The people of Britain first became aware of Clive Owen a long time ago - back in the 80s, in fact, when he was Chancer on ITV. That show made him very popular with the ladies in particular thanks to his starring role as the wide-boy conman 'Stephen Crane' - if you've seen the show, you'll know why I put that name in quotes - and he became indelibly stamped on the popular psyche as a result.
But it took a while for the rest of the world to wake up to Clive Owen and although the indie movie Croupier helped to establish him, it wasn't through movies or even a TV show that he became a star. Instead, it was through a series of auteured adverts for BMW called 'The Hire'. Each mini-movie advert was streamed online - one of the first ad series to take advantage of the Internet - and featured Owen driving a BMW.
Okay, that's not very informative, I know, but that was more or less the only thing the ads had in common - how could it be otherwise when you had the likes of Tony Scott, John Woo, Ang Lee, John Frankenheimer, Joe Carnahan, Wong Kar-wai, Alejandro G Iñárritu and Guy Ritchie directing them in their own unique styles, and Gary Oldman, Forest Whitaker, Don Cheadle, Marilyn Manson, Ray Liotta, Stellan Skargård et al guest starring?
Here are the John Woo and the Guy Ritchie ads so you can compare and contrast.
After the series began in 2001, BMW saw its sales go up 12% from the previous year, the ads being viewed more than 11 million times in four months. Indeed, the films were so popular that BMW produced a free DVD for customers who visited certain BMW dealerships - except BMW ran out of DVDs.
The result was that - at least in the US - Doug Liman could cast Owen in a bit part in The Bourne Identity, have him do little more than drive a BMW arround and the audience would know that a sly wink to the series was being cast in their direction.
Owen, of course, went on to much bigger and better things, including movies and Cinemax's The Knick. But now, 15 years after the ads, he's back for old time's sake. The director chosen for 'The Escape'? None other than Neill Blomkamp, with Dakota Fanning, Jon Bernthal and Vera Farmiga along for the ride.
You'll have to wait until October 23rd before you can see the full thing on BMW Films. Until then, you can enjoy this shiny trailer with Jon Bernthal shouting and shooting a lot.