HomeInterviewsMonsieur Spade : Press Conference with Actor/Producer Clive Owen 

Monsieur Spade : Press Conference with Actor/Producer Clive Owen 

@Photo by JEAN-CLAUDE LOTHER/Jean-Claude Lother/AMC – © Black Bear/AMC 2023 All Rights Reserved

Synopsis : Twenty years after the events of the novel “The Maltese Falcon,” Sam Spade has retired in the small town of Bozouls in southern France; it’s 1963, the war has ended, and in a very short time, so, too, will Spade’s tranquility.

Starring: Clive Owen, Cara Bossom, Denis Bossom, Denis Ménochet, Luois Bourgoin, Chiara Mastroianni

TV Network: AMC

Premiere Date: Jan 14, 2024

Genre: Crime

Executive producers: Scott Frank, Tom Fontana, Barry Levinson, Teddy, Schwarzman, Michael Heimler, Clive Owen, Caroline Benjo, Barbara Letellier, Simon Arnal, Carole Scotta, Carlo Martinelli, David Hepern

Clive 6

@Photo by Black Bear/AMC – © Black Bear/AMC 2023 All Rights Reserved

Press Conference with Actor/Producer Clive Owen 

Q : How did the collaboration with Scott Frank on this six-episode series go?

Clive Owen : I’m a huge fan of Scott’s writing. I loved his direction in Queen’s Gambit. He came to me with a project that was like a gift because I love the genre and I love the Maltese Falcon. So it was a very easy quick yes. Scott is a very rigorous writer: he doesn’t really write a sort of first draft and then you pick it apart and build on that. We’ve got scripts, there’d be some notes, there’d be some going through, but he’s a writer that likes to deliver things in really good shape.

Monsieur Spade has a very different tone from The Maltese Falcon, there’s almost like a touch of melancholy in our show. Sure. It’s really difficult to reinvent noir because we feel like we’ve seen it all before, you need an angle to freshen it up, to sort of make it relevant, to make it worthwhile doing it again. It was a very clever move of Scott to locate him 20 years later in a completely different environment, like the south of France, older, trying to live a quiet life, but then pull back into his old ways.

It’s a new take on it, He’s almost fatigued by his inability to stop something. He’s trying to live a quiet life. There’s a great title for a short story that Chandler wrote about Marlowe “Trouble is my business” or something, and Spade is like that, like the trouble is going to find him anyway. These characters stand the test of time, it’s something about their morality, the fact that if Spade comes across something that is just wrong he needs to get involved, he can’t help himself.

Q : How do you comprehend the character’s environment in a period series such as this through the use of specific costumes and set design?

Clive Owen : This was unusual because The Maltese Falcon was the middle of the ’40s in San Francisco, but we were setting it in a totally different environment, we had the original source material and the Dashiel Hammett book. But then we’ve got the twist of setting it in the south of France, a different climate, a different environment. He’s older, trying to live a quiet thing, but ultimately he’s still that same guy.

All of the costumes, all of that you pull it from the original material and go, how would you develop? He’s got to order, he’s living here. What would have changed? And that’s how we approached it really.

Q : And you are an executive producer. How much time have you invested in this?

Clive Owen : Scott came to me very early on, he hadn’t even written it, he just had the idea for it. So I was involved at every stage as it got developed. So it was probably over a year before we started shooting. I am executive producer because I’ve been involved from the beginning and talked to Tom and Scott all the way through. I had my input on the scripts with everything, but that was pretty much the work you put in a real collaboration with a team from the very beginning.

Q : Have you encountered any difficulties in learning how to speak French?

Clive Owen : I studied French at school but I didn’t do very well at it, so I started that process after they asked me to do it. And then I suddenly panicked because I realized I was literally working with a school teacher and everything I was learning was about grammar. But then I realized that I just had to speak it and sound okay. And Scott insisted that I didn’t have to sound that good because you know who he is so I ended up switching sides and I learned it phonetically, I learned it like I learned an accent.

