In the wake of yesterday’s (8.28) Variety story about Owen Wilson dropping out of Ben Stiller‘s now-rolling Tropic Thunder, MTV.com’s Josh Horowitz is exploring to what extent Wilson’s reported attempted suicide will affect his other projects. Josh asked me for some comments this morning and wound up using a couple of them, but here’s the unexpurgated chat as it unfolded 90 minutes ago.
MTV question: Does this incident jeopardize Wilson’s standing as a leading man?
HE answer: Owen is far too complex and interesting and whimsical to be a leading man. He’s a flaky poet dreamer, a briliiant space-case…a witty intellectual adolescent whom women might find charming for a night or two, but he’s the very antithesis of a Clark Gable oak tree. He’s the kind of guy women can spot in a second as undependable because his basic nature is to go wherever his whims or dreams or ambitions may lead him at a given moment. His true inner whatever has always been hidden, and he doesn’t wear his passion on his sleeve.
He’s Dignan, he’s Dupree in front of that classroom full of kids, he’s that Wedding Crashers guy, he’s that plucky oddball friend of Jackie Chan‘s. But he’s never carried a film on his own shoulders. Look at what happened with Behind Enemy Lines, Minus Man, The Big Bounce. Owen is partner material, but the partner stuff that has happened so far is golden. He and Vince Vaughn could be the Hope-Crosby of our time if they wanted to — I would go to see Vaughn-Wilson movies for the rest of my life. And the routines he’s done with Ben Stiller in various films and on the Oscar show have been classic.
Career-wise, Owen will be fine if — I say “if” — he gets right back up on the horse. Face up, be honest, talk about it on TV with Jon Stewart or whomever, get back in the program, accept that he’s had problems, etc. The only thing that might hurt him, on the other hand, is the notion that he’s Andy Dick. If that concept takes hold, Owen will have a problem.
MTV question: Will audiences easily be able to forget something as serious as a suicide attempt when seeing him in a comedy?
HE answer: Tragedy and comedy are the twin faces of a very thin dime, and if Owen absorbs this episode in the right way, his sense of humor — which was always dry and sardonic and even fatalistic at times — will be even better. All Owen did, really, was fall into a slightly deeper pit that the sort of pit that almost everyone — including Josh Horowitz — falls into. Not everyone’s into illicit substances (see the Us magazine story about the factors that may have led to Owen’s suicide attempt) but everybody’s been at the edge of the cliff once or twice or thrice.
MTV question: What do you make of the prospects for The Darjeeling Limited now?
HE answer: This probably doesn’t help Darjeeling Limited, but I don’t think it will hurt either. Everyone is now thinking of Owen as a fucked-up guy with issues to solve, and his Darjeeling character is a fucked-up guy with issues to solve. I mean, c’mon, he wears a big head bandage throughout most of the film. I don’t see the problem.