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PARIS — Clive Owen is Lancôme’s new inside man.

The British actor — who has appeared in films such as “Children of Men,” “Sin City” and “The Inside Man” — inked a long-term deal to become the latest face for L’Oréal-owned brands, specifically its upcoming Hypnôse Homme men’s fragrance and Lancôme Men skin care line, both due out this spring.

Other terms of Owen’s agreement with Lancôme were not disclosed.

He is among an emerging flock of film actors to consider commercial work a natural extension of the trade.

“I feel comfortable with the whole campaign,” he said. “I think it’s very in keeping with what I do. I am very honored to be asked to do it.”

Owen is also one of a growing number of actors to star in product advertisements directed by big-budget names (Nicole Kidman directed by Baz Luhrmann for Chanel and Monica Bellucci directed by Rob Marshall for Christian Dior, for instance).

Wong Kar Wai, who directed “In the Mood for Love” and was most recently the president of the 2006 Cannes Film Festival jury, directed Owen and Daria Werbowy (another Lancôme face) in TV spots for Hypnôse Homme, set to run between five and 25 seconds in international markets outside the U.S. and the U.K.

In the commercial spot, Owen and Wer­bowy wander through a maze of glass panels. Winding their way slowly toward each other, they steal sensual glances.

“Wong Kar Wai made the ad like he makes his movies — incredibly precise,” said Owen, adding the director orchestrates everything, from the rhythm of an actor’s walk to the movement of his eye. “He’d go over and over it until he got what it was he needed.”

Owen recalled that Lancôme executives had told him they had in mind Wong, who also previously had directed Owen in a spot for BMW.

“I said there is absolutely no one better to do it,” he said. “He is the master of cool, sensual restraint. I don’t think there is a living director I would rather work with on a campaign like this.”

This story first appeared in the January 10, 2007 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

Owen remembers that when he first saw Wong’s “In the Mood for Love,” he thought it was the “coolest thing. It made me almost want to start smoking again.”

When asked whether he would like to be in a full-length Wong film, Owen said, without the slightest hesitation, “Yes, in a shot.”

Owen said he was attracted to working with Lancôme — after turning down numerous other brand endorsement projects — because of its class and professionalism.

“The people I worked with are so classy,” he continued, using the same adjective to describe the campaign, as well.

While not a lifelong beauty buff, Owen said he has been a longtime moisturizer user.

“Most guys I know use skin care — even if they don’t admit it, they do,” he said. “Someone like me does a lot of travel, so it makes sense to put things on my face for protection.”

Owen also began wearing aftershave many years ago.

“It was probably a really tacky one, like Old Spice or something like that, in those days when it was really all there was,” he said. “When I was a kid, there were a couple of adverts on TV for men’s aftershaves and that was it. There wasn’t really that much choice. But the market has really sort of exploded and expanded.”

Does Owen believe the Lancôme ads will impact the types of movie roles he’s offered? No, he said, adding they will “no doubt” have an impact, though.

Owen certainly made an impactful entrance Monday night at a launch event in Paris, held at the Palais de Chaillot, when he strolled out on a stage from a backlit tunnel into a crowd of cheering international press and beauty executives. All eyes were trained on Owen as he sat down to a gala dinner followed by a blowout party for 1,000 that went into the wee hours.

In an interview, Owen confessed he’s not yet a beauty expert, and the scent was practically a fait accompli when he arrived on the project.

“I don’t know enough about it,” he said, adding, “I wouldn’t be able to change things.”

Owen is in a self-selected lull from his movie-acting career, having recently shot four back-to-back movies. He stars in two films slated for release later this year — “Shoot ‘Em Up” and “The Golden Age” — and clearly is relishing his leading-man status.

“In the last few years, I have been having the time of my life,” said Owen.

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