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A comic actor whose talents spread to writing and producing, Owen Wilson teamed up with college roommate Wes Anderson to help put Austin on the filmmaking map with their debut film, "Bottle Rocket" (1996). Because of the offbeat comedy's success, Wilson snagged a number of roles in both small independents and studio blockbusters. Wilson's amorous social life earned the actor the gratitude of tabloid editors and gossip columnists for years, though he publicly hit rock bottom in 2007 for a failed suicide attempt after battling depression. Onscreen, Wilson was a founding member of Hollywood's comedy "Frat Pack," a club which counted Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell, Paul Rudd and Wilson's brother, Luke, among its members. Meanwhile, Wilson starred in a number of successful stand-out films, including the action comedy "Shanghai Noon" (2001) co-starring Jackie Chan, the delightfully quirky ensemble comedy, "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), the box office smash comedy "Wedding Crashers" (2005), the animated crowd-pleaser "Cars" (2005), and the three's-a-crowd romp, "You, Me & Dupree" (2006). Following his suicide attempt, Wilson kept public appearances to a minimum, but did star in the hit "Marley & Me" (2008), "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (2009), and Woody Allen's "Midnight in Paris" (2011), which provided him with one of the best roles of his career, while also proving that he was more than just a comedic actor.
Born on Nov. 18, 1968 in Dallas, TX, the self-described blond troublemaker was the second child of Robert and Laura Wilson. Growing up between two brothers, Andrew (the eldest) and Luke (the youngest), young Owen - like many middle children - sought attention by acting out and getting into trouble. Expelled from St. Mark's Academy in Dallas in the tenth grade, Wilson finished his sophomore year at Thomas Jefferson School before heading to a military academy in New Mexico. He then attended the University of Texas at Austin, where he met his future mentor and friend, Wes Anderson. Together, the two collaborated on a script which would eventually become "Bottle Rocket" (1996). Wilson's entry into the industry came with the 1992 short of the same name, which he penned along with Anderson and starred in with brothers Andrew and Luke. After hooking up with James L. Brooks and Polly Platt - thanks to some championing by screenwriter L.M. 'Kit' Carson - Anderson and Wilson were given the funds to develop a full-length feature based on the well-received, festival-screened short. The curtain rose on this expanded version of "Bottle Rocket" in 1996, but failed test screenings resulted in little studio push. Revolving around a pair of friends going nowhere slowly, the film did receive critical praise for its originality - director Martin Scorsese even ranked it among his favorite films of the 1990s - and won Wilson notice, both for his keen scripting and winning performance as the enthusiastic, if misguided would-be criminal Dignan.
Relocating to Los Angeles in the mid-1990s, Wilson quickly found work with his relaxed, assured screen presence, emerging as a fine character player; later a somewhat unlikely lead, due to his good looks marred slightly by a twice-broken nose. He played a small role as an obnoxious date for leading lady Leslie Mann in Ben Stiller's "The Cable Guy" (1996), before becoming snake feed in "Anaconda" (1997). After serving as associate producer on Brooks' Oscar-nominated "As Good As It Gets" (1997), Wilson signed up to play Oscar Choi, the quirkiest of a team of oil drillers sent to outer space to save the earth from an asteroid in the summer blockbuster, "Armageddon" (1998). That same year he acted in what amounted to a cameo role in "Permanent Midnight," playing the drug-addled pal who convinces screenwriter Jerry Stahl (Ben Stiller) to enter into a green-card marriage. Though his part was small, Wilson made an impression with an oddly affectionate portrayal infused with boundless energy.
Wilson next reunited with Wes Anderson on 1998's "Rushmore," a uniquely charming, somewhat dark comedy. Wilson co-wrote and executive produced the Anderson-directed film, which starred Bill Murray as a wealthy man in a rivalry with a remarkably self-possessed teenager (Jason Schwartzman) for the attentions of a widowed prep school teacher (Olivia Williams). Following the critical and small-scale commercial success of "Rushmore," Wilson returned to acting with a starring role as a thoughtful and likable serial killer in Hampton Fancher's compelling drama, "The Minus Man" (1999). He was next featured in the ensemble of "The Haunting" (1999), Jan De Bont's disappointing remake of Shirley Jackson's chilling novel, The Haunting of Hill House. That same year, he had a cameo in the similarly muddled "Breakfast of Champions," directed by Alan Rudolph.
