“When you imagine yourself being an actor, you don't imagine yourself running out on the street, naked at 2 a.m., over and over again, with neighbors coming out of their houses to look,” actor Owen Wilson says of that naked moment you see in all the commercials for “You, Me and Dupree.”
The cushion-clutching, crooked-nosed actor plays Randolph Dupree, a slacker who moves in “just for a few days” with his best friend, Carl (Matt Dillon), who himself has just moved in with his new bride, Molly (Kate Hudson). Dupree's well-meaning but childish antics drive a wedge between the newlyweds, whose union is already being tested by Molly's controlling father — and Carl's boss — played by Michael Douglas. Open flames, a stuffed moose head and an evening of butter-soaked passion gone awry ratchet up the tension.
Sound outlandish? For Wilson, adding colorful touches to a script is second nature. Together with Wes Anderson, he earned an Oscar nomination for writing 2001's “The Royal Tenenbaums.”
He also has had plenty of experience with guests who overstay their welcome. Exhibit A: Wilson's younger brother, Luke, was a Dupree of sorts: “He lived in my house, probably three years ago, for about a year, even though he had his own house a mile away,” Wilson says. Luke's contribution to the decor? A mounted animal head. “It looked like a wild boar, but it was a javelina. It was a prop from ‘The Royal Tenenbaums’ that, for whatever reason, he decided he had to have, and he had to put it on my wall.”
Wilson says he grew attached to the animal, so much so that he was sad to see his brother move out, if only because the javelina “kind of tied the room together.”
Another brother-related “Dupree” inspiration (he swears it's true) involved older brother Andrew: “He was married for a little while. When we lived back in Dallas, he had a bunch of my clothes in his apartment,” Wilson says. “I went over there to get them, and he wasn't there. I thought I could get in through the crawl space, and I ended up falling through the ceiling.” No surprise that accident-prone Dupree has his own “breakthrough moment” in the film.
Wilson adds, “He said that kind of thing wasn't helping his marriage.” He says that when Andrew groused about it to their father, “my dad stuck up for me and said, ‘Well, you did have his stuff.’”
Five minutes into our interview, Wilson tells me to hold on. “I'm doing a phoner. I don't know if I can go,” he says to someone. Then he's back: “That was Luke. He wants to know if I can go for a jog.”
Uh-oh. Is that freeloader living with him again? “No, I'm in New York,” Wilson says. “He's at the same hotel,” promoting his new movie, “My Super Ex-Girlfriend,” which opens July 21.
There's sibling rivalry and then there's this: having your movie go virtually head-to-head with your brother's in the theaters. “I hope at least one of them does all right,” he says. “People say, ‘Are you guys competitive?’ ... The way I feel is I hope he has a huge hit, so if I ever fall on hard times, at least I know Luke will be in a movie with me.”
The producers of “Dupree” (of whom Wilson is one) hired two directors, brothers Joe and Anthony Russo. Working with another set of brothers was both familiar and a little confusing, Wilson admits. “It was kind of like [working] with my brothers because you would think, if they're directing together, they're so simpatico, they're always in agreement with things. But actually, one would tell you, ‘Go a little bigger with this.’ Then the other would say, ‘Go a little smaller with this.’” Who did he listen to? “Both,” Wilson says — let them duke it out in the editing room.
Whether he plays it big or small, the 37-year-old seems to have struck gold playing the chilled-out man-child, a caricature he has employed in everything from “Bottle Rocket” to “Wedding Crashers.” Dupree is cut from the same cloth. “The key is he's not kind of this cynical, jaded slacker,” Wilson says. “Yeah, he doesn't have a job, he lost his car, and he gets around on a 10-speed bike from 1979. But he's a hopeful person with a lot of enthusiasm, and he really wants Carl and Molly's marriage to work out.”
Dupree's charm — and propensity for unintentional mayhem — was based in part on Wilson's childhood dog, a Dalmatian named Nutmeg. “The dog drove my parents crazy,” he says. “My mother would hang sheets out to dry, and my dog would just shred them.” Eventually, though, he says, “she grew on us.”