Luke Wilson, youngest of the acting Wilson brothers (Owen and Andrew being the others), has carved out a pleasing niche for himself playing mostly charming nice guys and romantic leads in films like "Legally Blonde," "Old School" and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend." The 38-year-old Dallas native made his film debut in 1994, when brother Owen and director Wes Anderson cast him in the indie classic "Bottle Rocket," and he's been working steadily ever since.
This year, in addition to the ubiquitous AT&T commercials he stars in, Wilson will be popping up in an HBO comedy series, and on Friday he opens in "Middle Men," a based-on-fact flick about the early days of Internet porn. Lewis Beale caught up with the low-key actor during a production break on his HBO series.
In your latest film, "Middle Men," you play a businessman who helps two grubby entrepreneurs set up the first pay-per-view, online porn site. What attracted you to the project?
It's a different kind of part for me, and I'm glad when people think of me for different things. For years, journalists have said to me, "You sure play a lot of nice boyfriends," so when something different comes my way, that drew me to it. I've never had a role where I could research a business, so it was interesting to learn about that stuff.
You're also working on an HBO series called "Enlightened," in which Laura Dern stars as a self-destructive woman who has a personal revelation and decides to live an enlightened life. What role do you play in the series?
I play her kind of troubled ex-husband she's still close to. He's a loner, has drug and alcohol issues, doesn't think he has a problem. It's a different kind of part, and that's always a good thing, and it was created and written by Mike White, who I've always been a fan of. So when this came across the table, I immediately wanted to do it.
You're the youngest of three brothers. Owen and Andrew are also actors. And it seems you're all pretty close. How come?
We've always kind of been close. We have differences, but we were always friends. My parents always encouraged us to be friends. I was just always kind of following them around, I was just glad to be with them.
Public TV in Dallas then was something different. Dallas had culture, but it was a sports and oil town. It definitely felt like he was doing something different. I would walk around the set of the news show, there were these hippie crew guys who were nice to me, and it piqued my interest as a kid. I was also interested in the newspaper business, being around the guys my dad was around. I was a fan of the metro section and the crime stories.
So how did you get started in acting?
We were always just movie lovers. We were always into movies, and always what I read about was musicians, actors, directors, but never wanting to get into it. It was Owen, and Wes sort of getting me involved. They wanted to make a short film, and they decided I was going to act in it, and that's how it happened.
There's a cult around "Idiocracy," a 2006 film you starred in about a future society in which you play a slacker from the past who's the smartest person on the planet. The film was dumped by its studio, and it was reported that you were really unhappy about that decision.
I never publicly said I was really upset. I don't know who made the decision to dump it and why, but when you see a horrible movie with not an original idea and a studio gets behind it, why not get behind a film with an original idea?
I read that you ran track and field in high school. Do you still follow the sport?
I do. I read stuff in the papers, and follow the Olympics. I think it's an incredible sport, and it's some of my best experiences as a kid. I had a great track coach, who helped me as a kid. You're never thinking of an identity, and that did give me a feeling of self-worth. I ran the 880 and the 440. And I still have a couple of school records.