Owen Wilson continues his partnership with friend and collaborator Wes Anderson in The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, an odd seafaring tale about revenge and fathers and sons, set in the ocean. Wilson plays a southern gentleman ion this quirky, nautical comedy, and promoting the film in New York, Wilson is typically laid back as he talks about this and future on screen collaborations.
Question: How did this come about?
Answer: Wes had this character for me to play. I remember in college when we were roommates, he had written a half page thing that had a lot of elements of the movie. He had the jaguar shark and the life aquatic and the character’s name was Steve Cocktoe. There was Eleanor but that was it. Ned Plimpton, when he wanted me to play the part. I couldn’t quite see why I would be good playing that part because he seems like a straight man playing that part. He’s a straight man, very earnest, innocent and nice. I warmed to the challenge. I met with Wes and we came up with me making him a southern gentleman. I was watching that Civil War documentary with Shelby Foot, so some of that seeped into it and then a little fog horn, leg horn, and presto, you got a character.
Question: How has the relationship between you and Wes changed over the years?
Answer: We went to dinner the other night when Luke and I got into town for the premiere. He is someone you are extremely familiar with. You know each other’s stories a lot so you kind of saying the same stuff that you know but it still kind of makes you laugh. So we were talking about Bottle Rock experiences. He is someone that you know really well.
Question: Do you do much writing for something that you are not acting in?
Answer: No, not so much. In fact I never did other than Rushmore, I didn’t act in but I wrote it with Wes. And then this movie, I didn’t contribute anything to the script. And I hardly improvised at all. Wes is pretty focused on how he wants it and there isn’t really a lot of improvising going on.
Question: Wes said Cate Blanchett was a bit intimidating.
Answer: Not to me. I love working with her. She was pregnant.
Question: What about the love scenes?
Answer: Well they weren’t like love scenes, it was more innocent kissing. I guess I was a little nervous to do that but she was very easy to get along with. And she showed up late and wasn’t there for the whole run of the picture. She kind of just blended right in. She has a good sense of humor.
Question: How did you prepare for the role?
Answer: Usually, I feel more free to improvise for a role and change the dialogue but with this, this was a character that I was very specific and Wes wanted it just so there wasn’t that freedom to change things and I don’t know if I would have changed things. He and Noah had made the stuff and fine tuned it so it wasn’t like there was room to change stuff.
Question: It seemed like there should have been a part for you in Dodgeball? Why weren’t you in that?
Answer: I don’t think there was a part for me. And probably the fact that Ben and I have worked together a lot. I think we’ve been in seven or eight movies together. I saw it the other day on the plane. It was funny.
Question: When you and Wes look back on Bottle Rock, it was the time of innocence before celebrity took over. How do you see things having changed?
Answer: I see things having changed and Luke and I live in California and Wes lives in New York so we are not around him much anymore. That is the big change. We used to all live together. Literally in the same house. Now Luke and I are close but Wes is in New York.
Question: What about real life? The fantasies, the dreams you had about your lives or your ambitions? What’s it like to have these things actually happen.
Answer: When you ask me the question I think of us being roommates in college and there is plenty for us to think about being fanatical about movies. We’re in Rome filming and now here we are promoting this movie.
Question: What’s The Wedding Crashers about?
Answer: It’s a movie that Vince and I worked on and David Dobkin who directed me in a movie before and had directed Vince in a movie so we are all extremely corrabulative, trying to get the script right and the writers had a funny story and added stuff. Hopefully improved on what was there and I think hopefully it will turn out good. I think it did turn out good.
Question: Do you like working with the same group of people?
Answer: I think it’s just people you have confidence in so with Vince, I was the first person to sign on to The Wedding Crashers and did so hoping that Vince was going to be the other guy. Once he signed on, his role became bigger because we were playing off each other.
Question: No more Shanghai Nights?
Answer: No, I would like to. I like working with Jackie Chan a lot. But I don’t think we will do another Shanghai movie.
Question: Are you surprised by Wes Anderson’s success?
Answer: No, because I feel pretty grateful and lucky that Bottle Rocket which we didn’t have much of an audience for and didn’t get much of a release and Tenanbams a lot more people saw so it’s nice to get people to react better to the stuff you are putting out there.
Question: Are you and Wes very similar?
Answer: I think we are probably more similar than we are different. We’re both from Texas, middle brothers, there are a lot of similarities. I think in the more fundamental ways we have similar takes on stuff. And that probably hurt our scriptwriting, what is this coming up with great plots and stories, it was more funny characters that we liked to fashion a story around.
Question: What about working with Bill Murray?
Answer: I wasn’t really around on Rushmore but met him there and Tenanbaums was around him. But this was the first time I was really around him. I grew up seeing him in all these great movies which had an impact on me as a kid and so playing someone who is a character that looks up to him and wants to be accepted by him, it was good to have that to draw upon.
Question: Have you ever had to compete with your brother for a part?
Answer: Actually for There’s Something About Mary, the part that Ben Stiller played.
Question: What was that like?
Answer: We both hoped one of us would get it but if it wasn’t us, then Ben was a good person.