In 2000, Wilson starred in "Shanghai Noon," an Old West-set buddy film that paired him with Hong Kong action hero and Hollywood heavyweight Jackie Chan. Chan played a Chinese Imperial guard sent to rescue kidnapped Princess Pei Pei (Lucy Liu), and Wilson - who later rewrote much of his dialogue - was cast as Chan's reluctant partner Roy O'Bannon, an unlikely and emotionally expressive outlaw. His verbally adept brand of comedy proved the perfect foil for Chan's remarkable physical talents. Later that year, the actor was featured alongside Robert De Niro and frequent co-star Ben Stiller in Jay Roach's black comedy "Meet the Parents." His hilariously droll performance as the successful, well-adjusted ex-boyfriend offered a nice counterpoint to the film's very broad antics. In 2001, Wilson played Hansel, the New Age, extreme sportsman nemesis of Stiller's "Zoolander." The actor's unflinching portrayal of the over-the-top up-and-comer who spews garbled Eastern philosophy and makes tracks on his high-tech scooter, proving he would not let vanity get in the way of a laugh. By the end of that year, Wilson picked up the mantle of action hero, carrying the compelling war-themed adventure "Behind Enemy Lines." His vulnerable but ultimately heroic take on seemingly doomed Navy pilot Lt. Burnett brought some humanity to the genre, and the actor held his own admirably alongside legendary co-star Gene Hackman.
Wilson was next featured with Hackman in "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001), taking writing, producing and acting credits in this Wes Anderson film. An affectionate portrayal of quirky but likable characters in the tradition of their previous efforts, "The Royal Tenenbaums" focused on a splintered family of former child prodigies (Stiller, Gwyneth Paltrow and Luke Wilson) who are brought together by news of their father's (Hackman) grave illness. Wilson got many laughs with his colorful supporting role as off-kilter novelist Eli Cash, neighbor and lifelong family friend who must face the fact that he is a misfit even among the misfit Tenenbaums. In 2002, the actor attained star status, in two action comedies: matched with Eddie Murphy in a feature adaptation of "I Spy" and reuniting with Jackie Chan for the sequel "Shanghai Knights" (2003). In both features, Wilson demonstrated both his exceptional ability to develop strong chemistry with wildly divergent co-stars with different onscreen styles, and his ability to mine throwaway lines for comedic gold by playing deconstructed versions of stereotypical movie types like the secret agent and the cowboy.
Despite demonstrating his enviable timing and mastery of dialogue, the actor had less success when he starred as a beach bum-turned-heist artist in the Elmore Leonard-derived caper film, "The Big Bounce" (2004). He also re-teamed with frequent collaborator Ben Stiller to play TV cop Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson in the parody-minded big screen adaptation of the 1970s ABC cop drama "Starsky & Hutch." That same year, he enjoyed a lighthearted cameo with his brother Luke, playing the flying brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright, respectively, in "Around the World in 80s Days" (2004). In the sequel "Meet the Fockers" (2004), Wilson revived the role of Teri Polo's too-perfect ex-boyfriend, and just like its predecessor, the movie became a box office hit, despite lukewarm reviews. His hot streak continued with the roundly hilarious comedy "Wedding Crashers" (2005) in which he and Vince Vaughn played a pair of lovable cads who invade strangers' weddings to pick up lonely, vulnerable women. It was with this latter film that Wilson proved he could hold his own comedically, as well as touch hearts with his tender, believable love scenes with co-star Rachel McAdams.
