PLAYBOY: In My Super Ex-Girlfriend, you play a guy who breaks up with Uma Thurman, only to discover that she’s a superhero. Now, we can buy the whole superhero conceit, but do you really expect us to believe that anybody would willingly dump Uma Thurman?
LUKE WILSON: Yeah, I know. It’s not that believable, right? When we were shooting the movie, she’d do something really crazy and funny, which I find so attractive in a woman. I’d have to literally remind myself, “Now remember, Luke, you want out of this relationship.” I had to draw on all of my acting training. We shot it in New York, and occasionally I’d meet people and tell them about the movie. They’d say, “Uma Thurman is the woman?” “Yeah.” “And you leave her?” “Yep.” “Well, that doesn’t seem very plausible.” They weren’t able to help themselves. One time, I had a cab driver who told me, “I don’t buy that at all. You leave Uma Thurman? No, that wouldn’t happen. I hope the movie’s funny, but it sounds like horseshit to me.” And I had to agree with him. But I tried to use that to fuel my character’s anger towards her in the movie. “Why can’t I leave a woman like Uma Thurman?!”
PLAYBOY: The premise – being punished by an ex-girlfriend with super powers — is every guy’s worst nightmare. Is this movie going to put our minds at ease, or just fill us with more paranoia?
LUKE WILSON: I don’t know. Maybe a little of both. It’s kinda like Fatal Attraction in a lot of ways. It’ll touch on a nerve with men. But they’ll probably get the wrong message from it. You gotta be reaaaaallly careful, y’know? I remember when Fatal Attraction came out, most guys didn’t walk away thinking, “Hey, maybe it’s wrong to cheat.” They left the movie thinking, “You gotta be careful with the crazy women.”
PLAYBOY: If you had a choice, would you rather be the one ending a relationship, or the one being dumped?
LUKE WILSON: I’m always the guy who tries to keep it going. I’ll just act worse and worse and wait for them to end it. Or I’ll say something like, “Come on, we can make it work!” It’s like that Bob Dylan song, “Baby You’re a Big Girl Now.” There’s a lyric that goes, “I can change I swear!” I know that I’ve used that exact line many, many times. But it never seems to convince them. And then you just feel bad for groveling.
PLAYBOY: You’ve remained friends with ex-girlfriends like Drew Barrymore, who cast you in Charlie’s Angels long after your breakup. What’s your secret?
LUKE WILSON: To be honest, I’m not that good at it. I like to move on after a relationship ends. If I break up with somebody, I don’t want to see them and I don’t want to hear from them. Drew and I started out as friends, and I think that helps. I credit Drew with being the bigger person. She’s the one who kept the friendship alive. I don’t know that I’d be able to do something like that. I don’t usually keep in close contact with anybody I’ve dated. I mean, it’s nice when you run into them again. But mostly, after a breakup I’m like, “I’m gonna load my shit into my van and then I’m outta here. See the car in your driveway that says ‘1995’ in big, orange letters? That’s what I’m driving. I’m gonna clean out your apartment and it’ll be like I was never there.”
PLAYBOY: My Super-Ex Girlfriend isn’t the first time you’ve been matched with a powerful woman. In films like Charlie’s Angels and Legally Blonde, you’ve been the gushing, admiring boyfriend. Why are you always picked for these roles?
LUKE WILSON: I don’t know. When I meet people, they’ll usually say, “Why do you play the nice guy?” Once they get to know me, and they see that I’m very sarcastic and I’ll kid around to the point of being mean and I’ll usually say something inappropriate, they can never understand why I always play the boyfriend. “How did you get to date Reese Witherspoon in Legally Blonde?” I don’t know, it’s just something I ended up doing. They’re great characters with a lot of charisma, so I liked playing them. It was only later when people started saying, “Do you ever get tired of playing the boyfriend?” I never really thought about it. But then, of course, I started thinking, “Yeah, I better not do that anymore.” The truth is, I like to be busy. I remember when Robert Mitchum died, and his filmography had something like 190 movies in it. This clearly wasn’t a guy who was thinking, “Well, should I do this film or should I take six months off until I find the right project?” I think he had the right idea. Just take it as it comes. I’m always learning something with each movie, so I don’t want to turn anything down. I don’t know, maybe I’m just being too positive about it.
