Greetings humans, Monki here with an interview I did last week with Andrew and Luke Wilson. They are currently going around talking about The Wendell Baker Story that releases this week. I caught the movie at SXSW a couple years ago (and actually wrote about it here). I enjoyed it. Harry Dean Stanton, Seymour Castle and Kris Kristofferson work really well together and it is always fun to see Owen and Luke in their verbal tennis matches.
I talked with the two of them for a few minutes here in Austin and they came across as geniunely cool guys. The kind of guys you want to go to Hutt's with and get a Longhorn burger and then go drinking down on Sixth. Texas boys.
Enjoy my short jaunt away from video games into the movie side of things here on the site. I'll see you at the bottom.
Monki: First of all, tell me about the Wendell Baker story, the development process, I've heard it took a while to get going, it was based on a story that you wrote I believe?
Luke Wilson: Yeah it was just an idea I had. I was just trying to write something that I'd have fun writing and something that I'd actually have fun acting a part in.
Andrew Wilson: Yeah sometimes it's hard in L.A. to get stuff that you'd like to do. Sometimes you just take whatever comes along and I think was a chance for Luke to write a character that he really was into personally. Then he was able to write it over a couple of years in between projects and on the set. Then we showed it to Mark Johnson who produced Rain Man and Chronicles of Narnia and he liked it then we shopped it around looking for investors and we were lucky enough to get Elie Samaha to put up the money and we just made it down here and shot it in 2003 in Austin, the Fall of 03 and took most of 2004 to edit it which is fairly typical, it took about a year to edit it then it opened at South by Southwest in 2005 and then we got a great review in Variety based on that screening so we just thought it was probably a couple months...
Luke: And the Hollywood Reporter.
Andrew: And the Hollywood reporter, so we thought it would be just a couple months before it'd open on 3500 screen and we were just going to be counting the cash. The company that made it went belly up and they sold it to another company that had a hard time getting it together so we're lucky now to finally have Think Films come aboard which is really going to work out perfectly for us because they are used to nurturing this kind of project and they'll give it all the kind of attention it needs and we couldn't be happier with the way it's finally worked out cause we always wanted it to be up on a screen and now it is finally gonna get to be there.
Luke: Now this might not have anything to do with what you're talking about...
Andrew: I can tell by the tone of your voice...
Luke: May I sketch you?
Monki: Oh man.
Luke: Well I used to say that to Will Ferrel on that European Old School tour.
Andrew: That must have gone over great in Germany.
Luke: Like literally on live tv.
Andrew: It's a bit of a conversation stopper.
Luke: Remember that time my elbow slipped off the table and will made fun of me like ten minutes later?
Andrew: Luke was doing an interview like this and kind of making a point about the movie and then went like that but just kept going and tried to kinda like play it cool and then Will Ferrel like a long time later when you thought that nobody noticed it, Will Ferrel was like...
Monki: Nice, that was during Old School?
Andrew: Yeah an Old School press junkett.
Luke: We both showed up at the airport and he had a mustache and I had a mustache and i was like "Why do you have a mustache?" and he was like "Uhh, no reason" and he was asking me why I had one and I was like "I don't know, I just wanted to have a mustache" so we both had one.
Monki: No need to have an excuse for a mustache.
Andrew: Yeah, you should never have to explain that.
Monki: What's it like having your film so close to release and then having it pulled back. I know I've heard once a film gets released people feel that loss but I guess you've had just the opposite of that.
Luke: We would love to feel that loss. We were looking for that loss.
Andrew: Yeah it was kinda hard because we thought the hard part was getting the movie made but the battle had just begun really. The movie doesn't have a specific time, nobody is wearing a Von Dutch hat, the latest model car in the movie is probably a 1980 Cadillac, so I mean the movie...
Luke: Oh you know I met the woman that owns the Cadillac.
Andrew: Owen's Cadillac from the movie?
Luke: I'm gettin' it from her.
Andrew: Are you serious? Oh that's awesome. It's a huge DeVille, you know.
Monki: A boat of a car.
Andrew: It's a total boat, you gotta say "Prepare to come about" before you make a turn in that thing.
Monki: And wear the hat and what not to go with it?
Luke: That's right, the captain's hat.
Monki: So who is the character of Wendell Baker based off of? Is that anybody you know?
Luke: I always just thought about people like Warren Beatty's character in uhh...
Luke: No, what's that Robert Altman movie?
Andrew: Oh the western, McCabe and Mrs. Miller.
Luke: Yeah McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Kurt Russell's character in Used Cars. Real kind of upbeat guys I just always liked the idea of the guy that no matter how bad things are going he's always like completely upbeat.
Monki: And super-optimistic?
Luke: Yeah yeah.
Andrew: Luke you were describing him the other day as the kind of guy that would call you up on the phone and not even introduce himself he would just immediately launch into the plan of attack for the day. "Hey we're gonna go down to the lake and gas up the boat and then we're gonna haul ass down to the Hula Hut and we're gonna grab a beer."
Monki: How important was it for you to film Wendell Baker here in Texas? You guys have roots here in Texas obviously, was that something you wanted to make a point about doing?
