I found it
discussed something very important [the dangers of Internet predators]; it’s a
real tragedy, what happens in that film. And I feel it deeply because I’ve got
girls myself. People have asked a lot regarding this film, “What’s your fear?
What are you scared of?” And I would have to say it’s the welfare and
well-being of my kids. It’s the biggest fear. You want them to be OK.
FANG: What was it about this particular script that
OWEN: It was the exploration of the central theme of parents
passing on fears to their children, which is a very real thing. We go to a
strange, spooky place, but the reality is, kids absorb everything from their
parents. And if there’s something deep down that worries us or makes us uneasy
or frightens us, our children will pick up on it.
FANG: Did you have any fears as a child yourself that you
find still trouble you?
OWEN: No, not specifically, but one thing this script and
this movie reminded me of was the intensity of a bad dream when you’re young.
I’ve seen it also in my kids. You process them much better when you’re older,
and come out of them quicker. But when my young girl, who’s 10, has a really
horrible nightmare, it stays with her for some time. She needs to be eased and
helped out of it. It’s very overwhelming experience at that age, and this film
FANG: You worked a lot with visual FX in INTRUDERS—not only
with the phantom, but in your scenes working atop a construction site. What was
that experience like?
OWEN: Working with greenscreen now is becoming pretty
commonplace for a lot of things. I just did a project with Philip Kaufman about
Ernest Hemingway [the HBO movie HEMINGWAY & GELLHORN], and he used this
incredible technique of placing us in all this original documentary footage. So
we end up in scenes from the Spanish Civil War, China and all over the world.
[Dealing with digital FX] wasn’t that challenging on INTRUDERS, because the
scenes where I’m fighting the bogeyman, it was real. We had a stunt guy who
came in, and we threw each other around the room, and then the CG stuff was
brought in afterward.
FANG: INTRUDERS is in the new tradition of Spanish horror
that Guillermo del Toro and some of the filmmakers he’s sponsored have been
practicing. Are you a fan of those films in general?
OWEN: Yeah, I was a huge fan of PAN’S LABRYNTH. I thought it
was just a stunning movie. And also, I had a wonderful time in Madrid shooting
the majority of this film. It’s a great city—great people, great food, great
wine… It was a really creative set, but then they also know what’s important.
When they finish work, they eat well, they go home to their families. All
anybody wanted to talk about was, what did you eat, where did you eat, what
wine did you have with it? They’ve got it down. They know how to live.
FANG: INTRUDERS has an interesting structure, with the
parallel stories—yours set in London, and that of a Spanish mother and son also
facing a haunting—that come together at the end. Without giving too much away,
did that affect your performance, working toward that endpoint?
OWEN: For sure. We did all the London scenes first, and it
would have been great if I’d been able to see some of the other stuff
beforehand. I obviously knew it from the script, but I hadn’t seen how Juan
Carlos had visualized it, which would have been helpful.
FANG: Going back to CHILDREN OF MEN—given the long takes
with which the action sequences were shot, was that the most physically
difficult role you’ve had?
OWEN: No, I’ve had a bunch more physically demanding parts,
but it was very technically demanding. Some of those long shots toward the end
were half-day or whole-day resets if we messed up. They were very ambitious,
and if we had to go again, it was very costly and time-consuming. I loved
working with the camera operator, because it was like a very sophisticated
dance. I was stumbling through it and had to look as real as possible; I had to
see something over this shoulder, something over that… They were very well-constructed
sequences that were then made to look as rough and as grabbed-at as possible.
It required a real choreography with the cameraman, who was brilliant, and the
operator. I find that stuff exciting, that kind of challenge, so I found those
sequences truly thrilling. When we started one of those, it was like, “OK,
we’re going to blow up that side of the building and so on, and if you mess up,
we come back tomorrow because we won’t get another one today.”
FANG: Any memorable moments when something did go wrong?
OWEN: Nothing specifically like that, but I do remember
something that happened during the big long shot where they go on the bus and
the people are shot and the building blows up. I think it was about the third
take we’d done, and George [Richmond, camera operator] and I both just knew
that that was the one; we were like, “Wow, that really came together.” But then
Alfonso came tearing around the corner going, “No! No!” What had happened was,
if you remember it from the film, there was blood splattered on the lens. And
it was his DP, Emmanuel Lubezki, who ran up and said, “But Cuarón, it’s
fantastic!” So Alfonso looked at it and went, “You know what—it is fantastic!
Leave it, it’s fine.” And they kept it in.
FANG: What else do you have coming up besides HEMINGWAY?
OWEN: A film called SHADOW DANCER by James Marsh, the guy
who did MAN ON WIRE and PROJECT NIM and RED RIDING. He’s done a great job with
this one. It was a really good script, and it went to Sundance and we got some
fantastic reviews there. It’s set during the end of the peace talks in Northern
Ireland, and a girl messes up putting a bomb on a train. I come in as the MI5
guy and tell her she’ll never see her kid again, she’ll be in prison for 25
years, unless she goes back out and starts working for us. She’s given no
choice, really, so she goes back home to her IRA family, and that’s the
beginning of the movie. It’s a great premise.
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