(Photo by Jason LaVeris/Getty Images)
“God, I wish now that I’d had a chance to prepare because I’ve seen this on Rotten Tomatoes,” Owen Wilson tells us when we blindside him by asking for his desert-island films. “I like seeing people’s five favorite movies, seeing what they had.” But he takes a moment to think and rolls with it. “There are a few movies in my life that I saw on consecutive days,” he clarifies, then cooks up a list of memorable ’80s releases that fit that bill on the fly, a list that has envelope-pushing indie fare ranked smack dab next to the first installment in a Sylvester Stallone franchise. That breadth of sensibilities makes sense for the actor, who first came on the scene in Bottle Rocket, an endearing, offbeat, and basically ignored-at the-time film he co-wrote with Wes Anderson that we dubbed his funniest performance, and went onto become a household name, starring in huge movies opposite huge stars.
The latest of those (and the reason for our chat) is Marry Me, an odd-couple romantic comedy that opens on February 11th, in which Wilson shares the marquee with none other than Jennifer Lopez. In the movie, Wilson plays a mild-mannered math teacher who, during a sort of improvised publicity stunt, ends up getting hitched to a social-media-addicted pop star (Lopez) at one of her concerts. Before the film hits theaters on Friday, take a look at just a few of the movies that left an impression on Wilson before he entered the spotlight.
First Blood (1982)
First Blood, when that came out, I remember going to see it with my brothers and a friend and we loved it so much we went back the next day and saw it. I think it was just incredible. I mean, there’s an incredible action thing where he kind of jumps off a cliff and he’s kind of falling through these trees, and it had kind of a great sort of beginning with Brian Dennehy. He kind of picks up Stallone, Rambo, and he’s like, “Here, let me give you a ride to the edge of town.” And Rambo’s like, “I’m not bothering anybody. I’m just walking.” He goes, “Yeah, we don’t want any trouble here, and let me just give you a ride and we’ll just drop you off here.” And he drops him off and then is turning and he’s driving back, and he’s looks in the rearview mirror, and there’s Rambo’s turned and walking back into town. It’s just a great kind of existential hero because why couldn’t he have just walked through that town? Why did that sheriff have to pick him up and kick him out of town, because he wasn’t bothering anybody?
And then I remember Richard Crenna, who’s also great in The Flamingo Kid. I don’t know if I can say that I that’s a movie I loved; I don’t know if it’s one of my five favorites. But anyway, he’s sort of Rambo’s captain that they kind of bring in to talk to John Rambo. John Rambo explains to him, “They drew first blood, not me.” There’s some kind of cut that he gets on his arm that he has to kind of stitch up himself. But it also had a great look to it kind of there in the Pacific Northwest. But yeah, that’s a great story.
Drugstore Cowboy (1989)
Drugstore Cowboy. That’s another movie that I saw on consecutive days. I remember I saw that in Boston, and I just loved the movie and Gus Van Sant. And then I remember working later with Matt Dillon on You, Me and Dupree, and telling him how much I loved the movie and loved it so much that I knew every line from the movie. And Matt was kind of like, “Oh, that’s nice.” And then I go, “Here, say a line from the movie and I’ll be able to say the next line.” I don’t think he really wanted to do it. I was just, “No, really just say a line. Any line.” And he said a line and then I didn’t know the next line.
But there was also a line that he says in that, that I remember Wes and I would always say. I don’t know if I ever used it in another movie, but “We played a game you could never win, and we played it to the utmost.” I always loved that line from Drugstore Cowboy. And I also love the scene with… Well, I don’t know. I just love the whole look of the movie and the jacket that Matt Dillon was wearing. I thought was really cool.
Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)
Then I think Sex, Lies, and Videotape I saw on consecutive days. I just thought that that was just a great movie. I’m here in New Orleans working, and so I was thinking about the movie because I think it took place in Louisiana. That made me think of the movie. And then I was explaining it to someone who hadn’t seen it and trying to explain the James Spader character, and is it Peter Gallagher? And then Andie MacDowell. But Peter Gallagher’s character is really funny; he was a great character. And then James Spader’s great.
And then my friend, Steve Brill, is actually in it. He does a Brando imitation in the bar scene where James Spader is in. You remember the actress that plays Andie MacDowell’s sister? She’s great. So Steve does a Brando imitation from Apocalypse Now: “I’m just a grocer. You’re a grocer. You’re a clerk sent by a grocer to collect a bill.” That was really good.
Breaker Morant (1980)
And then for my fifth one, I’ll say Breaker Morant. That’s an Australian movie. That’s a movie that I went to as a kid with my parents. And then I remember when I roomed with Wes in college, he’d never seen it. I think he really liked the movie, and there’s some great lines in it and great performances.
Thumbnail images by: ©Orion, ©Artisan Entertainment, Miramax Films, ©MGM, and Everett Collection