Clive Owen Plays MI5 Agent in 'Shadow Dancer'

British actor Clive Owen admits he was exhausted after playing literary lion Ernest Hemingway in the HBO movie "Hemingway & Gellhorn."

However, he said he put off a much-needed break after it was done because the Northern Ireland-set thriller "Shadow Dancer" was simply too good a project to pass up.

"I didn't do that much research [for 'Shadow Dancer'] because I was finishing the Hemingway project I did and I was very tired," the 48-year-old actor told United Press International in New York recently.

"I wasn't really going to work and then I was sent the script and because James Marsh's name came with it and I loved 'Man on Wire,' I was very intrigued to see what he was doing," the actor explained. "And I just fell in love with the script. I thought it was really tight and taut and was one of those rare scripts that was sort of ready to go. There was nothing, I felt, that really needed to be talked about that much.

"The premise worked very well. It was very strong and very economical. The dialogue that was used was spare, but really concise and it meant going straight on to it.

"So, I just called [Marsh] and he spoke really intelligently about it and I just said, 'OK, I'll do it.' And I went straight from [the 'Hemingway'] set to his set. And, to be honest with you, because the script was in such good shape, I didn't feel it was wildly necessary to go off and do tons of research."

Journalist Tom Bradby wrote the script based on his novel. The film focuses on Collette McVeigh, a single mother arrested in 1993 for her role in an aborted Irish Republican Army bomb plot in London.

Andrea Riseborough plays Collette, while Owen plays the MI5 agent who persuades her to become an informant for the British government and betray her hardliner IRA brothers, so she can stay out of prison and continue to raise her young son in her hometown of Belfast.

The star of "Gosford Park," "Sin City," "Inside Man" and "Children of Men" said he remembers first-hand the fall-out from the longstanding conflict between England and the Republic of Ireland regarding the British control of Northern Ireland.

"If you grew up in the United Kingdom, the whole threat of the IRA was ever-present, really. It was just part of everyone's lives. It was always on the news. It was always in the air. There was always the danger of it. I also visited Belfast in the late 1980s, touring a play and I got to spend a week there and saw it was like a war zone. Soldiers on the street. Helicopters at night. So, I had very strong memories of it," Owen recalled.

Co-starring Aidan Gillen, Domhall Gleeson, Brid Breenan, David Wilmot and Gillian Anderson, "Shadow Dancer" is in theaters now.

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