Movies

Owen Wilson On ‘Wonder’ And His Tendency To Kill Fictional Dogs


Owen Wilson has a propensity for killing fictional dogs. Well, maybe not killing, but fictional dogs do have a way of dying when Owen Wilson stars in a movie. In The Royal Tenenbaums, Owen Wilson’s character, Eli Cash, does kill the dog, Buckley, in a car crash. Most notably, Wilson stars in 2008’s Marley & Me, which is all about a dog dying. It’s true that the death of the dog in Wilson’s latest film, Wonder, isn’t a huge plot point, but now it’s impossible not to notice this trend: If you are a fictional dog, do not star in a movie with Owen Wilson, because you will not make it to the credits.

Perhaps it’s comeuppance for all of the times Owen Wison’s characters were killed off early in his career. Remember Armageddon? Yeah, Owen Wilson’s Oscar Choice wasn’t long for that world. Neither was his Gary Dixon in Anaconda. Perhaps fictional dogs must die so that Owen Wilson’s fictional characters can live? (It’s just a working theory, there’s really no proof of this… yet.)

In Wonder, Wilson plays Nate Pullman, the husband of Isabel (Julia Roberts) and the father to Olivia (Izabela Vidovic) and Auggie (Jacob Tremblay). Auggie was born with a facial deformity and the film follows the family as they cope with Auggie’s enrollment at a new school after years of being homeschooled. Wonder is a sweet film, with a lot of Star Wars references, that takes us through Auggie’s friends and family and how his life affects them all. And Wilson is particularly great at playing the loving father, even though it’s a little weird that Wilson now plays the “adult” after years of playing the offbeat, cool guy with some sort of scheme up his sleeve. But as Wilson warns ahead, fictional dogs still need to take heed.

Oh my gosh, the dog dies again.

Yeah, that’s my calling card. Actually, that’s the third, because, in The Royal Tenenbaums, the dog dies also.

This is a trend.

Although actually, in that one, it’s not my dog. In fact, I run over the dog! What’s the name of the dog in this movie?

Daisy.

Daisy, yeah.

Yeah, Daisy doesn’t make it.

Buckley, Marley, and Daisy. You know, it’s getting where if a dog sees me cast in a movie, he starts to get nervous.

I need to start emotionally preparing myself before I watch an Owen Wilson movie that the dog is going to die.

[Laughs.] Yeah.

When I first saw Daisy, I was thinking to myself that a funny little opening question for you would be, “At least the dog didn’t die this time.” And then the dog dies.

No, still use that opening and then say, “Not so fast!”

“Not so fast.”

“The movie is a tearjerker, but at least the family dog makes it. Whoops, not so fast!”

With everything else going on in this movie, I thought that would be a special treat, Daisy was a little sick, but she pulled through. Nope.

That’s how it originally was in the script, but, you know, when I came aboard…

It’s in your contract, the dog cannot make it.

Exactly. “Dog does not make it.”

People expect this now.

And I know how the dog feels, because I used to never make it to the third act either. I died in Anaconda, The Haunting

Armageddon.

Armageddon. Yeah…

So this is like your personal revenge? Because you used to not make it to the end…

It’s a journey, you know, their cross to bear. But you come out the other side and before you know it, you’re making it all the way to the end credits.

This is a good lesson for everyone.

Yeah.

There’s a scene in which Julia Roberts compares you to Patrick Swayze.

I didn’t even know that. I haven’t seen the movie, so I just heard that the other day.

They’re watching Dirty Dancing.

She sees me dancing?

No, they’re watching Dirty Dancing and Julia Roberts says, “Doesn’t Patrick Swayze remind you of your father?”

Well, that’s very flattering. It’s the first time I’ve heard that. You know, actually, my older brother, Andrew, there’s a little bit more of a resemblance between those two.

I believe, too, this is your first onscreen lightsaber fight.

It is. Yeah, it’s my first one. I’ve got some practice with my own kids, that’s for sure. And actually, on the set of Night at the Museum, Steve Coogan is playing a Roman soldier. He had swords, but of course they weren’t lightsabers.

Chewbacca shows up in this movie. I wasn’t expecting that and I don’t know how that even works with licensing.

Well, what’s that Marvel movie that’s coming out.

Thor?

No, the one where all the people are together. Justice League.

Oh, DC…

Yeah, so it’s like, you know, so they get Chewbacca kind of into this movie. Again, I didn’t know Chewbacca was in the movie.

It really looks like they got the real Chewbacca.

And it sounds like Chewbacca?

I think it’s the real suit.

“Chewie.”

The Star Wars stuff got to me, because Auggie loves Star Wars and uses it to cope and it’s this legitimate cross-generational thing now.

Right. And I know with my kids, they love E.T. I guess that’s what makes them classics. For it to be a classic, it probably has to work over a couple generations at least before it’s even in the running to be considered a classic.

I’m not used to you playing a father. Usually, you’re playing the cool guy who’s got some angle…

Yeah, when I first read it, Nate’s character wasn’t clear, and [director] Steve Chbosky said he was going to sort of take a pass on it and had some ideas. And so he came up with sort of a point of view for the guy that made sense to me and that I could imagine.

What kind of roles do you look for these days? When I see you in a movie I still think you’re going to do something crazy. I guess people are still talking about a Wedding Crashers sequel, so I guess that’s still a character you could still play?

Well, I don’t know. That might be a little unseemly at this point.

Probably.

And it’s sort of that stuff that you would hear your parents say or grandparents, you know? “I don’t feel this age,” because of course, you feel like the same person inside. But you get these reminders when people call you sir or something, in my case. Yeah, playing a parent now, I’m sort of used to. But yeah, the first couple times, I was like, “Is anyone going to really buy me as a parent?” But yeah, yep, they do.

Lightning McQueen was back this year. 2017 seemed like a good year for you. You know, listening to that out loud, “good year” and “2017” don’t work in the same sentence. I think I have to retract that.

Yeah, “a great year, a great year.”

“Everything’s great.”

Yeah. I don’t know if that would give comfort to some people that might be on the other side of the fence, thinking it wasn’t a good year offered up.

Right. Like most people.

[Laughs.] “But what about Owen in Cars 3 and Wonder? Didn’t that help?”

I’m going to try that out on someone. The next time someone says, “I just can’t deal with Trump,” I’m going to say, “Well, what about Owen in Cars 3 and Wonder? Doesn’t that help?” and see what happens.

“How about that silver lining?”

You mentioned Anaconda and Armageddon. You really did die in a lot in movies. Did that get old?

[Laughs.] It didn’t get old. It was kind of fun, because then you were done with work.

I never thought about it that way.

Yeah, you know? In Life Aquatic, on the one hand, I’m dead. Poor Ned Plimpton! On the other hand, hey, I’m still in Rome and I get to just kind of cruise around the city now while everyone else is working.

So when you got the script for Wonder, were you like, “On what page does Nate pass away so I can just hang out in Vancouver and not work?”

Well, luckily – and actually, this was something that appealed to me about the script when I read it – because I feel it’s accurate to what it is. That once you’re at school, there’s only so much your parents can do to protect you or even have influence on you. I know growing up, it’s like, you’re at school and you’re on your own. Or even in the summertime, I mean, we left in the morning and we were just gone all day, riding around. It was completely unsupervised. So I think your life and your friends and all of that end up having a big influence on your personality and shaping you. Certainly, your parents do, but so does that other stuff.

So was that the compromise with Stephen? Did Stephen say to you, “Look, we can’t kill off Nate, but we can kill the dog for you”?

I said, “Look, it’s an either/or.” These are my charms.

You can contact Mike Ryan directly on Twitter.

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