Although he made his film debut in the acclaimed independent film Bottle Rocket, actor Luke Wilson initially got more recognition for his real-life role as Drew Barrymore's boyfriend than for his acting. Fortunately for Wilson, his onscreen talents outlasted his relationship with Barrymore, and he has enjoyed steady employment and increasing visibility through substantial roles in a number of films. A native Texan, Wilson was born in Dallas in 1971. The son of an advertising executive and a photographer, he was raised with two brothers, Owen and Andrew. The three would all go on to make their careers in film, with Wilson discovering his love of acting while a student at Occidental College. In 1993, the brothers Wilson collaborated with Wes Anderson to make Bottle Rocket, which was initially a 15-minute short. The gleefully optimistic story of three Texans who aspire to become successful thieves, Bottle Rocket premiered at the 1993 Sundance Festival, where it attracted the attention of director James L. Brooks. With Brooks' help, the short became a full-length feature film released in 1996. That same year, Wilson also appeared in the coming-of-age drama Telling Lies in America. After large roles in three 1998 comedies, Bongwater, Home Fries, and Best Men (the latter two co-starring Barrymore), Wilson went on to star in another three comedies the following year. The first, Dog Park, was a Canadian film directed by Kids in the Hall alum Bruce McCulloch and featured Wilson as one of a group of twenty-somethings undergoing the trials and tribulations of love. Blue Streak starred the actor as the sidekick of robber-turned-policeman Martin Lawrence, while Kill the Man (which premiered at the 1999 Sundance Festival) cast him as the owner of a small copy center competing with a large chain store across the street.
Though he would stick closely to comedy through 2001 with roles in Charlie's Angels (2000) and Legally Blonde (2001), Wilson took a turn for the sinister in the thrillers Preston Tylk and Soul Survivors (both 2001), before reteaming with his brother Owen and Wes Anderson to give one of his most memorable performances as Richie in The Royal Tenenbaums. In 2003, Wilson reprised two past roles, appearing in both Charlies Angels: Full Throttle and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde. That same year, he also scored a hit as one of the stars of Todd Phillips' Old School. 2004 saw Wilson embark on The Wendell Baker Story, a film he starred in, co-directed with brother Andrew Wilson, and co-wrote with brother Owen Wilson.
Luke Wilson and Thiessen Films Unveiled at Vail
Luke Wilson's "The Wendell Baker Story" will make its Colorado premiere at the Second Annual Vail Film Festival.
The event, which will promote independent filmmaking March 31 - April 3, will screen Oscar-winning shorts, feature films, documentaries, shorts, student films, television pilots and action sports
Directed and starring Wilson, "Wendell Baker" centers on an optimistic ex-con set on turning his life around and winning back his girlfriend Doreen (Eva Mendes). He finds work at the Shady Grove retirement hotel where he befriends a trio of elderly residents who help him reconcile with Doreen while he helps them retaliate against the hotel's evil head nurse (Owen Wilson).
The Brothers Wilson will be in attendance to support their film.
TV stars-turned-directors Tiffani Thiessen and Janine Turner will also show up to present their shorts, entitled "Just Pray" and "Trip in a Summer Dress," respectively.
Other screenings on the schedule include this year's Academy Award-winning shorts "Ryan" and "Wasp," Todd Solondz's "Palindromes," the Paul Reiser-starring "The Thing About My Folks" and eight documentaries.
Luke Wilson: Old School
Brother of the more famous Owen, Luke Wilson has starred in everything from "My Dog Skip" to "The Royal Tenenbaums" and "Legally Blonde". With "Old School", he tries his hand at playing knockabout comedy with the help of fellow aging college graduates Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell.
Do you think all men want to stay teenagers?
I think it's one of those clichés about male society, just like the idea that all women want to get married and all men don't. I don't think things break down quite like that, but there definitely is that element of guys who like to party and have a good time and putting off for as long as possible the idea that they'll actually have to settle down.
Is that something you have first hand experience of?
The thing about being an actor is that you're in the business of not growing up. I never had to say to myself, "OK now, I've got to grow up and work for a bank, or go and sell real estate." I never had to make that kind of break.
Have you ever been to a college reunion?
I went back to my high school in Texas about a month ago. I ended up spending five, six hours at the school meeting different kids. It was really fun because it made me think, "Wow, people are actually seeing these movies that I make!" When you're in Los Angeles, nobody bats an eye, they're so used to seeing actors, they just act really cool. But these kids were crazy. They had lots of questions, from "What was it like kissing Cameron Diaz?" to the little studious kids who said, "I really enjoyed "The Royal Tenenbaums"."
