In the few days since Owen Wilson was hospitalized for an apparent suicide attempt on Sunday, many have already been speculating what this means for the comedy star’s career. As Wilson continues to recover in Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, several of his upcoming projects have already been affected.
According to Variety, Wilson has dropped out of a starring role in the Ben Stiller-directed comedy “Tropic Thunder,” which he was scheduled to begin filming in Hawaii within the next few weeks (see “Owen Wilson Suicide Attempt Confirmed” ). It is unknown if Wilson’s role will be cut or recast for the movie, which also features Stiller, Jack Black and Nick Nolte, as well as a rumored cameo by Tom Cruise (see “Tom Cruise Sounds Like He’s In For Ben Stiller’s ‘Tropic Thunder’ “). The film’s co-writer, Justin Theroux, recently described the plot to MTV News as “a bunch of actors going to make the biggest-budget war movie and getting lost in the jungle. And they end up fighting an unseen enemy and thinking they’re fighting a real war.” “Tropic Thunder” would have reteamed Wilson with Stiller once again after such successes as “Night at the Museum,” “Starsky & Hutch” and “Zoolander.”
Wilson will next be seen onscreen in “The Darjeeling Limited,” directed by Wes Anderson (see “The Darjeeling Limited: Exclusive On-Set Action”). The film is set to debut at the Venice Film Festival next week and will screen at the New York Film Festival before its release on September 29. Wilson plays one of three brothers in the film (alongside Jason Schwartzman and Adrien Brody) who take a train trip through India after the death of their father. Wilson’s close friendship with Anderson has been perhaps the most important creative partnership in his career. The two collaborated on “Bottle Rocket,” the 1996 cult film that launched Anderson and spawned the first major interest in Wilson. The two went on to co-write “The Royal Tenenbaums,” in which Wilson co-starred, as a drug addict, alongside his brother Luke. Their screenplay earned Wilson his sole Academy Award nomination.
Wilson’s hospitalization would seem to pose a marketing challenge for Fox Searchlight with “Darjeeling,” a film that rests squarely on its biggest star’s shoulders. However, Hollywood Elsewhere columnist Jeffrey Wells believes Wilson’s part in the film actually mirrors his current situation. “This probably doesn’t help ‘Darjeeling,’ but I don’t think it will hurt either,” Wells said. “Everyone is now thinking of Owen as a f—ed-up guy with issues to solve, and his Darjeeling character is a f—ed-up guy with issues to solve.” Calls to Fox Searchlight inquiring about any plans to adjust the film’s release strategy had not been returned at press time.
Next spring, Paramount is scheduled to release “Drillbit Taylor,” starring Wilson in the title role. The actor has already completed filming the Judd Apatow-produced comedy. Other projects Wilson is attached to include the recently announced film version of the bestseller “Marley & Me,” in which Wilson was to star with Jennifer Aniston. The fate of that project also remains unknown.
Wilson’s lineup of projects is heavy, as befits a comedic actor of his status. Few stars have opened as many comedy hits as Wilson in recent years. Even the lackluster comedy “You, Me and Dupree” opened at a healthy $21.5 million last summer, a gross that leaned heavily on Wilson’s star power. In his relatively young career, Wilson has appeared in five films that have grossed more than $200 million.
But for an actor who has made his bread and butter primarily in comedies, the question remains: Will audiences easily accept him in lighthearted roles after Sunday’s incident? Wells believes Wilson won’t have a problem. “Tragedy and comedy are the twin faces of a very thin dime,” he said, “and if Owen absorbs this episode in the right way, his sense of humor — which was always dry and sardonic and even fatalistic at times — will be even better. Career-wise, he’ll be fine if he gets right back up on the horse.”
Meanwhile, Wilson’s representatives have declined to make additional comments since releasing his initial statement on Monday. Unsubstantiated reports of the actor’s recent drug use have been making the rounds on the Internet. Last year, Wilson admitted to Blender magazine that he smoked marijuana, saying, “It’s only lately that I’ve become more open to smoking, and thinking that it’s not that big a deal.”
The latest issue of Us Weekly quotes Courtney Love and an unnamed friend of actress Kate Hudson (who until recently dated Wilson) accusing actor Steve Coogan in what it characterized as Wilson’s recent drug problems — although Coogan’s publicist released a statement on Wednesday that read, “These accusations are unfounded, unhelpful and hurtful to all concerned. We are taking legal advice.”