updated 01/19/2004 AT 5:20 PM ET
•originally published 12/08/2004 AT 6:00 AM ET
Current gig: The ensemble drama Closer, playing Julia Roberts’s betrayed husband (a supporting role for which he won a Golden Globe)
Angelina Jolie calls him “one of the best kissers” and Keira Knightley says he’s “very sexy,” and now with his role in the romantic drama Closer, critics say Clive Owen, 40, could be on his way to seducing Oscar. “It’s for grown-ups,” he says of the movie, which follows the entangled relationships between the four characters played by himself, Julia Roberts, Natalie Portman and Jude Law. “To be involved in any way was hugely exciting.”
Excitement seems to follow the suave Brit, whose buzz factor has increased with media speculation that he may be the next 007. Before Pierce Brosnan tossed Colin Farrell’s name into the agent pool as his replacement, Owen was playing it cool in the 1998 indie hit Croupier and mysterious in a set of BMW commercial shorts by directors including John Woo – roles that proved he looked good wearing a tux and driving a fast car. But he demurs, saying it’s all rumor and “there’s no point in my wasting time and thinking about it.”
In the meantime, Owen has shared the big screen with major Hollywood players such as Knightley (in this year’s Jerry Bruckheimer-produced King Arthur) and Jolie, with whom he starred in 2003’s Beyond Borders. Not bad for a high school dropout who grew up in working-class Coventry, England. Owen says he “never wanted anything else” besides an acting career since his first role at 12 as the Artful Dodger in a school production of Oliver!. “Everyone thought that (acting) was a very fanciful idea,” he says of his family’s reaction, though his acceptance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art helped convince them.
These days, Owen is busy offscreen with a family of his own, including two daughters, 7 and 5, with wife Sarah-Jane Fenton. The two met on the London stage, when he played Romeo to her Juliet. She’s “very grounding for me,” Owen has said of his wife, who often joins him with their children on location. “Whenever I can, I take them with me.”
What’s next?: Owen joins Bruce Willis, Benecio Del Toro and Rosario Dawson in director Robert Rodriguez’s cartoon-like thriller Sin City, based on stories by Frank Miller, in which he plays an accidental killer.