PLAYBOY: Would you rather be playing characters that are less likeable?
LUKE WILSON: Oh sure. I think I’m starting to do that now. I was watching footage of Ex-Girlfriend with (director) Ivan Reitman and he said, “You play dark very well. I never realized it before. You’re always so pleasant in your movies, but there’s a lot of darkness there.” It was nice to hear that. I also just signed on to play the lead in a movie called Barry Munday where I’m a womanizer. Sleeping around is his idea of a hobby. He’s like a guy who collects classic cars, but instead of cars it’s women. He ends up fooling around with a younger girl and her father shows up and castrates him. (Laughs.) It was the first time I had a hard time trying to describe a movie to my mother. When I told her about it, I tried to cough my way through it. “And he (coughs) gets castrated.” “I’m sorry, what?” “Yeah, anyway, the movie’s about this guy’s journey.”
PLAYBOY: You spent your formative years at an all-boys’ high school in Texas. How did you learn about women?
LUKE WILSON: I have no idea. I got a lot of very skewed, very bad information. It’s lucky that they didn’t have guys like us trying to break the code in World War II. What we thought and what was reality were two very different things. We’d talk about girls and say things like, “They like it when you don’t take your time. Just go for it. What’s the worst that’s gonna happen? Her brother will kick your ass? So what? Trust me, Wilson.” Yeah, we didn’t have a clue what we were talking about. It was like, “Girls really like it if they see you up in a sycamore tree, staring into their bedroom window.” What the hell were we thinking? We had some exposure to girls. There was a sister school – kind of the female version of our school – and we got to socialize with them. One of my best friends had five sisters, and he was always very charming and at ease around women. But I was never comfortable with them. I was interested, but still very awkward and tongue-tied.
PLAYBOY: Your next film, Mike Judge’s Idiocracy, is a science fiction comedy in which everybody in the future is stupid. Does this seem like a realistic prediction?
LUKE WILSON: Definitely. Just look at how everything is becoming super-sized and Big Gulps are now 99 ounces. The movie is obviously meant to be humorous, but on the other hand, I really don’t think it’s much of an exaggeration. There’ll be some nights when I’m sitting in my living room and channel surfing for four hours as opposed to reading. I’m sure it happens to everybody. You’re sitting there watching American Idol and your brain is turned off, but you’re very happy. There’s a scene in Idiocracy where I run into a movie theater and the number one movie in America is called Ass. It’s just a tight shot on a guy’s ass for three hours. The guy’s ass is passing wind, and people are rolling in the aisles with laughter. Part of it is just Mike Judge’s twisted imagination. But if you think about it, a movie like Ass really could be a hit. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least. I might make a couple of cuts. It probably doesn’t need to be three hours. But otherwise, Ass could be as big as Beverly Hills Cop.
PLAYBOY: Your character in Idiocracy realizes that he’s the smartest person in the future. Have you ever had a similar experience? Have you ever walked into a room and thought, “I’m the only one here who’s not a moron?”
LUKE WILSON: No, not really. I don’t generally have those kinds of feelings. But sure, I’ve met people and thought, “Jesus, how does this guy survive in the world?” I can be out of it sometimes, but this guy is just in another dimension. I find myself really wanting to know them better, because I think I could learn something from them. They must know some survival skills, y’know? How does somebody this stupid feed and clothe themselves? How do they drive a car and pay their bills and just walk down the street? If this guy is still alive, then he must know a few tricks.
PLAYBOY: Critics often say that you play the “Everyman” in your films. Do you think of yourself that way, despite the fact that you have more money, date hotter women, and dress better than the rest of us?
LUKE WILSON: I don’t know about all of that, but I do like to think of myself as a regular guy. It can be weird sometimes, because it sounds like such an egotistical thing to say. But, y’know, I haven’t changed. I still have the same tight circle of friends. I still like to live in Texas, away from the whole Hollywood thing. As for the characters I play in movies, I guess it can sometimes seem like that. I was joking with a producer from My Super-Ex Girlfriend about how I’m always offered the same kind of roles. It’s usually a guy in his early 30s, who is quirky-looking and disheveled. It’s always a variation on the Everyman. I almost want to start introducing myself that way. “Hi, I’m everyman Marty Friedman. I’m in my early 30s, I’m quirky, I’m disheveled, I’m a total slob. I’m lovable in a non-threatening kinda way. I’m the kinda guy you’d want your sister to date, if this were a movie.”