Vince Vaughn says you guys were known on-set as The Wolf Pack...
It was a "Lord of the Flies" mentality. We'd be making fun of one guy and then it would shift and it would be someone else. I remember Will Ferrell saying, "I never got the chance to see "Legally Bland", though I hear it's wonderful, I hear it's just great!" So I'd say, "Will, you know the transition from TV to the movies isn't a very easy one, so you might just want to keep one foot back in TV just in case this whole movie thing falls through!" We were always making fun of each other.
Luke Wilson Talks About "Alex and Emma"
In writer/director Rob Reiner's newest romantic comedy, "Alex and Emma," Luke Wilson stars as Alex Sheldon, a novelist with writer's block. As if that wasn't bad enough, he's also being hounded by Cuban loan sharks. Alex has just 30 days to complete his novel, pick up a check from his editor, and pay off the Cubans or else... Complicating matters, the loan sharks destroyed Alex's laptop so he's forced to hire a stenographer (Kate Hudson as Emma) to help him complete his novel and save his skin. As Alex and Emma get under each other's skin, Alex's novel and his real life romantic entanglements collide.
With "Alex and Emma," Luke Wilson takes on his first major romantic leading man role. On casting Wilson, Reiner notes, "He's got this great quirky personality; he's likable and attractive, and I knew he'd be an appealing lead opposite Kate.
What did you like about playing this character?
I liked the idea of a guy who's kind of under the gun. He's not a dumb guy, but he makes a lot of kind of mistakes because he's so wrapped up in his own work that he can't see the forest for the trees. He falls in love with Sophie Marceau and I mean, she is beautiful and leads a jet set life, but it's like, at the beginning, he looks over Kate's [Hudson] character, Emma, who has a lot more substance and is a better person.
What’s the attraction of playing a role like this where you know everything that’s going to happen when the movie starts?
I don't really think in those terms, actually. It's like I'm not good at looking ahead to the future. I just kind of go scene by scene, which I feel like might help me in that respect. I guess you're saying in a movie where you've got people who are starting off not liking each other and then they're going to end up attracted to each other? I don't know, but I guess it's a challenge. It's like every story has been done before, for the most part. That's why other movies stand out when they do go against the grain.
Did you borrow any personality traits from the writer in your family?
Owen takes notes and writes things down that he hears. It's always kind of funny when I go in to get something out of his room and I see a notebook and it'll just have the strangest scene written down. It'll make you laugh or smile and yeah, he's just kind of good at doing that kind of thing.
The script already had things laid out and we didn't change that much stuff [in it]. The thing is that it is kind of hard work being a writer. You always wonder how you create something that's supposed to be creative under a deadline. I always think of a painter who doesn't have anyone saying, “Hey, we need this by then,” but that actually does happen if some painter has a show, and they need ten pieces to put on the wall. I kind of like the idea of that, a job that you just think of as creative and free-flowing and you do it organically, when you feel the muse. I saw it as being kind of scary, not feeling any ideas coming and you've still got to finish this book. I've seen Owen and Wes [Anderson] be under the gun, trying to get something done, and you just have to grind through it.
Do you ever feel blocked as an actor, and how do you get through that?
I feel it when a scene's not that well written or you're just not connecting to who you're doing it with. That's just one of those things that you have to kind of try and work through. Sometimes my first instinct will be to think, “Oh, I would never say this. It's not written well.” You try and change it or figure out why a person is saying something like that. It's one of those things that always happens on a movie. You have a scene that doesn't quite flow and you have to try and find a way to make it work.
Do you and Kate Hudson work in the same way?
I think that we do work in the same way in that it's a laidback manner, but we still try and get the job done. This is a movie where I had more dialogue than I'd ever really had before. People say, “'How do you remember all of those lines for a movie?” They don't know that you spend one day on half a page. It's not like a play where you have to get it all down. I think that we do [work the same way], and I think the fact that it's a comedy dictates the mood.
Did you improvise at all?
Yes. Rob Reiner is really good about taking good ideas, and not taking ones that don't work. When I first get an idea, I'm real high on it, and Rob was just really good about hearing me out. He'd be like, “That's not funny,” or “That doesn't work, Luke.” Then other times, he'd really like stuff. That was really fun and he's just one of those people where he's got such a great sense of humor. He's just such a funny, smart guy, it kind of relaxes you in a way.
