Clive Owen: You have to question this whole idea of storing everything in a place called The Cloud
Sci-fi thriller Anon sees Clive Owen play a detective in a near-future where everyone's life is recorded down to the millisecond. But, the actor points out to Georgia Humphreys, is the world the film portrays actually that far from our own?
Clive Owen has a theory about being famous. The actor argues even the biggest film star in the world could go into a bar in central London, sit quietly and have a drink at the back - "if they carried themselves in a certain way".
"There's a heat that comes with being in the film business and you want people to see films, so you have to put yourself out there," admits the Coventry-born star, known for roles in silver-screen dramas such as Closer (for which he won a Golden Globe) and Children of Men.
"But outside of that, I think it's perfectly fine, and you are able to keep a low profile."
Of his own quest to stay out of the limelight, he confides: "I am in very public work and I go there and do that, and when I'm away from that, I like to keep my head down and keep away."
However, no one is able to be private in the near-future that his latest film, Anon, is set in.
The sci-fi thriller, written and directed by Andrew Niccol, follows Sal Frieland (Owen), a detective faced with a series of murders that appear to be linked.
Everyone now has a biosyn computer implant, called The Mind's Eye, which records absolutely everything you see and hear, before being downloaded to a vast grid called The Ether - meaning evidence to convict criminals is super easy for law enforcement to access.
Plus, every time you walk past someone, information about them appears at the periphery of your vision, (and also on our screens as viewers), like a kind of Wikipedia page. It's as creepy as it sounds ...
"Andrew called me and told me about the script, and said very simply, 'It's about the battle for privacy that we have already lost'," recalls Owen (53), who initially carved out his career on British TV, starring in shows such as Chancer back in the Nineties.
"It's kind of true. When you look at the film, and the themes of the film, it's just incredible how much information we give to people every day.
"I've really noticed now that every time you buy anything, in any store, they want your information, they want your data, they want your email, they want your number. That's value now, that's a commodity."
He adds candidly: "Every time we log on and look into anything, that information is out there. You have to question this whole idea of, 'Oh, I'll store everything in this place called The Cloud'. Everything! Absolutely everything, including personal stuff, including bank details. And that is accessible, by some people."
The innovative themes feel all too timely in the wake of news that Cambridge Analytica - a data analytics firm which worked on US president Donald Trump's election campaign and has been linked to Brexit - used personal information from social media users to help clients try to influence voters or consumers.
"Andrew and I have worked together a number of times throughout the years," says Owen when asked what drew him to the role. "I think every film that he does is always about a hugely relevant, important subject that we should be looking at."
And, as a father of two young women - Hannah was born in 1997 and Eve two years later - Owen is perhaps even more aware that we now live in an age where there's less and less privacy. Discussing his daughters' relationship with social media, the star, who is married to actress Sarah-Jane Fenton, says: "They haven't really known a world without it - I have. I think that's the big difference."
He continues in a bewildered tone: "Even as they were growing up, you go to school concerts and most people are more interested in capturing it rather than actually experiencing it ... For some reason there's this huge appetite to just lock it down and go, 'There, proof I was there'."
Owen keeps reiterating that the world portrayed in Anon really isn't that far from the world we live in today: "I don't think it's that much of a leap."
But as relatable as the themes may be, shooting the film - which also has a strong film noir aesthetic, certainly sounds like a unique experience. Because the characters are able to view everything from their pasts at any time through The Mind's Eye, the cast had to react to stimuli they couldn't see while shooting certain scenes. Mind-bending point-of-view shots are also a big part of the movie.
"It was something that I feel I was grappling with," Owen elaborates. "It is a complex visual movie in terms of everything we are trying to process - how the world works, what we're looking at in any given time, the fact that I can be talking to you and at the same time be playing somebody else's life."
The film also stars Amanda Seyfried as a young woman he passes by in the street who doesn't register in his Mind's Eye - she seems to somehow be completely anonymous - just as he begins to delve further into the case at the centre of the film.
"I think there's a part of Sal that relates to that anonymity," suggests Owen, of his character. "There's a kind of yearning deep within him for a kind of solitude (because the) technology overload has worn him down."
It feels almost ironic that a film with such a big message about technology became available to watch on TV on Sky Cinema on the same day as cinemas across the UK and Ireland. Is this the future of watching films?
"The way people view things has changed," Owen responds.
"There's still a different experience sitting in the cinema. It saddens me that people's viewing habits are changing."
Anon is out now in cinemas, and on Sky Cinema