PLAYBOY: You claimed that you gained a lot of weight for your role on The Family Stone. Was that a character choice or were you just feeling lazy?
LUKE WILSON: Actually, that was just something that I joked about with David Letterman. I told him that I gained fifteen pounds for the movie and that I thought it was a really brave thing to do. Most actors are too vain to do something like it. Unless it’s Robert DeNiro doing Jake La Motta in Raging Bull, you don’t see a lot of actors going out of their way to get fat. But it didn’t really have anything to do with the movie. I was just letting myself go. I’m a little older now, and fatter, and I’m not exercising as much. My lifestyle these days involves a lot of beer and pasta. But there’s something satisfying in letting your body go to hell. Sometimes I get into that mode where I think, “What the hell? Why shouldn’t I have a Double-Double with Cheese?” So maybe I won’t get offered the same kind of roles as before. So what? I’m happy to play the guy in his mid-thirties who might be a little unhealthy. “Fat and arrogant” is what I’m bringing to the script.
PLAYBOY: Is it true that your Family Stone co-star Diane Keaton pulled a practical joke or two on you during the shoot?
LUKE WILSON: Yeah, she did. I chipped a tooth on a beer bottle and Diane recommended a dentist. She gave me the number and it turned out to be a psychiatrist. And you know what? I’m no longer talking to Diane Keaton. I’m not going to get caught up in how great Diane Keaton is. I’m so tired of hearing Warren Beatty and Jack Nicholson yammer on about what a wonderful, talented lady she is. I have problems with her and I’m not afraid to say it. (Laughs.) I’m kidding, of course. She’s very funny and I loved working with her. I never got her back for that one, but I’m waiting for my opportunity.
PLAYBOY: During high school, you were something of a track and field star. Do you still have thigh muscles that could crack a coconut?
LUKE WILSON: No, not anymore. But at the time, I did a lot of races and I still hold the school record for the 400 and 800-meter relays. Those are sixteen year-old records. I hate to sound like everybody’s all-American, but at this point it tells me that those records won’t be broken. If somebody breaks it, I want the kid tested for performance enhancing drugs. I still try to jog when I can, and I think I’m still pretty fast. Actually, I’d say that I’m uncatchable. I was talking about this with some friends the other night. You know how there are those horror movies where somebody is being chased by a killer? I said, “There’s no way I could be caught.” Whether it’s friend or foe, I’m uncatchable. If I’m doing a movie and I have to run, the director usually has to tell me to slow down so they can keep me in the frame. I’m just that fast.
PLAYBOY: According to some rumors, you have a long-standing rivalry with your brother Owen. There were even reports that you head-butted him on the set of Rushmore. Is it safe to assume that these stories are exaggerated?
LUKE WILSON: I don’t think I’ve ever head-butted him. I’d probably remember something like that. It’s the sort of thing that Owen would never let me forget. It’s weird; nobody ever wants to hear that Owen and I are friends and we just want the best for each other. I wouldn’t be working if it weren’t for my brother, so that makes it hard for me to resent him, though I know that some people want us to have this rivalry. Owen had a great response when anybody would ask him about me. They’d come up and say, “How’s your brother?” Or “I’ve worked with Luke and he’s great.” And Owen would just say, “Fuck him.” I think some people didn’t really get his humor. They took it at face value. “Fuck him. The guy’s a prick.” Maybe we should just give people want they want. We should find out where the hot nightclubs are and brawl in public.
PLAYBOY: You lived with Owen for most of your 20s. Is it just us or does that all have the makings of a hilarious reality show called The Wilson Brothers?
LUKE WILSON: I actually lived with him for all of my 20s and some of my 30s. Yeah, it might’ve made a great reality show, but I don’t know how funny it would’ve been. It might’ve just been depressing. Here’s this guy who can obviously afford his own apartment or house, yet he chooses to live with his brother. It eventually got to the point where Owen said, “I want you out of here. Why don’t you take your quirky, disheveled self down the road?” I told him, “I’m looking for places. It’s harder than you think.” And then he’d go on location for a film shoot and I’d breath a sigh of relief. (Laughs.) I actually bought a house and didn’t move into it for almost a year. I just wasn’t ready to make the change yet. I had to feel comfortable in my own skin. (Pause.) Would you do me a favor and add “he snickers” in parenthesis after that?