What did you think when you read you’d be playing other characters and going back and forth in time?
That was one of those things that I kind of figured out early on with Rob. It's a comedy and [I needed to know] the way he wanted to do it. I was asking, “Do you want the guy different in the period? Do you want him talking more Shakespearean or something like that, in an accent?” But he wanted it to where it was the exact same guy. It was just like you had taken Alex from present day in Boston and dropped him in the period. He just wanted it to be like a guy out of place.
What was it like to play the dance scene with the Cuban dancers?
Those guys were both real nice, those actors. They were big, and it was one of those things where you don't realize until you do a scene [that] just getting grabbed all day hurts. I kept saying, “I hate to sound like a weak actor, but you're just getting hunks of me.” Those guys were just grabbing a hunk of [my] stomach and just yanking me around. At the end of the day, I'd just be kind of limping around. But they were both real nice guys - and neither one was actually a real Cuban.
Did you feel any extra pressure on this film because you’re the romantic leading man?
I had tons of dialogue in this movie and working with Rob, I just wanted to be particularly focused. I don't know if it's an attribute or a negative, but I don't really think in terms of, “Okay, this is my first lead in a romantic comedy, and if this baby doesn't open at fifty million, I'm dead.” I just tried to do a good scene that day and [tried] to have fun trying to make something work.
Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson and Will Ferrell Talk About "Old School"
In DreamWorks Pictures' "Old School," Luke Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Will Ferrell star as 30-somethings who come up with an outlandish scheme to recapture some of their lost youth.
After a particularly bad breakup, Mitch (Luke Wilson) needs a new place to live and rents a choice house right next to a college campus. The idea of returning to their younger, wild and crazy days sparks a bizarre plan to turn Mitch's new residence into an off-campus fraternity house (even though none of the three is actually still in college).
Here's what the stars of the film had to say about working with one another, what it takes to go naked on film, and why "Old School" stands apart from other broad comedies:
Luke, what did you like about your character?
LUKE WILSON: I don't know. I liked the fact that Mitch is just a low-level office guy. That kind of character appeals to me. That just seems like a tough thing to do, [to] just work in the middle of a company for your entire life. You just do the same thing out of college until you're 60, and then you retire. Mitch is that kind of guy yet I guess he's got kind of a wild streak in him because he is friends with the characters played by Will and Vince.
Will, what is your craziest USC campus memory?
WILL FERRELL: Let's see, I had a fair amount. I had a work-study job in the Humanities AV Department. I was in charge of checking out tapes and overhead projectors and things like that. No one really kept track of where I was. I could leave my job at any time and what I would do on occasion is I would find out what classroom certain friends were in and then dress up as a janitor and show up in the middle of class. There was one specific class that I would do it to. I don't know if they have Thematic Option there anymore, but it was kind of a high-level English class and the teacher actually encouraged me. He would see me on campus and say, "Come by in two weeks and just screw around." I would stand outside the door with a power drill and just pretend like I was working on stuff, so I'd do stuff like that.
Was there a lot of improv going on during filming?
WILL FERRELL: We had a lot of 'improvisationals' between us. I like to use the term improvisationals. That was kind of the dynamic that we had going between the three of us that I think it translated on the screen.
LUKE WILSON: You get a good script and then when you get somebody like Todd [Phillips] who wrote it, and that helps, and that he's directing it. Then, of course, Will and Vince would come up with really good ideas so it's fun to be able to show up on the set. It's like you're blocking out a scene or trying to figure out how you're going to do it physically and where everybody is going to stand. Then, you start getting ideas. Not all the time, but a lot of times you get an idea of something to add. Especially with a comedy, you've got the clear cut goal of trying to make a scene funny. It's not like drama where you're trying to achieve some kind of emotion or trying to further the story along. You're trying to figure out what's the funniest way to do something. So then, yeah, you do end up trying to improvise.
How did you feel about the dramatic moments in the film?
WILL FERRELL: I definitely think that's what this movie brings [that's] a little different than what you think you're going to see. It's kind of what attracted the three of us to the material in the first place. There was a little more behind the characters than just going from one funny scene to the other.
LUKE WILSON: Whatever kind of movie it is, you're going to be more into it when you care more about the drama, or you'll have a better laugh if you feel like you know the people better. It is a broad comedy but we did want each character to be different and to have good backstories that could give whosever watching it a reason to be interested in them.
