- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 10, 2005

The closest British actor Clive Owen came to a media circus was when his name got bandied about as the next James Bond. Never mind that he never publicly professed interest in the gig.

Now Mr. Owen is starring alongside Jennifer Aniston, a media circus unto herself, in the psychological thriller “Derailed.”

The ruggedly handsome actor isn’t a household name yet, let alone someone the paparazzi would stalk with abandon. Thanks to “Derailed,” though, he has seen one up close and personal.

“There’s no question she’s been under the most extraordinary spotlight,” says Mr. Owen, who describes the “Friends” star as both down-to-earth and “unfussy.” “One of the positive things to see is how amazingly she’s dealt with it and how grounded she’s been.”

The duo mesh as needed in “Derailed,” the first film from the newly formed Weinstein Co. The story follows Charles (Mr. Owen), a family man who starts an adulterous romance with a married woman (Miss Aniston) only to fall prey to a blackmailer.

The film’s stars find an easy, flirtatious rapport in the opening sequences, something made easier by compatible goals.

“We had similar ideas of how the relationship should go,” Mr. Owen says of his working relationship with Miss Aniston.

The actor, who earned his first Oscar nomination last year for his blistering turn in Mike Nichols’ “Closer,” says “Derailed” reminded him of “those old Hitchcock films.”

Mr. Owen may remind moviegoers of a budding film star.

He can thank a tiny 1998 film called “Croupier” for that, even though the feature initially couldn’t find distribution in England.

“It’s the ones you least expect,” he says of a film that introduced him to American audiences.

His portrayal of a casino employee who deals himself a number of high-risk complications helped him land a part in 2001’s “Gosford Park,” a career spike that led to the stage production of “Closer.”

The classically trained actor took it from there, landing lead roles in both “King Arthur” and “Beyond Borders.”

Neither film lit a fire at the box office, but both helped Mr. Owen increase his exposure.

“It’s impossible to sustain a career based solely here [in England],” he says. “We don’t make enough films here.”

Now that he has made the trans-Atlantic transition, he’s aligning himself with some potent directors. He teamed with Robert Rodriguez for the modest hit “Sin City,” and future projects include a feature for Spike Lee called “Inside Man.”

“I’m one of those actors who believe it’s a director’s medium,” he says. “Ultimately, they’re the ones who put it together. The whole collaboration to me is the real joy.”

Should future collaborations confirm Mr. Owen’s rise as a bankable star, he doubts he’ll endure the media frenzy his “Derailed” co-star is experiencing.

“I think not many people will have to go through what she is going through,” he says.

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