It was difficult when you’re because I’m English, playing an American in a particular period, and you are not surrounded by a language. other actors speak. Usually everyone’s sort of talking in the same accent and you can sort of all support each other. But I was alone and I’m English, shooting in France with mainly French actors doing an American accent. So every morning I had to get myself to Bogart, get in the zone and just put the work in it.

Clive 1@Photo by JEAN-CLAUDE LOTHER/Jean-Claude Lother/AMC – © Black Bear/AMC 2023 All Rights Reserved

Q : What is it about this new version of Spades that has been most exciting to you recently?

Clive Owen : Spade is a moral guy, he has a responsibility for this young girl. He ends up in the south of France because he’s been given a job to deliver a girl to a family over there. So he regularly goes off and drops money and helps them out and that’s where we meet him really. And I love the relationship that he has with two older women, one who is very supportive of him and the other woman who literally just puts a gun to his face. It was a different flavor and a different energy

Q : What was the reasoning behind choosing Cara Bossom for Teresa’s role and how did you work together to develop their specific relationship?

Clive Owen : Scott started casting and sending me the clips, he saw a lot of girls because it’s a really important role for the story. We were absolutely convinced when we met Cara, when I saw her she was really, really fantastic and so much ahead of her age, It’s interesting to watch her, especially how she does pick up some of Spade’s worst traits. In our show Spade is really coming up because now we’re in the 60s. He’s coming up against women who are very strong -minded, strong -willed and not afraid of a man. It is fascinating to experience the fact that he is older, he is different, and he’s trying to live a quieter life.

Q : During your development of the character, did you focus more on the Hammet books or the Humphrey Bogart portrayal of Spade?

Clive Owen : It was a mixture of both, really. Scott very cleverly mixed some of the plot of the Maltese Falcon into this new take. When Spade talks about his past we do talk about things that happen after the Maltese Falcon ending. I’ve always been a fan of the movie so so it really helped me vocally to think about rhythm and intonation and period, so I dug down in Bogart’s performance, not just in the Maltese Falcon but just a lot of his films from that period, because I wanted to bring that kind of atmosphere.

Q : The first episode concludes with a very somber ending, almost like a horror twist on the story.

Clive Owen : The end of the first you know episode is where we realize that Sam’s face is gonna have to get involved. He is going to get his hands dirty. So it’s very rich and it does really get more and more involved and you discover more and more how this is serious. In the second episode we get more on some of the characters, especially about their backstories: some of these people are carrying serious baggage, post -war trauma, dark souls which bring to some interesting twists about who could be Sam’ ally. The beautiful thing about the screenplays in that there are lots and lots of different characters and different atmospheres with every different actor that I play with.

clive 2@Photo by Black Bear/AMC – © Black Bear/AMC 2023 All Rights Reserved

Q : How has the interaction with the other cast members been?

Clive Owen : Scott casted the show so brilliantly. They were all so great. I mean, I have a particularly great relationship with Michaud, the local cop, magnificently played by Denis Ménochet. Our scenes were great because there’s a bite in our relationship, there’s wit  they were always a joy to play. That was a character that at first I was worried about and then in the second episode, we see his standoff with another investigator and I was like, “I love this guy.” – Yeah, no, he’s a fabulous actor, but it was also a great relationship with lots of really great balance between the two of us.

Q : I must inquire about it: the nudity appears to be unexpected, also, he’s so brazen.

Clive Owen : Scott was very clear about this. The first time we spoke, he told me this was gonna be a recurrent theme of the show, that Sam Spade liked to go for a swim in the pool without any clothes.We will go back and discover how he developed this habit because of a previous relationship with somebody So I knew and I had plenty of time to go down the gym He told me he was gonna look after me and he was never gonna make anything too sort of blatant. So it was just a case of getting down the gym and getting in good shape for it.

Q : When you began your career, could you have imagined yourself playing Sam Spade?

