Fam­ily first

The Knick’s Clive Owen is ready to ful­fil a prom­ise to his wife

Herald Sun - Switched On - - FRONT PAGE - THE KNICK, SHOW­CASE, WED­NES­DAY, 8.30PM

As soon as Clive Owen wraps up shoot­ing on a sea­son of The Knick (in which he plays John Thack­ery, a bril­liant, yet dru­gad­dicted, sur­geon), the 50-yearold Bri­tish ac­tor goes through a very par­tic­u­lar rit­ual.

“As soon as they’ve called cut on the fi­nal day, I go home and into the bath­room and shave the bloody mous­tache off,” smiles Owen, who says he re­moves the of­fend­ing whiskers as a prom­ise to his wife of 20 years, Sarah-Jane Fen­ton. “My wife can’t wait to see the back of the mous­tache — she hates it.”

Owen, who’s more known for his stel­lar film re­sume, was lured to the bril­liant HBO drama — which is set in a New York hospi­tal at the turn of the 20th cen­tury — be­cause he felt he couldn’t turn the role down (he also wanted to work with ac­claimed di­rec­tor Steven Soder­bergh who came out of “retirement” to di­rect the se­ries).

“I loved the chal­lenge of it, be­cause it’s a high­wire walk,” Owen says.

“You know, the guy is a dif­fi­cult char­ac­ter, he’s provoca­tive, and you never know where you’re at with him. There are times where you kind of un­der­stand what he does and then you’re ap­palled by some of the things he does.”

In­deed, Owen’s Thack­ery, a co­caine-fu­elled ge­nius, is based on the leg­endary doc­tor Wil­liam Hal­sted who, ac­cord­ing to Owen, “con­sumed vast amounts of drugs while be­ing bril­liant”.

“He’s very smart, in­tel­lec­tu­ally,” says Owen, “but he’s not so great when it comes to per­sonal re­la­tion­ships, plus he’s whacked out of his mind all of the time.”

Owen’s Knick co-star Eve Hew­son (who, as Nurse Lucy Elkins, has more than a few in­ti­mate scenes with him) says the ac­tor’s charms are im­me­di­ately ap­par­ent.

“Well, he’s very hand­some. You just kind of go, ‘Aah’ when you see him,’” says the Ir­ish ac­tor, who is the daugh­ter of U2’s Bono. (For the record, Owen jokes that he was “a bit wor­ried” about get­ting a call from Hew­son’s fa­mous dad given some of the pair’s more risque scenes.)

“But once you get over his hand­some­ness, you re­alise just how good he is at his job. He’s so per­fect for the role, and he has so much more work to do than any­body else. Plus, he’s English and he knows how to have a laugh and that’s great, too.”

Owen has made a ca­reer out of play­ing flawed men.

“So much more in­ter­est­ing than play­ing some straight­for­ward, heroic, de­cent man.”

As such, he says, there are few films on his re­sume he will let his daugh­ters, Hannah, 18, and Eve, 16, watch.

“My ca­reer is lit­tered with stuff that isn’t ap­pro­pri­ate for young peo­ple and there is stuff in The Knick you just do not want your daugh­ters to see,” he laughs.

“But they’re now reach­ing an age where it doesn’t mat­ter what I say. My el­dest is now 18, and she tells me she hasn’t seen Closer, but I’ve got a feel­ing that might not be quite true.”

Th­ese days, Owen says fam­ily takes prece­dence over any role, which wasn’t al­ways the case.

“I did a lit­tle run of film, film, film, and I be­gan to re­alise this wasn’t good for any of us,” he ex­plains. “And so I changed the rhythm and said no, and it was very em­pow­er­ing, be­cause some­times say­ing no is a re­ally good thing. I’ve never felt I was miss­ing out.”

Over the past year, he’s spent more time in New York (he still prefers to live in Lon­don, be­cause he gets to “see more foot­ball”) due to com­mit­ments on The Knick and a re­turn to Broad­way af­ter a 14-year ab­sence from the stage. An ex­pe­ri­ence, he says, which has thor­oughly freaked him out.

“I was scared out of my mind,” he grins, paus­ing. “But, then again, it’s a good place to be — scary and ex­cited.”

“My wife can’t wait to see the back of the mous­tache — she hates it” CLIVE OWEN ON HIS PROM­ISE

Clive Owen as Dr John Thack­ery, who he de­scribes as a dif­fi­cult char­ac­ter.

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