Celebrity Then And Now
Publication: Albany Daily News. Posted by Lexi Schwartz
Celebrity Then And Now
Posted by Lexi Schwartz
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“You can think of Hollywood as high school. TV actors are freshmen, comedy actors are maybe juniors, and dramatic actors—they’re the cool seniors.” Charming and quirky are only two ways to describe the talented Owen Wilson who launched his acting career in the late 1990s alongside his friend, Wes Anderson, in Bottle Rocket (1996). Wilson earned an Academy Award nomination for his work in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) and hasn’t looked back since with dozens of credits to his name including hits like Meet the Parents (2000), Zoolander (2001), Wedding Crashers (2005), and the Cars (2006) animated franchise!
1960s to Stardom
They say everything is bigger in Texas and that’s certainly true with the larger than life Owen Cunningham Wilson who was born in Dallas, Texas on November 18, 1968. The middle of three sons born to a photographer and an advertising executive, Wilson enjoyed a quiet childhood in the Lone Star State. He attended the New Mexico Military Institute and, after graduation, enrolled at the University of Texas at Austin where he earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in English. Coincidentally, it was in college that he discovered his talent for acting.
“Well, I think it was something that I just sort of fell into by luck,” Wilson said of venturing into acting. “My roommate in college in Austin, Texas, was Wes Anderson. Wes always wanted to be a director. I was an English major in college, and he got us to work on a screenplay together. And then, in working on the screenplay, he wanted my brother, Luke, and me to act in this thing. We did a short film that was kind of a first act of what became Bottle Rocket. It was something I didn’t know I would continue to do because it’s a little bit out of your hands—it just depends on how people react to your or if people want to hire you.”
Wilson made his film debut alongside his brother in Bottle Rocket (1996) and landed bigger roles in films like The Cable Guy (1996) and Anaconda (1997). He worked as an associate producer on As Good As It Gets (1997) and appeared in Armageddon (1998) and Permanent Midnight (1998), the latter of which introduced him to a young Ben Stiller. He joined Anderson again to co-write Rushmore (1998), which earned the duo an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay as did their work in The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
During this time, Wilson’s friendship with Stiller blossomed after Stiller wrote him a fan letter praising his work in Bottle Rocket. “He wrote me the nicest letter saying how much he loved the movie, which meant a great deal because no one saw Bottle Rocket, and saying that he hoped we might work together on something, someday,” Wilson recalled. Their first project together came in 2000 when Wilson joined Stiller in Meet the Parents (2000). A year later, they teamed up for Zoolander (2001). “I don’t know if the relationship has developed over time. It’s a little like these characters in Zoolander,” Wilson says. “There isn’t a big arc. From when we first became friends, walking around New York, I think that we are still sort of laughing at the same things and our dynamic is still pretty similar.”
Wilson’s career flourished throughout the early 2000s as he joined Eddie Murphy in I Spy (2002) and followed up with hits like Shanghai Knights (2003), Starsky & Hutch (2004), and Wedding Crashers (2005). He lent his voice to Lightning McQueen in the Disney/Pixar blockbuster Cars (2006) and joined Kate Hudson in You, Me and Dupree (2006). He reprised his voice role as Lightning McQueen in Cars 2 (2011) and joined an ensemble cast for Wes Anderson’s 2014 comedy, The Grand Budapest Hotel.
“It isn’t so much that I choose the roles—I mean, I guess there’s a little bit of a selection process—but it’s more just what people offer you,” Wilson said. “So, it’s a lot about the way they see you. The movies I’ve done with Wes have a much different quality than some of the broader comedies. But what is interesting is how many sequels I’ve done. I’ve worked with Ben (Stiller) a million times now… I guess we’re lucky to be in some movies that people wanted to see again.”
No stranger to sequels, Wilson reprised several roles in hits like Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb (2014) and even shocked fans when he returned to his Zoolander roots in Zoolander 2 in 2016. “I noticed that when I was traveling, there were a lot of people who came up to me quoting Zoolander,” Wilson said. “Ben said he had the same experience and a kind of following developed.”
Since Zoolander 2 (2016), Wilson starred in Masterminds (2016), Lost in London (2017), Cars 3 (2017), Father Figures (2017), and Wonder (2017), the latter of which cast him opposite Julia Roberts. “It’s pretty good, the way it worked out, giving me a lot of street cred with my own kids because now I’m the kind, loving dad from Wonder,” Wilson said. “And I’m sure that when I get to be a grandfather, a role will come along which will have me playing a lovable incorrigible grandpa.”
That grandfatherly role is certainly years down the line with the 50-year-old Wilson still tackling projects like The French Dispatch (TBA) and Bliss (TBA) as well as a Shanghai Knights sequel with Jackie Chan. So, how does he develop his characters in such a variety of films? “Maybe because I began as a writer,” he says, “I have a good ear for dialogue and maybe being an English major—and that I also read a lot as a kid—if I hear somebody say something that I think is funny, or I find a situation or story, I’ll try to work that into the movie.”
Wilson doesn’t keep his sense of humor solely at work, especially not after his publicized bout with depression in 2007 when he attempted suicide. The unwanted publicity following the event made Wilson leery of doing interviews, which is why the actor keeps tight-lipped about his life at home with his three children as well as his previous relationships with Sheryl Crow, Jade Duell, Caroline Lindqvist, and Varunie Vongsvirates.