ORLANDO, Fla. - Clive Owen has faced off with Matt Damon, swapped romantic barbs with Julia Roberts and brawled with Jason Statham. But he'd never dealt with the supernatural on screen. Not before "Intruders."
"You try to put yourself in the position of a person who is seeing something that shouldn't be there, that can't be there," he says. "You imagine what you're seeing and if you do that truthfully, it comes across. You have to inhabit the horror your character is experiencing."
"Intruders," which opens Friday, has Owen playing John Farrow, a high-rise steel worker whose daughter is menaced by a monster she seems to be creating in a story she's writing. Farrow must battle to save her from "Hollow Face," a hooded, faceless horror who is hunting for faces to steal in both Spain and England.
"A man in a hoodie, climbing into a dark house," director Juan Carlos Fresnadillo ("28 Weeks Later") says. "What could be scarier than that? We visualize the mystery of the movie with that character. He is a monster looking for his identity. I really love the idea of a monster doing a very human thing."
Which is why Owen was attracted to the film. At 47, he may have chalked off most every movie genre a modern movie leading man can manage - romances, comedies, thrillers, playing assassins, knights, lovers and single dads. "But I didn't have a burning desire to dive into this genre. I never thought of it as a horror film. I always say it as a much stranger psychological thriller, full of interesting ideas."
Fresnadillo, 44, says he was interested in "going back to childhood, finding the origins of childhood fears. You're young and you're alone in your bedroom, it's dark and you're creating, with your imagination, monsters that you can't quite see. We wanted to take a different direction, to do a psychological investigation about how parents pass fears on to the next generation.
"When you're 7 to 10, 11 years old, you're creating many aspects of your personality. You're absorbing everything that will make up your character, including the dark things that will help form you. It's a crucial time, and I wanted to show how dark secrets in a family can create nightmares, make a child fearful, maybe for life."
"Intruders" gave Owen, the father of two daughters, another chance to play a parent on screen, and he's been praised for bringing "soft-hearted gravitas" (Empire Magazine) and "warm authority" to a character "with his own demons" (The Hollywood Reporter)."
And if the star of "Croupier," "Children of Men" and period pieces such as "Gosford Park" and "Elizabeth: The Golden Age" gets to check off "horror" from his life list of movie genres taken on, that's a bonus.
"Doing a film like this is a lot more intense, with a lot more hard work than you anticipate," Owen says. "Getting yourself into that place, reacting to something incredible, is a lot harder than delivering a page or two of dialogue. You have to keep the tension level high to keep the movie disturbing and intense. It's exhausting!"