What would it take for each of you to streak in real life?
LUKE WILSON: I know that Will flew in his acting coach from Kentucky that night. He's a great guy. That's the kind of thing that does make it impressive to work with Will; he has the guts to do something like that. I wouldn't have been surprised if someone had actually said, "Can't I just have a pair of briefs on? It will still be funny." Will goes for it in a good way and it makes you kind of want to try things yourself. Not running down the street naked because I would never have the guts to do it, but it certainly makes me want to try and do a good job on the scenes I was working on.
VINCE VAUGHN: There's not enough booze in this hotel. I think it's good with Will, too, because what I like about it is it serves the story. I like it because it's funny but it also serves the story. It's not just a shot of him being naked for the sake of being naked.
What kind of research did you do for your role?
WILL FERRELL: I was the only one who was actually in a fraternity so obviously I had lived some form or variation of what you see. I also had run naked before sadly enough. I was able to draw on that sort of thing.
LUKE WILSON: Honestly speaking, for me personally this isn't the kind of movie that there was much research to do. It's a comedy, I knew the guys I would be working with, the script seemed pretty clear, and it's just a case of how do we try and make it better, how do I make sure all our stories work well together.
VINCE VAUGHN: I like to do research no matter what it is you're doing because I think you bring that to the screen. I called Will and talked about how we were friends and how we knew each other. It's not necessarily anything you see in the movie, but I think the more specific you are it just affects your performance. It's not as if you're reading books necessarily but it's using your imagination. Why did my guy get involved in speakers and start his store? How did he meet his wife? Those kinds of things, for me, are always helpful. Then when improvisation happens... The ear muff scene where he swears in front of the kids, and then I tell the kid to ear muff, that all is off the cuff. But that stuff is a lot easier to do when you know who you are and your circumstances, and who your characters are.
Vince, this is a different role for you. What made you decide to do a broad comedy?
VINCE VAUGHN: I started in Chicago at the Improv Olympic, which is live improv and team improv. The first thing that I did that started things off was with Favreau and "Swingers," which was a comedy but a character-driven comedy. I prefer that kind of comedy. Then we did "Made," which is a darker, smaller, character comedy. [After "Swingers,"] I got offered mostly comedies but I chose not to do them because I didn't really think they were funny. I find the things that make me laugh are over-commitment to a very real thing, not just falling down for falling down's sake. That's why I'm a fan of Will's work because even with a broad comedy, he's very much in his circumstances and there's a lot of truth there.
When I met Todd and saw the script I thought what was cool was that in all relationships between [the] guys and girls, the things that are discussed were universal. "Am I ready to be married? Am I not? Someone cheated on me. I'm married but am I missing out on having fun?" You take those circumstances that are universal and you make them extreme. You walk in and maybe catch your girlfriend cheating on you, but do you catch two naked people jumping out of the closet? To me, I responded to the fact that it was based in reality. I think what separates this movie, in my opinion, from a lot of big comedies that have scenes that may be effective, is you can follow and see what's at stake for the characters. That's why this particular script, and the fact that these guys are involved, made me interested in doing it.
What makes you laugh?
LUKE WILSON: I always laugh the hardest at the stuff you see in day-to-day life. It's great when somebody can tell a joke that really makes you laugh hard, but to see some kind of personal interaction that no one could write is so good. Those are always the things that make me laugh.
WILL FERRELL: Anything with Paul Lynde.
VINCE VAUGHN: Like I said, people that are over-committed to stuff that from your perspective seems ridiculous. Those are the things that make me laugh. I like Paul Lynde as well, but Will took that one.
What are your best Snoop Dogg stories from the set?
WILL FERRELL: Snoopy, as I like to call him. That was probably more intimidating because we shot that the very last day of shooting. I had already done the streaking part by myself but to actually be in front of Snoop Dogg that close - naked - was more intimidating than anything. That was a very bizarre experience, to be in front of Snoop Dogg and doing what I had to do. Once again I had my acting coach and another buddy of mine, Old English 800. He's a malt beverage acting coach. Vince played video games with Snoop.
LUKE WILSON: I didn't get to spend much time with Snoop. I wasn't under the weather, but I was in my little room watching TV. Then I ran into Vince who was speaking in tongues at that point after having spent a couple of hours in Snoop's trailer.
