Never for a second does Wilson lose his syrupy drawl or giddy, syncopated ebullience. Wilson, now 47, was born and raised in Dallas. But who is Owen Wilson?
Hansel is so cuddly a character that even the high guard of fashion, whom the movie is most directly lampooning, loves him to pieces. As Wilson readied for the release of Zoolander 2 this month, he spoke with Valentino designers Pierpaolo Piccioli and Maria Grazia Chiuri about dropping into Paris Fashion Week for their show, living in Rome, and the art of cinema.
Where are you guys? We are in New York. I got back from Miami yesterday, so now I have a holiday. What shampoo do you use on those golden locks? A lot of conditioning. We first met in Paris, at our show. What was that like for you? I guess I was a little bit nervous, because there seemed to be so much secrecy with Ben [Stiller] wanting to make sure that it was a surprise when we walked out on the runway.
It was a nice way to begin Zoolander 2, with that kind of reception. It was a moment of freedom in fashion—you could watch and not take everything so seriously. Anna Wintour was there, and we did the little thing with her before the show. And, of course, she has a reputation—she can be very intimidating—but that day she was just smiling and laughing. That was my first time meeting her, and she seemed like she was having a great time. Everybody was enjoying themselves.
Now, our first real question, maybe the most complex: Why did you become an actor? Well, I think it was something that I just sort of fell into by luck.
My roommate in college in Austin, Texas, was Wes Anderson. Wes always wanted to be a director. I was an English major in college, and he got us to work on a screenplay together. And then, in working on the screenplay, he wanted my brother, Luke, and me to act in this thing.
We did a short film that was kind of a first act of what became Bottle Rocket. But after Bottle Rocket, I started getting acting work. People started offering me roles in movies.
It was just lucky. Wes is, of course, part of your career. You co-wrote maybe one of the most iconic fashion movies, The Royal Tenenbaums. Oh, yes, we worked together writing a couple more movies together: Rushmore  and Tenenbaums. I lived in Rome for about five or six months during Life Aquatic, so it was nice to return to Rome. The apartment that I rented in Rome this time was so great. It was right next to the steps, the Capitoline that Michelangelo designed. I remember you biking in Rome.
I was in Rome this time for about three or four months, and I feel like, by the time I left, every single person in Rome had seen me at least 10 times riding my bicycle. When I first got there, it seemed like people were happy to see me and would say hello. And by the end, they were kind of bored of seeing me. Dark comedy is an important part of your career. Why do you choose these roles?
We are always asked where our inspiration comes from when we design a collection. How do you, when building the characters you play, build the layers of the character? I try to find a way to make it comfortable or interesting or funny to me. I remember working with Jackie Chan on Shanghai Noon , and when we were working on the script, I thought that my character thought about being an outlaw the way a kid today would think about being a rock star, as a way to impress girls.
So it was just kind of a funny idea, but once we had that idea, it changed the character and made it something that was funnier to me to play. Nicholson was saying that, as an actor, you always want to try to make things real. And you have a passion for art. Avedon would come to Texas to visit, they would go to Montana and Wyoming. My parents would take us to the museums a lot, the way parents do. And Peter Brant, who is a good friend. So knowing those guys.
But yeah, my mother photographed Donald Judd in Marfa, Texas, right before he passed away. He was actually the first artist whose work I collected. I just loved the photographs that my mom had done of Donald Judd and the installations in Marfa. Who are your favorite artists? I love Francis Bacon. The first thing I remember is Alexander Calder—our school took us on a field trip to go see the Calder mobiles, and that always stuck in my memory. In Rome, I loved seeing the Caravaggios.
Matthew with the money. Do you see any similarity between fine art and cinema? Do you feel like you are an artist shaping a character? But I think it might sound a little pretentious for me to say I think of myself as an artist. I think of myself as a creative person. What was the most important moment in your career? The one you remember most, the one you want to save. I think for Wes and me, the most important thing was James L.
Brooks producing our first movie and giving us a chance to come to Hollywood, because without him, we might never have gotten the chance. I remember that like it was yesterday, and it was over 20 years ago: Just the excitement that we had that we were maybe going to be able to make a movie. And he then sort of became our mentor, brought us out to Los Angeles and worked on the script for a year with us.
We learned so much working with him—just being able to spend time with him, the quality of his mind, the things he comes up with and says. I think Wes and I could go to dinner tonight and spend the whole dinner thinking and talking about things that Jim has said to us over the years. So that was definitely the luckiest, most important thing that happened to me. Then I guess also meeting Ben Stiller. He cast me in the only thing I think I ever auditioned for and got: And that led to us becoming friends.
In her autobiography she talks about the way her parents met. Her father was, I think, in New York just walking by on his way home and looked into a store and saw the lady that became his wife. It was just pure luck. And she said that it once again reminds her of the role that luck and chance play in our life. I really believe that, too.
And now we know that you love shopping. What about it do you like? Well, I like the Valentino store in Rome. And then I became sort of an aficionado on the Valentino pajamas, because I like those so much.
I think somebody like Wes has a very good sense of style and is original. I think my sense of style got a little bit better after I was exposed to you guys at Valentino. Style is how you make fashion personal. It could also be about how to be ridiculously good looking. How to be really hot.