"I didn't study to be an actor. It always seems like a lucky thing," says Wilson. "I don't think of myself as really driven as an actor to try to stretch myself. I think I'm sort of limited. I can do some stuff and make it sound real.
"A movie like 'Anaconda' -- it's weird -- I would have been embarrassed to have written that movie but not to act in it. I don't know why that is."
Indeed, Wilson admits to being more "discerning" about the writing, which is partly why he hasn't actually sat down and written his own script start to finish, since Anderson, his college roommate from the University of Texas, began writing without him. He and his good friend Woody Harrelson are planning to write one in August, but they've spent most of their time discussing in which beautiful spot on Earth they should write. And then there's the issue of who will man the computer.
"What keeps me from writing more is I'm very particular. If I don't feel something's good, I don't want it out there. I'm more discerning. I always feel with the writing I'm going to get to it." He grimaces and sighs. This is himself he's talking about. "I was also going to get to graduating college."
WHEN Wilson was 3, his mother wrote to her sister describing her second son: "Owen has a very zany sense of humor. He doesn't like to read the same book twice, and he idolizes Bobby [Owen's dad]."
We're discussing nature versus nurture. Wilson has one of those minds that remembers all the nuances, the slings and arrows of childhood, coupled with a firm grasp on the mythology of family. He's the middle son of a couple of cultured East Coasters who transplanted to Dallas, where his father ran the public television station and his mom became a photographer.
He remembers himself always being the "odd man out," with his mom gravitating to his older brother, Andrew, also an actor, and his father having a special affinity for his younger brother, Luke, who's starred in all the films Owen has written as well as appearing in "Legally Blonde," "The Family Stone" and the upcoming "My Super Ex-Girlfriend."
"It wasn't like I was like Oliver Twist: 'More bread, sir,' " adds Wilson, who knows that his parents love him. "It was maybe easier for my dad to be around Luke. They had more of a connection. Luke looked like my mother. My dad and I would butt heads."
It's pretty safe to say that his parents worried that Owen would turn into a permanent screw-up.
He always had problems in school -- not working up to his potential, as a raft of teachers pointed out. He wrote one of his first short stories in eighth grade -- about a real-life incident in which his brother Andrew shot a deer. It was so good that his teacher thought he plagiarized it. In 10th grade, he actually got kicked out of the tony Dallas prep school St. Mark's for cheating on a math test and ended up transferring to a local high school for a semester, then getting shipped off to a military academy.
At least the trauma proved useful for the art. The deeply idiosyncratic protagonist of "Rushmore" flunks out of his tony prep school and winds up at the local high school. He befriends the industrialist played by Bill Murray, who looks at his own children, a pair of violent lunkheads, and bemoans, "Never in my wildest imagination did I dream that I would have children like this."
"My dad would say that," Wilson says with a laugh. "But thing is, my dad and all his friends, all the stories he told that were celebrated, were about getting around the rules. One of my earliest memories was my dad sneaking us into the state fair, saying he was with the Channel 4 news. It was pretty clear where we got this from."
Even today, the Wilson boys are a tight clan, ferociously competitive in sports and games, and nothing makes Wilson happier than beating someone who deeply cares.
"I don't have to win. I just want to know that the person I'm playing hates to lose and really wants to win, otherwise it's no fun." He insists that this competitiveness does not extend to their respective Hollywood careers. "Not because we're so generous and loving -- it's more selfish," Wilson explains. "If Luke's movie does really incredible, I know I can always get him to do a movie with me, or for me. It's a rising tide. If one of us does well, it's going to help the other guys too."
As kids, Owen dreamed up the games and the clubs and forced Luke to serve as a pledge, getting hazed to get in. As grown-ups, Luke -- in a kind of Dupree moment -- moved into Owen's Santa Monica house, bringing along a stuffed boar's head, a wild javelina he'd appropriated from the set of "Tenenbaums." Although Luke Wilson owned his own house a mile away, he stayed for a year. "When he finally moved out, he took the javelina with him. I miss it. It tied the room together," cracks Wilson. "Even a mile away I don't see him as much."