PEOPLE Online chatted with actor Owen Wilson about his starring role in The Minus Man and his appearance in Breakfast of Champions.
PEOPLE Online: Welcome, Mr. Wilson!
Owen Wilson: Thank you.
PEOPLE Online: Let's go straight to the questions...
Question: Owen, what is a Minus Man? And is it on TV or in the movies?
Owen Wilson: It's a film that is directed by Hampton Fancher. He also wrote "Blade Runner." I play the title role and it's based on a book by the same title by Lou McQueery. The genre it falls into is difficult to describe. I play a stranger that comes to town and moves in with this family and people start disappearing.
Question: First of all, I loved "Minus Man." What drew you to the project?
Owen Wilson: The script is what I first read in N.Y. and just after reading five or 10 pages I was interested in it and wanted to meet the writer. It stuck out from all the scripts I read and I found it very interesting and different from what I usually read. I find scripts hard to read. They're usually boring and technical but this was anything but that.
Question: How did you like working on "Breakfast of Champions" and were you pleased with the way it turned out? Does it follow the storyline of the book?
Owen Wilson: I don't know if it follows the story line. I didn't read the book and haven't seen the movie. I just worked on it one day. I got to be friendly with Bruce Willis on the set of Armageddon and he asked me to go to Idaho for this movie. I went and I had a great time.
Question: How was working with Hampton, a Hollywood icon?
Owen Wilson: He was great to work with. It was definitely the best time working on a movie other than "Bottle Rocket." He has a great sense of humor and I kind of trusted him. It was the only movie I didn't have to improvise because I loved the script. He knew what he wanted at all times. Usually they figure it out as they go along.
Question: How was it filming "The Haunting?"
Owen Wilson: I had a good time filming it. I liked working with Jan Debon. I heard stories that he was very demanding so I was apprehensive going in but I found him very open and easy to work with. I liked the rest of the cast, too.
Question: Okay, so what's really going on with you and Sheryl Crow?
Owen Wilson: That's my girlfriend. I've been going out with her for about a year. Although I knew her before, when working on "The Minus Man" is when we started dating.
Comment: I thought you were so sexy in "The Haunting" until your head got knocked off!
Owen Wilson: Thank you.
Question: Who's older, you or Luke? And are there any other brothers?
Owen Wilson: Luke is 3 years younger than me and we have an older brother, Andrew who is 4 years older than me. I am 30.
Question: How was it working with Janeane Garofalo?
Owen Wilson: Great! I'd say she's my favorite actress to work with. She has a great comic sensibility and knows just what is appropriate. She has a good ear. I also like working with my friend, Wes Anderson, who I collaborated with on "Bottle Rocket" and "Rushmore." Janeane kind of works well with me because she understands my take on things which makes it so nice to work with her.
Question: How did you and Wes Anderson meet?
Owen Wilson: We met at the University of Texas in Austin. We were in a playwriting class together. I was friends with a kid who grew up with Wes in Houston. He introduced us and we became friends. We had similar interests and backgrounds. He has 2 brothers like me, one older and one younger, we both saw every movie that ever came out and we both wrote short stories for the literary magazine.
Question: How did you prepare for your role as Van [in "The Minus Man"], both mentally and physically (by that meaning background research on madmen, etc.)?
Owen Wilson: Not really. For me it was just kind of working with Hampton on the dialogue and making sure it made sense to me when I spoke it. It came easy to me by the way it was written. I liked Hampton's voice as a writer and its sensibility. It also had a deadpan humor, which is similar to my sense of humor, so I found some funny things about it.
Question: Can't believe I found this! Owen, I'm the biggest fan of "Bottle Rocket," and of course, "Rushmore" (the best movie of the last ten years). What's next on the screenwriting front for you?
Owen Wilson: Wes and I are working on a script right now about a family of geniuses that's a comedy. We hope to start filming about a year from now.
Question: How was working on the set of "The Minus Man" different from, say, other movies?
Owen Wilson: There was a great group working on "The Minus Man" and I guess it comes from Hampton who set a nice tone. Everybody responded to Hampton as a person and we all sort of kept in touch after filming the movie. It came from him that everyone wanted to do a great job because they liked him as a person.
Question: Is there any chance that the black and white version of "Bottle Rocket" will ever get released?
Owen Wilson: Maybe if we did a special laser version of it, we'd release the original 13-minute short film in black and white. We thought we'd film it in black and white 16 mm style until Jim Brooks came along, liked it, and we made the movie. The short 13-minute version was originally the first act of the movie.