PLAYBOY: Why? Are you afraid of coming across as too touchy feely?
LUKE WILSON: “Comfortable in my own skin” just sounds like something that an actor would say. It’s like when they do something to “stay grounded.” They’ll say, “Yeah, I work on classic cars, but it helps to keep me grounded.” Yeah, the other 22 hours of the day, they’re a fucking asshole. I like to ride horses in Malibu. The rest of the time, I’m a total son of a bitch.
PLAYBOY: You and actors like Will Ferrell, Jack Black and Vince Vaughn have been dubbed the “Frat Pack” by the media. Do you guys actually call yourself that?
LUKE WILSON: Oh god, yes. But it doesn’t seem to have the legs of the Brat Pack or the Rat Pack. It’s not as cool. I think it’s because it’s just clearly off the mark. You don’t get the sense that Owen or Will or Jack are frat brothers. But actually, the “Frat Pack” is more than just a name. We’re a real organization. We’ve had a few meetings in Elko, Nevada. We talk about our upcoming projects, discuss initiating new members, and spend a lot of time hazing each other. On some nights, you can hear the paddles echoing through the canyons. We even have a secret handshake. You just hold on to as few fingers as you can and shake limply.
PLAYBOY: On the set of Old School, you named your eyes Shorty and Kevin, respectively. Have the names stuck?
LUKE WILSON: Oh, sure. I talk about them like they’re people. Sometimes I’ll be working on a movie and I’ll say, “Kevin’s kinda tired today. Can we cheat the camera towards Shorty?” Or, “I slept on Shorty last night. Kevin’s the go-to guy today.” I’ll squint Shorty in a movie when my character is deep in thought or I’m trying to make a point. It was just something I came up with to screw around and make Will (Ferrell) laugh. That kinda thing happens all the time. When we were in Dublin doing press for Old School, Will and I were drinking pints and eating these really bizarre desserts, and by the end of the night, we decided to give each other nicknames. My nickname was Little Shake – because I was drinking a small milkshake — and Will’s nickname was Sugar Tear. We still call each other by those names to this day.
PLAYBOY: You had a thick, ratty beard in The Royal Tenenbaums, but since then you’ve been mostly clean-shaven in your movies. Did you have a traumatic experience that made you swear off facial hair?
LUKE WILSON: No, it was fun to have a beard. I kinda enjoyed that I looked like one of the Beach Boys on the downward slide. But it was itchy and I probably wouldn’t grow one again unless somebody asked me. The beard gave me a new appreciation for Kevin and Shorty. That’s when I realized how much those guys mean to me. With the beard, I didn’t have the great smile anymore. I didn’t have high cheekbones or the smirk. All I had were Kevin and Shorty, and that’s why I’m so loyal to both of them. You learn a lot when you have a beard. Like when a girl says to you, “My dad had a beard,” the next thing you should ask is, “And how was your relationship with him?” Because if daddy was abusive, well, that’s not very hot. Then the date is over.
PLAYBOY: You’ve played inept burglars in films like Bottle Rocket and Best Men. Have you learned from your characters’ mistakes? If you were so inclined, could you commit the perfect crime?
LUKE WILSON: Possibly, but I have no interest. The odds are against you. With DNA testing and fingerprints – all that CSI stuff – I don’t think it’s possible to pull off the perfect crime anymore. Besides, I think being a criminal is a young man’s game. But if I had to commit a crime? I’d probably do identity fraud. I think I’d be pretty good at that. “Would I really have his credit card, ma’am? You’re welcome to call his accountant on Monday. But please, I just need to get into the Presidential Suite as soon as possible.” It’d have to be another actor. I could do a good Billy Baldwin impersonation. Or maybe Brad Pitt, but I’d have to get into better shape. I might be convincing as Errol Flynn or Clint Eastwood. And I could do Matthew McConaughey in certain towns in Texas.
PLAYBOY: In Alex & Emma, you played a gambling addict being pursued by loan sharks. Are you a better gambler than your on-screen counterpart?
