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Hiding in the Doghouse

By Agent Bedhead | Career Assessments | June 4, 2010 |

By Agent Bedhead | Career Assessments | June 4, 2010 |

Subject: Owen Cunningham Wilson, 41-year-old American actor and writer

Date of Assessment: June 4, 2010

Positive Buzzwords: Writer, Frat Pack, Wes Anderson

Negative Buzzwords: Lothario, woof, Butterscotch Stallion

The Case: Well, this is a tough one in regard to a creative soul clearly in flux. In one respect, Owen Wilson is an Academy-award nominated screenwriter, who began his Hollywood career with a double-bang — that is, frequently appearing in films co-written with director Wes Anderson. As a duo, their three writing collaborations — Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums — are also among the best works of their respective careers. At the other side of the spectrum, Wilson has recently relegated himself to a couple of back-to-back kiddie flicks that feature overbearing (to say the very least) canines. What’s even worse is that he’s devolved further within these two works. That is, Wilson went from portraying the pet owner (and husband to a Jennifer Aniston stock character) in the tissue-wrecking Marley & Me to actually voicing the role of the dog in Marmaduke. With most actors, this sort of diversion could be chalked up to diversifying the resumé, but this may be an atypical case. To be certain, Wilson’s experience is not only that of a less travelled road but also of a most-complicated inner route, and he seems to have lost his way.

Most assuredly, Wilson remains a rather talented individual who has ended up in many less-than-stellar movies. Of course, his best acting performances often coincide with the times when he’s also had a hand in the screenplay — in these instances, the comedy is layered with a bit of sadness — so, one can’t help but assume that (as is the case with most writers) some of Wilson’s real-life experiences have played a large role. Another inevitable influence would be his highly symbiotic relationship with Anderson, whose own projects notably suffer (The Darjeeling Limited) whenever Wilson’s not around for the co-writing process. Unfortunately, that has been the case for much of Owen’s later career, since he’s quickly grown occupied with more profit-oriented endeavors.

As Hollywood would have it, most of Wilson’s commercially successful works include his more lowbrow efforts — Zoolander, Night at the Museum and its sequel, and those dreadful Meet the Parents/Meet the Fockers movies — as a member of the so-called “Frat Pack.” Still, associating with that crowd virtually requires a lowering of one’s mental standards, but at least Wedding Crashers gave Wilson a chance to somewhat flex his ad-libbing muscles. In retrospect, it’s not terribly surprising to consider that “Scientists say we only use 10 percent of our brains, but I think we only use 10 percent of our hearts” was one of those gems. His few serious (and less compelling) acting turns — Permanent Midnight and The Minus Man — have been less than well-received, for audiences respond much more favorably to Wilson’s lighter fare. In most cases, it’s rather remarkable how he illuminates just about any scene and just how at ease he appears onscreen.

At some point, however, something went amiss that had probably been bubbling under the surface for quite some time. In August 2007, Wilson made that notorious attempt to take his own life; he then spent some time at Beverly Hills’ Cedars-Sinai clinic for recovery and therapy. At the time, the immediate reaction of film studios behind the soon-to-be-released Drillbit Taylor and the pre-production Marley was rather unsympathetic, as observed by The Independent:

In short, nobody - or almost nobody - in this town appeared to give a crap about Wilson himself, only about his marketability and his capacity to make money for other people, be they reporters, photographers or film producers.

Perhaps in a preemptive move, Wilson subsequently dropped out of Tropic Thunder (and was replaced by the chronically shirtless Matthew McConaughey) and has only done minimal publicity since the incident. Still — rumored drug indulgences and emotional undercurrents aside — Wilson seems like a fairly grounded fellow and an honorable guy, who will swiftly defend a friend in need (now, whether Stiller deserves such words is another topic altogether). As such, he remains surrounded by some close allies — mostly of the Frat Pack variety — and will probably always be able to get a gig that way. Yet, with upcoming projects that include a sequel to Meet the Fockers, more voicework for the dreadful-looking Turkeys, and The Big Year (he’ll play a 
“champion bird watcher”), Wilson’s not exactly shooting for quality any time soon.

Prognosis: Not many writers can successfully cross over into the acting world, but Wilson has managed to repeatedly do so. In fact, he actually seems to have overstayed his welcome to some extent by entirely abandoning his former trade. Perhaps picking up the pencil again would help Owen Wilson recalibrate his creative juices. It certainly couldn’t hurt to try.

Agent Bedhead lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. She and her little black heart can be found at