By the time of "Wedding Crashers," Wilson was clearly established as a central figure in what many characterized as a comedic Rat Pack-style clique of comic actors who frequently teamed up and/or cameoed in each other's films; the group also included brother Luke, Stiller, Vaughn, Will Ferrell and Steve Carrell. That same year Wilson inked a deal to write and executive produce "Bert & Dickie," a half-hour comedy for HBO which followed an odd-couple stand-up comedy team who discover success is always elusive. Meanwhile, Wilson continued his steady and successful presence on the big screen, providing the voice of Lightning McQueen, a hotshot race car stuck in a sleepy Route 66 town in Pixar's eye-popping CGI-animated hit, "Cars" (2006). He then starred in the comedy "You, Me and Dupree" (2006), playing a homeless slacker taken in by his best friend, Carl (Matt Dillon), only to become a permanent fixture while winning over Carl's wife (Kate Hudson) and family with his carefree charm, frustrating his friend to no end. It was after the film's release that rumors he had fallen for his recently separated co-star Hudson began to pop up in tabloids. By early 2007, the towheaded pair - though not officially announcing their coupledom - was photographed around the country in various states of romantic bliss. Wilson's brother Luke even began acknowledging their romance during interviews.
Owen earned ink for more than just the Hudson romance when he appeared in a supporting role in "The Wendell Baker Story" (2007). Actually filmed in 2005, this independently financed comedy was written by and starred younger brother, Luke, and was co-directed by his older brother, Andrew, while being shot entirely on location in their native Texas. In an unexpected turn of events, Wilson was hospitalized on Aug. 26, 2007 after police were called by Luke to Wilson's Santa Monica, CA home due to an attempted suicide. Wilson was taken by ambulance to Saint John's Health Center in Santa Monica, then later transferred to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Beverly Hills. After being listed in good condition the following day, Wilson's publicist released a statement from the actor that said in part, "I respectfully ask that the media allow me to receive care and heal in private during this difficult time." Wilson was involved in two new comedies at the time, "Marley & Me," co-starring Jennifer Aniston, and "Tropic Thunder," directed by pal Ben Stiller. Wilson dropped out of the latter project in which he had a small role that had yet to be filmed. But he did forge ahead with "Marley & Me" (2008), a comedy-drama about a young couple (Wilson and Aniston) who adopt a destructive Labrador who turns their home into a disaster area. Despite some mixed reviews, "Marley & Me" was a surprisingly big hit at the box office.
Following another collaboration with Anderson, "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007), Wilson starred in the poorly received comedy "Drillbit Taylor" (2008) before voicing Coach Skip in Anderson's inventive animated feature, "The Fantastic Mr. Fox" (2009). After playing Jedediah in "Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian" (2009) and reprising his ex-fiancé role for "Little Fockers" (2010), he returned to animation to voice the title character in "Marmaduke" (2010) and reprised Lightning McQueen in "Cars 2" (2011). That same year, Wilson delivered one of his best performances in "Midnight in Paris" (2011), Woody Allen's highly-praised romantic comedy that proved to be the biggest hit of the director's career. Wilson played a successful Hollywood screenwriter who dreams of writing an important novel. The role earned Wilson a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor - Musical or Comedy.
Unfortunately, Wilson's next major role, a reunion with Vaughn set at Google's corporate headquarters called "The Internship" (2013), was a critical and box-office disappointment, while the comedy-drama "Are You Here" (2013), written and directed by "Mad Men" (AMC 2007-2015) creator Matthew Weiner, did not expand beyond a small art house run. Following a cameo in Wes Anderson's "The Grand Budapest Hotel" (2014), Wilson starred with Imogen Poots and Jennifer Aniston in Peter Bogdanovich's "She's Funny That Way" (2014). Wilson worked with Paul Thomas Anderson on the writer/director's adaptation of Thomas Pynchon's "Inherent Vice" (2014) as mysterious surf-rock saxophonist Coy Harlingen. After concluding the series with "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb" (2014), Wilson starred with Pierce Brosnan and Lake Bell in the action thriller "No Escape."
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