Question: What exactly did you do on the set of "As Good As It Gets" to get the producer credit?
Owen Wilson: I became friends with Jim Brooks during our collaboration on "Bottle Rocket." All I did on "As Good as it Gets" is read the script and give some notes on it and hung around during filming. Jim was nice enough to let me hang around and watch him work. I didn't really do too much.
Question: As a writer, who would you cite as influences, if any?
Owen Wilson: I can tell you some of the authors I love: Mark Twain, Fitzgerald, Richard Ford, Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolf.
Question: What do you enjoy more, writing or acting? Will you possibly direct anything you and Wes write?
Owen Wilson: I enjoy writing and acting equally. I'd say that writing is a little more difficult because it takes more discipline and it's lonely. With acting you get to be with a group of people and that's more fun. Both can be satisfying if you do a good job. Eventually I may start directing but I feel no need to since Wes does a great job directing our material.
Question: Hey, Owen, why do you die in all your big action movies?
Owen Wilson: I don't know. That's just the way it is in the script. It's funny how it usually works out that I end up dying. It sort of works out because by the time I die I'm usually tired of working on that particular movie so I look forward to it.
Question: Any future collaborations with Sheryl Crow in the works?
Owen Wilson: No. Sheryl is concentrating on her music career right now. I think she enjoyed acting in "The Minus Man." She doesn't really have plans to act again. I wish she would because she did a great job in our movie.
Question: Which do you prefer acting in -- independent films that have more impact -- or big budget films with big name actors?
Owen Wilson: I guess it's from a pure acting standpoint I've had more important roles in the independent movies. I've enjoyed the big budget movies cause it's fun to be a part of the making of one.
Question: I saw "The Minus Man." Where do you think Van is now?
Owen Wilson: I have no idea. I never think about where people are. Dignan was my character on "Bottle Rocket" and I never really ask myself those questions about him either.
Question: I'm lost trying to think of something to say Owen -- you're one of my favorite actors, and it's good to see you making more movies. Anything set up after "Breakfast of Champions?"
Owen Wilson: I acted in a western with Jackie Chan that's a buddy movie. We had a great time making it and it will be out sometime in the summer. It's called "Shanghai Noon."
PEOPLE Online: You play the buddy, right?
Owen Wilson: Yes.
PEOPLE Online: And who gets the girl?
Owen Wilson: We both get a girl.
PEOPLE Online: Another "Bottle Rocket" question.
Question: How much of you is in Dignan?
Owen Wilson: I guess a lot of me in the sense that's my sense of humor. The stuff that Dignan is doing is what I would do. When we test-screened the movie I realized that not everybody laughed where I did. I realized there's not a big audience for my type of humor. Dignan doesn't have self-awareness. Donald Trump has none either. When I read "The Art of the Deal" I laughed at that because neither of them realize how funny they are.
Question: What is your point of view on nudity in movies? Are you willing to expose yourself for the camera?
Owen Wilson: I have no problem with nudity in movies. I guess I'm for it. I always remember when I was a kid seeing "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" and Phoebe Cates coming out of the swimming pool. I don't think there's a great demand for me to do nudity so you may not be seeing that any time soon.
Question: Hey Owen, I saw "Bottle Rocket" in the theaters in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and I've got to say it changed my life. Was there a movie that you felt changed your life?
Owen Wilson: I know movies that I really loved that I'd see twice in the same day. One of them was "Reservoir Dogs" and "Drugstore Cowboy" and "sex, lies and videotape." I guess there was something about them that really made me respond to them at the time.
Question: What screen characters do you wish you could have played? Or would like to play in the future?
Owen Wilson: I just saw "American Beauty" and I would have liked to play the Kevin Spacey character but I'm too young. "Taxi Driver" -- I liked that character a lot. When I love a movie, I like the characters in it and I would have liked to play them. The thing Wes and I are writing now has a character I'm going to play who is very funny and moving so I'm looking forward to that.
PEOPLE Online: Are you a genius?
Owen Wilson: No I'm definitely not a genius but I'm interested in people who are.
PEOPLE Online: Any closing thoughts?
Owen Wilson: I hope that the people find a way to see "The Minus Man" because it's interesting and deserves an audience.
PEOPLE Online: Great...thanks for being with us tonight.
Owen Wilson: Thank you and goodnight.
PEOPLE Online: And thanks to everyone in our audience for your great questions.