American actor Owen Wilson is one of the most established and recognisable faces working in the industry today. Renowned for his quirky and wonderfully weird outings in director Wes Anderson’s films, Wilson has enjoyed an immensely successful career in the movies that spans more than 25 years. Also known for his screenwriting abilities, he earned an Academy Award nomination in 2002 for co-authoring The Royal Tenenbaums with Wes Anderson, and the pair also scripted Bottle Rocket and Rushmore together. Still going strong, he continues his collaboration with Anderson in The French Dispatch, a film which is due for imminent release.
Born and raised in Dallas, Wilson attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he roomed with Anderson, and together they wrote the screenplay for Anderson’s first feature, Bottle Rocket. The actor’s and the director’s careers sort of mushroomed from there. “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.” Wilson adds: “We did a short film that was kind of a first act of what became Bottle Rocket.”
Post-Bottle Rocket, Wilson has enjoyed leading turns in films like Behind Enemy Lines, I Spy, Marley and Me, and Wedding Crashers. Wilson starred as a nostalgia-seized writer in Midnight in Paris, written and directed by Woody Allen. The film premiered at the 64th Cannes Film Festival to critical acclaim and earned him a Golden Globe Award for his performance.
Growing up only dreaming about working in the movies, Wilson admits that the acting aspect of it might come in accidentally. He explains: “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 you or if people want to hire you. Maybe that’s why there’s insecurity sometimes in acting because it’s not like there’s a correlation between hard work and how people receive you.
“But after Bottle Rocket, I started getting acting work. People started offering me roles in movies. It wasn’t something that I thought about as a kid growing up in Texas. Actually, maybe I would have thought of it as a possibility, but it seemed so crazily far-fetched to think that you could work in movies that I really didn’t ever quite imagine it. It was just lucky.”
On the occasion of his 52nd birthday, we list the best ten films featuring Owen Wilson currently streaming on Netflix.
Best Owen Wilson films available on Netflix:
Meet the Parents (Jay Roach – 2000)
Another hilarious comedy, Meet the Parents tells the story of Greg Focker (Ben Stiller), a male nurse from Chicago, visits his girlfriend’s Pam parents at Long Island. There he learns that his would-be father-in-law is a no-nonsense retired CIA agent (De Niro) who thinks Greg isn’t good enough for his little daughter. Greg tries to win his approval but things don’t go exactly as he expected. Owen Wilson stars as Kevin Rawley, the wealthy broker/carpenter ex-fiancé of Pam. He gives us a single “wowww” which is all it should take to convince you to watch this.
Meet the Parents went on to become one of the highest-grossing films of 2000 and was well received by film critics and viewers alike, winning several awards and earning additional nominations.
Including Meet the Parents, Wilson has starred together with Ben Stiller in twelve movies. Talking about it, he says: “In a way, it kind of doesn’t seem quite believable. Like, geez, have we been in Hollywood that long where we could have worked on these many movies together? It’s a little bit strange to think that we’ve worked together so much and we’ve been around so long that we could have.”
Wedding Crashers (David Dobkin – 2005)
David Dobkin’s sex-comedy Wedding Crashers starred an ensemble of Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn, Christopher Walken, Rachel McAdams, Isla Fisher, Bradley Cooper, and Jane Seymour, and follows two divorce mediators (Wilson and Vaughn) who crash weddings in an attempt to meet and seduce women.
One of the most successful films in Wilson’s filmography, the film grossed $288.5 million worldwide, receiving critical plaudits along the way. Amazingly, Wedding Crashers is credited with helping to revive the popularity of adult-oriented, R-rated comedies.
Would you be chuffed to bits if someone crashed your wedding? “Would I? It depends on the person. If some of the people seated next to me on this podium were to crash my wedding – and they would have to crash, they wouldn’t be invited – I’d probably let bygones be bygones and welcome them. I’d shake their hands so they could see that I’m not holding a dagger.”
No Escape (John Erick Dowdle – 2015)
John Erick Dowdle’s action-thriller Escape stars Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and Pierce Brosnan, and tells the story of an ex-pat engineer trapped with his family in an unidentified country in Southeast Asia during a violent uprising.
Director John Doodle and his brother Drew based the script on a near-miss of political upheaval when the Dowdle brothers and their father were going on a trip to Thailand. John explains, “Right before we got to Thailand, a coup overthrew the prime minister. There’d been no previous warning. There was a feeling of anxiety in the air. So I started thinking about that. If it went badly, what would I do?”
Albeit flawed, No Escape is powered by the hard-hitting plot, chilling moments, great performances from Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, and Pierce Brosnan, and several intense moments. All in all, solid watch.
How Do You Know (James L. Brooks – 2010)
Directed, written, and produced by James L. Brooks and starring Reese Witherspoon, Owen Wilson, Paul Rudd, and Jack Nicholson (in his last feature film role to date), How Do You Know follows Lisa (Witherspoon) after being cut from the USA softball team and feeling a bit past her prime. Soon, she finds herself evaluating her life and in the middle of a love triangle, as a corporate guy in crisis competes with her current, baseball-playing beau.
Modern, funny, smart, and relatable, the film was panned after release by critics but directed praise towards the acting of Witherspoon, Rudd and Wilson. All said and done, it is recommended courtesy the strong performances of its leads.
Wonder (Stephen Chbosky – 2017)
Wonder, based on the 2012 novel of the same name by R. J. Palaciowhich, follows a boy with Treacher Collins syndrome trying to fit in his surroundings. Wilson plays the role of the boy’s father, Nate Pullman, acting alongside Julia Roberts, who plays his mother. The film received mostly positive reviews and was even nominated for an Academy Award.
Wilson is particularly great at playing the loving father, even though it’s a little weird that he now plays the “adult” after years of playing the offbeat, cool guy with some sort of scheme up his sleeve. Wilson says he wasn’t sure about his acting like that of a father. “Yeah, when I first read it, Nate’s character wasn’t clear, and [director] Steve Chbosky said he was going to sort of taking a pass on it and had some ideas. And so he came up with sort of a point of view for the guy that made sense to me and that I could imagine.”
He added: “But yeah, the first couple times, I was like, ‘Is anyone going to really buy me as a parent?’ But yeah, yep, they do.”