VINCE VAUGHN: They knocked on my door and said, "Snoop Dogg's a big fan and he wants you to come, hang out, and play video games." It was the last day of shooting and [it was] the party scene with no real dialogue except one scene that me and Snoop shot that wasn't in the movie. [My friends and I] went in there and just had a good time and played video games and laughed and hung out for a while. I came out and saw Luke; he was watching the news. He was like, "No one told me everyone was in Snoop's trailer." I said, "Groan, groan, inaudible" (imitating slurred speech).
What was the atmosphere like on the set?
LUKE WILSON: We kept having this phrase like, "Let's shoot this movie 70's style. Come on, it's us three, let's have fun." We got caught up in how well-behaved we were all the time. Really we were, and we never did manage to go '70's style' but that was our mantra throughout the whole movie. "Let's get 70's style." But we never really did do it.
VINCE VAUGHN: We had a lot of fun and were always joking around with each other. We call ourselves "The Wolfpack" because we always turn on each other and make fun of each other. It was never safe - who was getting picked on - because 5 minutes later we would turn on someone else.
LUKE WILSON: Will referred to a film I made as "Legally Bland." That didn't make me feel great.
Luke, what was it like working with Bob Dylan on his movie, "Masked & Anonymous?"
LUKE WILSON: The best experience of my life. I've always been a real big fan of his as a writer and a musician. It's about the most interesting thing I've ever gotten to do in my entire life. There are a lot of other great people in it - you wouldn't believe the other people in it. To be able to spend time with him and be around him was something I'll really, honestly, never forget. That was a real once in a lifetime thing. I've seen the movie and I'm real proud of it. [It was] just an incredible experience. It was like getting to hang out with Picasso or Shakespeare in my book. Other people might not feel the same way, but to me that's what he is.
Vince, will you work with John Favreau again?
VINCE VAUGHN: We've had a movie [in the works] for a long time, me and Favs. We've talked about it and it's just hard to get the money for it. It's about a Hasidic Jew who is a gunfighter in the Old West. It's true. Favreau plays a gun fighter who is Jewish, Favreau's mother is Jewish so he's Jewish, and he's got a beard and everything - except he's a gunfighter. It's not a comedy like he can't gun fight. He's the baddest guy in the west but on Saturday he can't shoot his gun because it's Sabbath. He can't settle down until he finds the man who killed his family. I play a hustler from Chicago who has never seen a gun or used a gun. I sleep with the wrong guy's wife and they have hit men after me. I make like [I want to help] the Jew, which is what we call the character in the movie, but really I'm just hanging out with him because I need protection from these cattle baron's hit men. When we first had "Swingers" people said "Well, we know you made 'Swingers' but we didn't see it on the page. You guys can do whatever you want to make." So we were like, "Here is our next thing. Here's the Hasidic Western." But no one has bid on it yet.
Do any of you wish you had experienced being in a fraternity?
LUKE WILSON: It's like growing up watching "Animal House." My dad was in a fraternity back in the 1950's and they sound really fun back then. Nowadays they sound like they can get a little heavy-duty in terms of the hazing and the drinking. I like the idea of a big house where you have a group of friends and you have parties there and it's laid back. I'm not so much into the idea of being made to do a bunch of insane stuff just so I can have the privilege of hanging around certain people. Either you're friends with somebody or you're not, I think. So yeah, I like the idea of a fraternity in that it's run a certain kind of way. That's probably why I was never in a fraternity.
WILL FERRELL: If you're familiar with Todd's work, he had done a documentary on fraternities so he already knew a lot of those things in terms of the cinderblock stuff and things like that. When I was in a fraternity, I never saw anything that severe. I would get yelled at. I embezzled a lot of money. And I was on the lam for a little bit. The thing is, making movies, you're creating magic and that's what we did.
VINCE VAUGHN: I never went to college. I went to CLC, the College of Lake County, and I was there for all of 2 weeks and that was it. When I came to California my parents said, "You should take classes just in case," so there's a school out here called Santa Monica Jr. College and I was there for about 2 weeks. There was going to be a quiz in this class I was taking and I also had an audition for that show "Who's the Boss." I went to the audition but I didn't get the part.
I was going to bars when I was 15 years old. I had a fake ID so when I got to be 18, everyone was doing stuff but I had done a lot of that stuff at a younger age so my focus was really on acting and trying to make a living being an actor. I love that story and I can tell it one more time. When I was in community college…