She catches his eye. He follows her. She stops. He confronts her, "Remember me?!" She smiles ... rebuffs him -- then soon laughs. And so begins the sly cat-and-mouse game entangling Julia Roberts with her suave Duplicity co-star Clive Owen, as both play a sexy game of espionage, former agents gone rogue for their own gain. However, gaming with precision, chemistry and fierceness is not something most actors can pull off; but don't include Julia in that pack. She'll laugh at you. Then stare you down. Then it's all done. Just ask Clive.
Sizzling Julia gives us the scoop on Southern beats, pushy paps and doing it twice with her ex-Closer co-star ...
Your white hot chemistry with Clive -- some backstory?
"I think it's just our friendship; we’re really fortunate that we came into this movie with years already; as opposed to coming in with some stranger ... It definitely lends itself to more of a creative ease."
Roberts 'n' Owen in Closer vs. Owen 'n' Roberts in Duplicity.
"Well, Closer is pretty ferocious [smiles] at times, you know. But the great thing about that is that we came from a piece led by the master, Mike Nichols; and he really forced us to get in there and play those scenes -- no matter how raw or ugly. And I think that within that kind of acting, you either become good friends and really have a trust for each other … [awkwardly smiles] or you never talk to each other again ...
Yup, the downside of mistrust.
" ...You know, you kind of always feel uncomfortable around that person. And fortunately we were the former. And so I think that that idea of trust and safety with a person could just be more fun and playful, which a lot of these scenes called for -- just that little bit of, you know, sparkle … of subtext."
Inspired banter with Clive -- a lesson in art and speed.
"I just love that kind of stuff though, you know; those are the kind of movies I grew up on: that sort of Katharine Hepburn, that Spencer Tracy, His Girl Friday -- that [snapping] ‘rat-a-tat-tat’ ... It just had that cadence and that rhythm ... it comes really natural to Tony's [Gilroy's, the director's] style of writing this ... You almost can’t do anything else with the language, but speak it that way."
Speed-chatting comes natural to you.
"It does -- well, I’m Southern. [Knowingly grins] So I can talk real-l-l-l-l-l-l-y fast!"
Your character Claire: not likable, yet still magnetic.
"As the movie unravels -- her armor falls away. Her drive shifts a little bit; unexpectedly, for her … The great thing about her is, like her or not -- or whatever her motivation is -- she’s perfectly happy with who she is and what she’s doing; how she’s accomplishing it. She’s kind of ruthless that way."
"... As this relationship unfolds with [Clive's] Ray, for better or worse, it really does change her focus ... I just LOVE that scene in the airport -- it’s masterful. Tony is such a really smart guy ... I mean, how do you convince the best liar you know that you’re not ... lying?! [Laughs] It’s kind of really a super idea."
Duplicity -- not an immediate match.
"I had read about half of it when I realized I was not keeping up -- and I was not going to be able to do the movie anyway, because I was gonna have a baby. So I was like, 'OK, I just need to call and say I can’t do the movie anyway.' ... I had seen Michael Clayton ... when I sat down to read it again after my son was born -- it was a little bit easier for me to just pick it up and go with it."
Multiple plot twists. Multiple locations. Must've been hard to keep track.
"Yeah. There had to be that one [internal, "Where am I?"] conversation ... We were [shooting] in SO many hotels to the point where we were like ... [Laughs with hands]: 'OK, where are we?? And have we ever been to this place before? Have we not gone there?' So for me, I had to get up to speed as far as what had come before -- or not."
Both you and Clive's personalities click, because ...
"We have a similar sense of humor."
He said the exact same thing, 10 minutes ago.
"Oh, good. [laughs slyly] And I think our list of priorities of our personal lives are not different. You know, we’re both happily married and with families, and lead a normal, unaffected existence within this odd universe of show business that we’ve both chosen to go into. We’re similar in that way, too, I think."
Advice for your teen actress niece, Emma Roberts (Lymelife), or your kids if they choose acting:
"Well she’s not under my rule [laughs] … I don’t really give Emma any advice about show business. Our conversations tend to be on a more personal level. And my first instinct [for my kids] is that I would prefer for my kids, if they were to be artists, that they wait. That they just wait [pause ... laughs] as long as they can!"
The industry for young women -- easier back then or now?
"Well, it depends on your measure of success. It’s up to the individual, what they think is "succeeding" in this business, now. I like the way business was when I started. So, I’m glad that I had that experience."
Identify what changed.
"Well, media coverage, and the amount that’s heaped on everyday about everything a person does in their day-to-day life. It’s insidious and pointless. So I think that takes away from getting to have that special moment where you go see somebody in a movie. That magic gets diluted."
Secrets in avoiding paps and press.
" I think there’s a good balance in my life. I mean, if I could avoid it all together [shakes head], I hopefully would. But I also love my job ... here’s this movie that I really enjoyed making and I’m happy to talk about -- I just think it would be nice if there were some clearer divisions of what people think is interesting."
But clearly you’re a consumer of media.
"I’m not really a consumer. I used to be and it got kind of so sickening [pauses]. You know, I mean it’s like eating a GIANT cheeseburger: you think you want to eat the whole thing -- and then about half-way in you go, “What the f--k am I doing?” [Wryly smiles] This is gonna make me sick."
As a teen, didn't you want to know everything about your favorite band?
"Well, there’s everything -- and then there’s e-v-e-r-y-thing. I, like anybody, want to see some nice picture of Clive in a magazine. But I don’t need to see a picture of Clive in his boxer shorts taking out his garbage. I think that’s where people think they want SO much coverage -- those private moments, stolen away. But they don’t really, because ... you do end up thinking: 'I really shouldn’t be seeing this. I really shouldn’t be voting on the popularity of who has the cutest baby. [Pensively] Doesn’t that kind of make me a small person?' I think that we just need some relief ... some re-programming."
"America's Sweetheart" also has her own role models in the biz.
"There’s a lot of people; Sean Penn is a person that I admire, who's been a friend for a long time. Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon are great examples of people who have evolved through the Hollywood system as creative people, normal people.
Romantic comedies and you -- still friends?
"I mean they’re not dead to me. I’ve read a couple of really funny romantic comedy scripts in the last year ... I just think at a certain point -- you kind of have to change the game a little bit for it to work. The older you get, the more that you look like you "know" ... You have to kind of change the circumstances to accommodate that. Sometimes, the math doesn’t work for me. But it’s certainly not dead, and I have a laugh reading it."
Maturity, shmaturity. Any Brad Pitt & Clooney-style pranks on this set from Clive?
"[Playfully droll] No. What a relief! [Laughs out loud] ... Don’t have to check the toilet for anything. Or the light bulbs. Or the phone. Just good old-fashioned friendship. [Smiling widely] Yeah."