|Hot Duo -- Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson
"We like to write about characters who have a dream," says screenwriter and actor Owen Wilson, talking about the scripts he has written with his partner, director Wes Anderson. "Even if it's a totally wrong dream, it's admirable that they pursue it."
The pair's first movie, 1996's cult hit Bottle Rocket, centered on the grandiose ambitions of an amateur thief, played by Wilson. "Nobody went to see it in the theater," says Anderson, "but the people in the movie business did." That helped when the two were casting Rushmore, due out this fall from Disney. "We'd thought of Bill Murray for Bottle Rocket," says Wilson, "but he was sort of incommunicado. This time, we got him a script and he said yes the next day."
In Rushmore, Murray plays a successful but dissolute businessman competing against a fifteen-year-old prep school student named Max (Jason Schwartzman) for the affections of a teacher. Max, whose dream to belong manifests itself in manic extracurricular activity but no corresponding academic achievement, seems based partially on both Wilson and Anderson. Like Anderson, Max writes plays; like Wilson, he gets expelled. "I was just kind of a pain-in-the-ass troublemaker," says Wilson. "What I finally got kicked out for was cheating in geometry. We stole the teacher's edition of the textbook, which had all the answers. I was one of the worst students in class, but I was suddenly handing in answers to these complicated extra-credit questions."
Rushmore is sure to increase the duo's visibility, perhaps to the level of another pair of under-thirty overachievers, Ben Affleck and Matt Damon. Wilson, now appearing in Armageddon and soon to be seen in Permanent Midnight, is more inspired by the example of the Coen brothers, but the idea of joining the mainstream doesn't bother him. "I don't worry about being like everybody else," he says. "I worry we're to odd, too peculiar. We could stand to err in the other direction."
Issue 793, August 20, 1998