Luke: It's definitely real important. I didn't write it for Austin specifically but it was definitely kinda like Southern...
Andrew: I would say it's Texas probably.
Luke: Yeah yeah, but it was some place kinda down around the border you know once we started doing it here we realized we had to kind of make it Austin. And I always wanted to film it here. Even in L.A. you know actors, crew people, they love coming here.
Monki: Well how can you resist?
Luke: Yeah people are always really into it. It's not like...not that there's anything wrong with Albuquerque. But, I mean Neil Young wrote a great song about it but...
Andrew: Mike Judge is from Albuquerque!
Monki: Yeah but this wasn't a movie you could film in Vancouver or something.
Andrew: No, they tried to get us to shoot it in Prague just for a tax break and we were like "no."
Luke: They wanted us to shoot in some crazy town.
Andrew: Like Las Cruces or something?
Luke: Some place in Europe.
Andrew: Oh yeah...Bratislava.
Monki: It definitely has the Texas feel to it.
Andrew: Yeah there is the theme of the movie where Luke, as Wendell Baker, is selling fake ids to illegal immigrants so that's obviously down around the Rio Grande but that's actually the Blanco River in Wimberly.
Monki: I caught the premier back at South By and I remember the opening with the light towers by Lake Austin.
Luke: We figure we tripped out on them enough we might as well put them in a movie.
Monki: Yeah seeing Will Ferrel in the market, stuff you drive by...
Andrew: Fresh..What's that called, Fresh plus?
Monki: Something like that, it's over by campus though right.
Andrew: Yeah, exactly...just north of campus, Fresh Plus. Then they painted the side of it with Will's picture, I thought that was really funny.
Monki: Oh so that was done for the movie?
Luke: Yeah it was.
Andrew: Yeah that was David Bomba, the production designer. You know that gets a laugh to by certain people that notice it cause it looks like Will. It's like a semi-caricature but if you're paying attention...
Monki: Tell me what it was like working with Kris Kristofferson, Harry Dean Stanton, Seymour Castle, those guys. Any good alien stories on set?
Andrew: Just those guys, Harry Dean Stanton and Kris Kristofferson...
Luke: Harry was in Cool Hand Luke, and...
Andrew: Paris Texas.
Luke: ...Pat Garret and Billy the Kid, some of our favorite movies. He's one of those guys where we really did grow up watching him. And our dad, he was a really movie goer. And seeing them...
Andrew: Seeing those guys together you know, you'd look up, I mean those guys worked together on Pat Garrit and Billy the Kid and you'd look up on the set one day and they were doing a scene together. Its surreal. It's just a huge thrill. And then Kristofferson told Luke it was one of the best scripts he's read in a long time and when you hear that from somebody like him it gave us confidence...
Luke: When he told me that I didn't have a lot of time I had to go find my cleanest dirty shirt.
Andrew: People say, "Were you intimidated?" and he's not the kind of guy that makes you intimidated even though he should have been awarded the nobel prize a long time ago.
Monki: He's a force.
Andrew: Total force, but he's kinda without ego. Really nice person, totally prepared and really kind to the crew, just a really cool guy.
Monki: When those guys are on screen, they just own it.
Andrew: It feels so heavy. When you first see Kristofferson, that's one of my favorite parts of the movie when he's first revealed, he just looks so cool and he plays it real quiet and heavy.
Monki: And when Seymour and Harry are together just cruising around, those are guys you just want to hang out with.
Andrew: Those guys ought to be in jail not in an old folks home.
Monki: What was it like directing your first feature?
Luke: We actually had a lot of fun doing it. One thing i think we realized is how hard it is to do it on your own. you know I'd block out the scenes, figure out where people would be sitting and standing and how we'd do the scene and then Andrew and Steve Mason our cinematographer would help figure out how we were going to shoot it and also help blocking the scene.
Andrew: There were a couple of times when Luke would yell action and I would yell cut at the same moment so that threw people off but we worked out the kinks. And Luke is in almost every scene so it was hard. I don't know how guys like Clint Eastwood and Woody Allen do that. We just tried to shoot what was written, the script was there. We didn't have a lot of time, but that almost helped the movie cause we didn't spend a lot of time messing around. We really just shot what was written and tried to get that done every day. That was kind of our goal, it was a very simple goal everyday just shoot what was written for that particular day, there wasn't a lot of second guessing, we kind of just blew through it and I think that it helps with the finished movie cause it seems kind of like a fast moving kind of a rollicking kind of a good time and that reflects the vibe on the set.
Monki: What was it like working with your brothers? Working with Owen and directing those guys?
Luke: You don't have to say "cut" a lot with Owen cause he'll just say "That's it." Brando-esque: "I'm done."
Andrew: As directors, really, the most important thing with Owen is make sure the camera is fully loaded cause he kinda just goes off. He uses the script as an outline.
Luke: It was kinda funny at times cause you'd get crew people and you'd be like... "That's great that you and your brothers work together. I haven't talked to my brother in three years." But it's not like we have an idealic relationship. But we do pretty much get along.
