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— by Carl Davis and Ben Cosgrove

With the upcoming release of "Wedding Crashers," Owen Wilson (accompanied by fellow funnyman Vince Vaughn) is once again bringing his low-key, laid-back humor to the big screen. Now seems as good a time as any to look back at the Butterscotch Stallion's surprisingly varied career. Yes, that's right — we said "Butterscotch Stallion," and if there's ever been a more apt nickname for a Hollywood star, we've never heard it.


"The Life Aquatic" (2004)

"The Life Aquatic" marks director Wes Anderson's first foray without co-writer Owen Wilson, who nonetheless plays a major role in the film. Bill Murray plays world-renowned oceanographer Steve Zissou, about to embark on a voyage of vengeance against the rare jaguar shark that ate his partner. Wilson plays Ned Plimpton, who has joined the crew of Zissou's ship The Belafonte and may or may not be Zissou's long-lost son. The two men bond along the way, coming to the realization that family ties are stronger than kidnapping, pirates and bankruptcy combined.


"Starsky & Hutch" (2004)

In his sixth (count 'em, sixth) film with Ben Stiller, Wilson finally gets equal billing as Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson to Stiller's David Starsky in this big-screen update of the classic buddy-cop show. Complete with pimp-turned-informant Huggy Bear (played to perfection by Snoop Dogg) and the iconic red-and-white Ford Torino, the film may be a little too reverential toward its kitschy source material. Happily, Vince Vaughn's inspired turn as the prototypical '70s TV-show villain gives this comedy the ballast it needs to stay afloat.


"Behind Enemy Lines" (2001)

Wilson brings a surprising credibility to his role as a hot-headed Navy fighter pilot shot down over Bosnia while on a reconnaissance mission. Director John Moore keeps the tension high as Wilson tries to make his way to safety while Serbian nationalist sociopaths hunt him; Gene Hackman is terrific as his gruff, fatherly commanding officer; and the several-minute mid-air sequence in which Wilson and his flyboy buddy try to keep their jet from being blown out of the sky by surface-to-air missiles is a classic of its kind. Grab the popcorn.


"The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001)

As a best-selling author of crappy Western novels who doubles as an (unofficially) adopted son in the exceedingly eccentric Tenenbaum household, Eli Cash is a classic Wes Anderson/ Owen Wilson creation: lightly tethered to the real world but dreaming of either a past or a future where he really belongs. Wilson gives Eli the proper balance of goofiness and sadness — which, when you get right down to it, is kind of what he brings to almost all of his characters.


"Zoolander" (2001)

Ben Stiller's hilarious send-up of the fashion industry again finds Wilson in a supporting role, this time as Hansel, the up-and-coming rival to Stiller's thick-as-a-brick male model Derek Zoolander. After Zoolander is brainwashed into an assassination plot involving the prime minister of Malaysia and a not-so-funny plot device involving child-labor laws, he and Hansel must team up to expose the underside of the very industry that has made them rich and famous. The 10-minute "Walk Off" between Hansel and Zoolander (refereed by David Bowie, in one of the film's most inspired cameos) is a must-see.


"Meet The Parents" (2000)

In a squirm-inducing performance, Ben Stiller plays male nurse Greg Focker, who must meet his girlfriend Pam's parents (including former CIA agent and current badass Robert De Niro) for the first time. In his supporting role as Pam's ex, Kevin, Wilson almost steals the show. Playing a character who is just way too good to be true gives Wilson the freedom to flex his comic muscle — from modestly unveiling the chuppah (Jewish wedding canopy) he carved from a single piece of wood, to expressing fond memories of his former flame ("She is a tomcat"). Still, he's no Jinx the cat.


"Shanghai Noon" (2000)

Shortly after the box-office success of "Rush Hour," Jackie Chan paired up with Wilson for another fish-out-of-water story, this time set in the Wild West. Chinese imperial guard Chon Wang (mispronounced "John Wayne") must team up with would-be train robber Roy O'Bannon (Wilson) to rescue the kidnapped princess Pei Pei. Chan allows himself to cut loose, performing some amazing feats of comedic stunt work, while Wilson is his usual unflappable self, delivering his lines so effortlessly you'd swear they were made up on the spot. The two re-teamed for an equally charming sequel, "Shanghai Knights."


"The Haunting" (1999)

Gone, but not quite forgotten, this film is just a footnote in Wilson's otherwise successful career. Wilson, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Lili Taylor played insomniacs taking part in a study on sleep disorders who unwittingly become part of an experiment in fear. It's notable for one so-bad-it's-good scene, in which Wilson, realizing they've been tricked into staying inside a haunted house, attempts to drive a 1978 Ford Pinto through a locked gate. Ramming the front of his car into the gate somehow causes the rear gas tank to rupture, turning the car into a fiery tomb. Good times.


"The Minus Man" (1999)

Along with co-stars Janeane Garofalo, Sheryl Crow, Dwight Yoakam and the always-brilliant Brian Cox, Wilson (in the tile role, as a serial killer) turns Hampton Fancher's psychological thriller into a strangely engaging, dreamlike study in evil.


"Armageddon" (1998)

Wilson's cowboy geologist, Oscar Choi, wasn't the star of Michael Bay's big-budget disaster flick (that honor went to Bruce Willis), but for a lot of viewers he was just as important. Delivering many of the best lines of the film in his neo-surfer drawl, he was also afforded some of the most memorable scenes. From his audacious intro (evading federal agents on horseback) to his honorable death (with fellow wildcatter-cum-astronaut Ben Affleck blubbering over his lifeless body), this really is deep blue hero stuff.


"Bottle Rocket" (1996)

Critically adored (Martin Scorsese ranked it among the 10 best films of the '90s) but commercially ignored (it cost $5 million to make but only grossed $1 million), "Bottle Rocket" introduced the world to director Wes Anderson and his writing partner, Owen Wilson. Wilson plays the lovable loser Dignan, who heads out with his friends (one of whom is played by real-life brother, Luke) on an ill-conceived crime spree hoping to escape the doldrums of their small-Texas-town lives.



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Photos: New Line Cinema


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