LUKE WILSON: I’m not much of a gambler. I only gamble with things like golf, but I don’t play cards or poker. I don’t know how and I’ve never learned. I’m just not intelligent enough. When I’m in Vegas, I’ll try to play some blackjack, but I count so slowly that the pit boss will come over because they think I’m pulling a Rainman. They’ll give me this weird look like they’re sure I’m counting cards. Then I’ll be dealt something like a 17 and I’ll say, “Hit me.” See? What idiot would hit on 17? I’m not a threat to the casino. I’m just there to give them my money.
PLAYBOY: Alex & Emma didn’t do too well at the box office. Do you think your fans were disturbed to see you in a chick flick?
LUKE WILSON: Well, first of all, I’m flattered that you think I have fans. I don’t think along those lines. But whatever fans I do have are probably because of Old School. I should probably have followed it up with something a little more similar. Hmm, that would’ve made more sense, wouldn’t it? It’s funny, older people still come up to me and say, “Gosh, I really enjoyed Alex & Emma. It was so sweet.” And then I’ll meet some guy who is obviously an Old School fan and he’ll say, “That Alex & Emma crap was fucking terrible, man. Why would you do that to me? I had to sit there with my girlfriend and pretend that I liked it. I’m waiting for Kate Hudson to get naked, and the next thing I know the credits are rolling.” They felt betrayed, and I can understand why.
PLAYBOY: In films like Old School to The Family Stone, your characters made some big mistakes while being drunk. Just how much research does it take to prepare for these roles?
LUKE WILSON: I’ve definitely had too much to drink in my time. I’ve made the same dumb mistakes that everybody makes. I grew up in a beer-drinking culture, but I’ve never been the wake-up-and-have-a-shot kinda guy. Wait, do you mean do I drink on a movie set? Oh sure, I’ve done that. It definitely helps to loosen up. I would never tell a young actor to do that. But luckily, there aren’t many young actors looking for my advice. There’s a fine line between being sloppy and just feeling relaxed. It’s basically impossible to do. If you’re doing a drunk scene and you’re doing it all day, you can’t start drinking at 8 in the morning and keep it up till 8 at night. At least I can’t. But those last three hours? That’s when I tell the director to shoot my close-up, cause I’m gonna be bombed! And I’ll give a heads-up to all my teamster buddies. “We ain’t goin’ home, boys, we’re hittin’ the bars.”
PLAYBOY: You performed in Willie Nelson’s video for “Maria (Shut Up and Kiss Me)”. Is it possible to work with Willie and not get a contact high?
LUKE WILSON: (Laughs.) There wasn’t any marijuana on the set, as far as I could tell. But I will say this; I did lose a jacket during the shoot. I lost a Rolex and my favorite windbreaker. I’m not kidding. I have no idea what happened to it. It’s not like I sold it to help out a friend who needed a loan or gave a kid a scholarship. I lost it while doing a Willie Nelson video. That is the dark underbelly of Hollywood. But in a way, I feel like it was a rite of passage. If you spend any time with Willie Nelson and walk away with everything you showed up with, you’ve done something wrong. At some point, you have to wake up and think, “Am I on a bus with giant eagles painted on the side? What the hell happened?”
PLAYBOY: Charlie’s Angels Reloaded received a record-setting seven Razzie nominations, including Worst Picture, Worst Sequel, and Worst Acting nods for Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz and Demi Moore. Did you feel slighted when you didn’t personally get a nomination?
LUKE WILSON: I did! It was total bullshit that I wasn’t included. Why did I get left out? (Laughs.) I don’t know, there’s something about the Razzies that I find kinda obnoxious. It’s not like they always go after the actors who are just phoning it in. Most of the time, it’s somebody who made an honest effort. They took a chance and maybe it didn’t work, and now they’re being called a schmuck. Of course, because of this diatribe, I’ve probably guaranteed that I’m gonna get a Razzie next year. Well, fine. Bring it on. Some actors campaign against the paparazzi, but I’m going to devote myself to protesting the Razzies. If I could only find their offices.
PLAYBOY: This interview needs a hook. Can you help us come up with a great (if untrue) rumor about you? Or maybe a quote that we can take out of context?
LUKE WILSON: Hmm, let me think. How about if you write that I hate small children and animals? That’s pretty good. My biggest influence is WC Fields and I despise all children. Oh wait, I know. Owen and I are only half-bothers. That’s a juicy bit of gossip. Owen is a bastard and he’s not even my real brother.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the August 2006 issue of Playboy magazine.)