Andrew: I think the fights contribute to the relationship in a weird way. there's nothing more boring than a happily married couple.
Monki: So not a whole lot of yelling?
Andrew: No, it really goes back to the amount of time and money we had, we really didn't have the luxury to sit around and argue and yell at each other. We did some of that afterwards but during the show we were just trying to take care of business. Sometimes Owen would call us over and say "This line doesn't really make sense" and Luke would say "Why don't you take care of that, go talk to Owen." and then Eva would have a problem with her wardrobe and Luke would be jumping out of the director's chair and run over and help her.
Luke: Owen, sometimes he had problems with the way things were in my script and he said he could only attribute them to my pot smoking.
Andrew: Little lapses in logic.
Luke: Little things that didn't make sense.
Andrew: We just tried to embrace that stuff though. We figured there'd be some people who smoke pot watching the movie and would appreciate it.
Monki: Making it in Austin you for sure have that going for you.
Andrew: There was sort of a haze, a purple haze over the set.
Monki: What other projects do you have going on right now?
Andrew: Well Luke just wrote a script called Electric Avenue that we're trying to set up and we'd direct together like this and he's getting ready to work on a movie with the director Mark Pellington who did Arlington Road. I just finished a movie last year called Church Ball which was made by those Mormon guys, the producer of Napoleon Dynamite. And Luke has a new movie with Ben Kingsly coming out in a couple of weeks, Ben Kingsly and Tia Leone...Sir Ben Kingsly, excuse me.
Monki: So what's it like being the older brother of Luke and Owen Wilson, I don't know if that's a strange question.
Andrew: No not at all, obviously I was with them for twenty-five years before they were "Luke and Owen Wilson." Sometimes it's weird driving in L.A. with my kid and I'll see Owen on the side of a bus and I'll see my kid look over and then I think, gosh that is a little weird, but I don't look at them like that. I'm sure they wish that I did treat them with the deference that they have come to expect over the years but I just can't muster it unfortunately. What's the name of the movie you are doing with Mark Pellington?
Luke: Henry Poole is Here.
Monki: I saw on your IMDB page a movie called Terra that you are working on. Can you tell me about that? Is it animated?
Luke: It's an animated movie where I do a voice of a fighter pilot type guy. Yeah I had never done that before. Owen had done Cars and stuff like that, I mean I've auditioned for a few commercials but just never got them. It'd be like, "Can you speak faster?" And I've tried...but it was really actually fun to do Terra, you know it was one of those things were they had all the scenes laid out and they were able to show me some stuff. It was actually really fun.
Monki: What's it's like being part of the "Frat Pack?" You guys are sort of the revitalization of comedy here in America. So what's it like being part of that, you and Will and all those guys...
Luke: I couldn't be happier to be included with those guys. I really like the fact that Will and Ben and Vince, they make their own movies. I've never even met Steve Carrell but 40 Year Old Virgin, whenever thats on cable I watch it every time it's such a good movie. I don't know, I just think they're real funny guys. You gotta be wary, you feel that sometimes people try to knock it by calling it the "Frat Pack" like it's a negative thing, but those guys, I really feel like they are super talented and smart and funny. Somebody like Will, you know, I love the idea that he tries to make his own movies. It's the same with Vince and Owen and Ben. Cause you can obviously just act in movies and make a living but these guys I think they want to make stuff thats important to them.
Monki: You guys are sort of the Dan Akroyd and Belushi those kind of guys for this next generation. I mean I'm a huge fan of Stripes and Ghostbusters.
Luke: Same here.
Monki: And really Old School is sort of the launch of the wave of really solid comedies.
Luke: Yeah Stripes is one of those movies that right when VHS started coming out, I can remember watching Stripes over and over and over again. Warren Oates he's one of our favorite actors and he's a friend of Harry Dean's, he played Srg. Hulka. The scene with Bill Murray, when Srg. Hulka says "Do you want to take a shot at me?" and Bill Murray is like "I would love to take a shot at you." That's where you realize how funny Ivan Reitman is.
Andrew: Yeah I know.
Luke: And that's one of the great things about being in this business is the fact that we've gotten to be around guys like Harry Dean and Seymour and then Ivan Reitman. You can't beat it.
Monki: So here's my geek question for you. What are the characters from Bottle Rocket doing right now? Where's Dignan, where's Future Man? What happened to Anthony?
Luke: I think Dignans a trustee in Jail.
Andrew: A trustee in Huntsville. Future Man is a coach under investigation for child molestation.
Luke: Future Man is in the real estate business.
Andrew: What's Anthony doing? He's came out and he's living in Castro in San Fran.
Monki: That's such a great launching movie. It's still one of those movies that everyone in college has to watch at some point.
Andrew: That's incredible.
Luke: We realized having the movie come out in theaters...
Andrew: How important it is to have the movie come out in theaters even if its a limited run it still helps. Especially with our movie cause we spent a lot of time in Austin trying to make the movie look good and you can't really appreciate it fully unless you see it up on the big screen. So that's why we always wanted it to at least have some kind of release in the theater. So we're happy it's finally coming out May 18th.