Name: Owen Cunningham Wilson
Born: November 18, 1968
Dallas, Texas, U.S.
Years active 1994–present
Wilson was born in Dallas, Texas, to photographer Laura Cunningham Wilson and Robert Andrew Wilson, an advertising executive and operator of a public television station. He has an older brother, Andrew, and a younger brother, Luke, both also involved in filmmaking. His family, originally from Massachusetts, is Irish American and Roman Catholic.
While living in Texas, Wilson attended The Lamplighter School, and St. Mark’s School of Texas, from which he was expelled when, in the tenth grade, he stole his teacher’s textbook to aid him in his homework.
Wilson’s initial acting role was as “Dignan” in the Wes Anderson film Bottle Rocket, which he co-wrote with Anderson. He also worked with Anderson as a creative collaborator on his next two directorial efforts, Rushmore and The Royal Tenenbaums, for which they were nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
Wilson quickly landed roles in big-budget movies such as The Cable Guy, directed by Ben Stiller, an early admirer of Bottle Rocket. After minor appearances in action films like Anaconda, Armageddon and The Haunting, Wilson appeared in two dramatic roles: supporting actor in Permanent Midnight, which starred Stiller as a drug-addicted TV writer; and the lead role as a serial killer in The Minus Man. He also made a cameo in the Girl Skateboards video Yeah Right! in 2003.
Wilson got his big break with the 2000 comedy action hit Shanghai Noon, starring opposite Hong Kong action star Jackie Chan. The film grossed nearly $100 million worldwide. His fame continued to rise after starring alongside Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell in the 2001 film Zoolander.
Gene Hackman took notice of Wilson’s performance in Shanghai Noon and recommended Wilson to co-star in the 2001 action film Behind Enemy Lines. Also in 2001, Wilson and Anderson collaborated on their third film, The Royal Tenenbaums, which was a financial and critical success. The comedy featured an all-star cast, including Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller, Bill Murray, Anjelica Huston, Gwyneth Paltrow, Danny Glover, Seymour Cassel and brother Luke. Owen Wilson had a memorable supporting role in the film as Eli Cash, a drug-addled bon vivant who becomes a literary celebrity. It earned the writing team an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay.
Wilson returned to the buddy-comedy genre in 2002 with the action comedy I Spy, co-starring Eddie Murphy. This big-screen remake of the television series flopped at the box office. He then reunited with Chan to make Shanghai Knights (2003) and the movie remake of the television series Starsky & Hutch (2004). Due to his busy schedule as an actor and an ongoing sinus condition, Wilson was unavailable to collaborate on the script for Wes Anderson’s fourth feature, The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou. The 2004 film was ultimately co-written by filmmaker Noah Baumbach. However, Wilson did star in the film as Bill Murray’s would-be son, Ned Plimpton; a role written specifically for Wilson.
Wilson partnered with Vince Vaughn in the 2005 Wedding Crashers which grossed over $200 million in the US alone. Also in 2005, Owen collaborated with his brothers by appearing in The Wendell Baker Story, written by brother Luke, directed by Luke and brother Andrew. In 2006, Wilson provided the voice of Lightning McQueen in the Disney/Pixar film Cars, starred in You, Me and Dupree with Kate Hudson, and appeared with Stiller in Night at the Museum as Jedediah, the cowboy, an uncredited role.
Wilson has appeared in ten movies with Stiller (a long-time friend) to date: The Cable Guy (1996), Permanent Midnight (1998), Meet the Parents (2000), Zoolander (2001), The Royal Tenenbaums (2001), Starsky & Hutch (2004), Meet the Fockers (2004), Night at the Museum (2006), and the sequel Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian (2009), Little Fockers (2010).
Wilson appeared in another Wes Anderson film, The Darjeeling Limited, which screened at the 45th annual New York Film Festival, the Venice Film Festival and opened September 30, 2007, co-starring Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody.Wilson next starred in the Judd Apatow comedy, Drillbit Taylor, released in March 2008. He appeared in a film adaptation of John Grogan’s best-selling memoir, Marley & Me (2008), co-starring Jennifer Aniston.
The Darjeeling Limited, starring Owen Wilson, Adrian Brody, and Jason Schwartzman was selected for a DVD and Blu-Ray release by The Criterion Collection in October 2010.
Wilson’s many collaborations on high-grossing comedy movies have led the media to consider him part of the Frat Pack, along with other comedy actors such as Vince Vaughn, Luke Wilson, Jack Black, Ben Stiller and Will Ferrell.
Wilson provided the voice for the Whackbat Coach Skip in Wes Anderson’s version of Fantastic Mr. Fox. He is also scheduled to appear in the film The Big Year, an adaptation of Mark Obmascik’s book The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature and Fowl Obsession.
Wilson made a guest appearance on the NBC comedy Community with fellow Frat Pack member Jack Black