Clive Owen : No. I’m just glad to still be around and still be working. When I started off, the ambition was just to make a career of it. I am really happy that II kept working and I’m lucky since I can look back and say, “Well, I’m still hanging in there.”

Q : What is it that draws you to a role or project, whether you’re an actor or producer?

Clive Owen : It’s always the same thing. It starts with the script and then you look at the person who’s gonna direct it and you look at their work and you meet them and see if there’s somebody you wanna get on. It’s very, very simple. It’s really about you wanting to spend the next few months working with this person. So it’s always the same every job.

Clive 4@Photo by JEAN-CLAUDE LOTHER/Jean-Claude Lother/AMC – © Black Bear/AMC 2023 All Rights Reserved

Q : What is your opinion on what makes a good director?

Clive Owen : Not necessarily talking a lot because Some of the best directors I’ve worked with don’t talk that much. They trust the actor. It’s very important to know what a director’s intentions are in order to do your job well. But it’s not necessarily about talking through the part. It’s all about creating a great environment for an actor to do his thing. And a lot of Sam’s stuff is almost solitary because he’s an investigator and he’s the one that’s looking at things.

Q : What is it that truly gives a scene the right tone for you when acting opposite someone else?

Clive Owen : It’s usually about the rhythm. When you’ve got good writing then it’s all about just playing the rhythm and playing it well. When you get two actors who both understand that and realize that the scene isn’t about, then they can create an atmosphere together. And when you’ve got great writing like Scott’s where the rhythm is really clear, It’s like getting into a really comfortable car and just driving.

Q : Did the cast members have enough time to practice or rehearse to get the rhythm?

Clive Owen : Not really. I did work with Scott and Tom on the scripts beforehand but with the cast we just worked on the set: since they were really top actors it was about coming in every morning, rehearsing the scene until we got it right and then shooting it. There were such good actors that it worked fine.

Q : You’ve played Ernest Hemingway, Bill Clinton, King Arthur. How difficult has it been to reinterpret these well-known individuals?

Clive Owen : Each time, my first reaction is: “Why have they come to me? That’s never going to happen. I don’t see it myself.” And then you start to think about it, dive into it, and then there’s something inside of me that loves the challenge because people have very strong clear ideas about how these characters are. So you are stepping into the front line, but there’s something about being scared and having that challenge makes you think: “Yeah, I’ll take that on. I’ll be brave.” If something ignites within me that wants to take it on. I’m quite fearless. And I do actually enjoy it.

Q : What was the most challenging aspect of putting on this show and what was the most joyous aspect?

Clive Owen :  The challenge and the joy were the same thing: I adored the writing so much. I adore this genre. I adored this character. And Scott wrote such fine scripts. It was about living up to it really. It’s the best place to be for an actor.

Clive 5@Photo by JEAN-CLAUDE LOTHER/Jean-Claude Lother/AMC – © Black Bear/AMC 2023 All Rights Reserved

Adriano Ercolani
Adriano Ercolani
Adriano Ercolani Profile Italian Film Critic and TV Author living in New York since 2011. Critics Choice Association member. Graduated in History of Cinema in Rome, he works as a freelance correspondent for some of the most important Italian outlets like Hollywood Reporter Italy, Comingsoon.it, Cinefilos.it and Ciak Magazine. He started working as a film critic almost thirty years ago: in his career he attended the most important Film Festivals (Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Toronto, New York Film Festival, Tribeca) and conventions (San Diego Comic-Con, New York Comic-Con, Disney D23). All over the years he has interviewed some of the most important contemporary authors like Michael Mann, Martin Scorsese, Clint Eastwood, Peter Jackson, Alexander Payne, Joel and Ethan Coen, Kathryn Bigelow, Christopher Nolan, Greta Gerwig, Jane Campion). In 2009 he interviewed Christiane Kubrick and Ian Harlan inside Stanley Kubrick’s private office. Other than movies he is fond of American literature and basketball. Los Angeles Lakers fanatic. He lives in New York with his wife and his bossy 3-year -old daughter.


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