Family & Companions
While Luke Wilson looked more the Hollywood leading man than older brother Owen, his tendency toward independent films with smaller audiences often put him in his sibling's shadow. Both brothers got their start in college friend Wes Anderson's student film-turned-cult favorite "Bottle Rocket" (1996), and from the critical success of that fresh and funny heist flick, they were courted by Hollywood. Wilson's significant talent for bringing depth and charm to intellectual melancholics was reduced to roles as all-around good guys - including subcategories of dimwits and cuckolded men - in mainstream comedies like "Legally Blonde" (2001), "Old School" (2003), "The Family Stone" (2005) and "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" (2006). His more soulful achievements were lesser-seen, with Wilson re-teaming with Anderson to play an adrift former child prodigy in "The Royal Tenenbaums" (2001) and earning critical favor for the period family drama "My Dog Skip" (2000) and John Dahl's "You Kill Me" (2006). Wilson managed to recreate some of the spark of his screen debut as writer, director and co-star (alongside brother Owen) of the smart comedy "The Wendell Baker Story" (2005), generally remaining below the radar for a string of independent comedies and surfacing every few years to lend support in broad comedies.
Born on Sept. 21, 1971 in Dallas, TX, Luke Cunningham Wilson was the youngest of three sons born to advertising executive Robert Wilson and his photographer wife, Laura. More interested in sports than acting while growing up - despite a creatively stimulating childhood - Wilson only came upon a career on screen thanks to "Bottle Rocket," a 1992 13-minute short about two mild-mannered Texans who turn to an unlikely life of crime. "Bottle Rocket" - which happened to star both Luke and Owen, as well as even feature eldest brother Andrew in a supporting role - was co-written by Owen and director Wes Anderson. The film, which was screened at festivals and championed by screenwriter and Wilson family friend L.M. 'Kit' Carson - who introduced producers James L. Brooks and Polly Platt to the project - precipitated the expanded feature version of "Bottle Rocket" four years later. Released to critical praise, it launched the careers of Anderson as well as the Wilson brothers as actors and filmmakers to keep an eye on. As the protagonist Anthony Adams, Luke Wilson, in particular, won over his audience with a charming, heartfelt performance as the young man adrift who finds love with the hotel housekeeper.
Fresh off the success of their indie family flick, Wilson went on to play a co-worker with romantic designs on Calista Flockhart in "Telling Lies in America" (1997). That same year he completed a memorable cameo appearance in "Stab," the film-within-a-film of "Scream 2," impersonating Skeet Ulrich's character from the original "Scream" (1996) to great comedic effect. Wilson found himself a viable leading man after appearing in "Best Men" and "Home Fries" in 1998 - two back-to-back romantic capers opposite Drew Barrymore, who became his real-life love in the midst of filming the latter. Both films were the kind of odd independents for which Wilson would become known. "Best Men" chronicled a heist that is performed on the way to a wedding, while "Home Fries" told the story of a man (Wilson) who falls for his late stepfather's pregnant girlfriend (Barrymore), whom he is meant to kill. Neither was a hit, with the Barrymore-Wilson coupling earning more notice than the films themselves. However, due in no small part to the romance with the former Hollywood wild child, Wilson's profile was undeniably upped even beyond his fair-haired brother at that time.
Wilson made his TV debut with a memorable turn as a loopy buck-toothed sheriff in a town populated by vampires in a 1998 episode of "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002) - an odd choice for a film actor on the move, but a comically inspired turn on one of TV's biggest hits nonetheless. That same year, he was featured as a pot-dealing artist in the independent "Bongwater" and played the surgeon who battles both Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzman for the affections of Olivia Williams in Wes Anderson's masterpiece, "Rushmore" (co-scripted by Owen Wilson) (1998). Though this role was significantly smaller than his starring turn in "Bottle Rocket," Wilson added quite a bit to the film, reportedly even contributing to the script the priceless three-line exchange in which O.R. scrubs serve as a riotous pun. In 1999, Wilson played a newly single man who spends custodial visits with his pooch while trying to meet women at the "Dog Park" and teamed up with Martin Lawrence in the action comedy "Blue Streak" - one of his few forays into more commercially viable fare.
By 2000, the actor had begun to make a name for himself, no longer only mentioned in reference to his brother or his former girlfriend. A co-starring turn in the charming but little-seen comedy "Committed" cast him as the husband Heather Graham is determined to win back. His supporting role in "Charlie's Angels" certainly reached a wider audience, but it was Wilson's turn in that year's "My Dog Skip" that most impressed. Wilson lent great empathy and depth to his portrayal, breathing life into the football hero-cum-World War II deserter who befriends a young boy and his dog in this honestly affecting period drama. After heading up the cast of the independent psychodrama "Bad Seed" (2000) as wrongly accused fugitive Preston Tylk, the actor was somewhat underused in both the misfire thriller "Soul Survivors" (as a priest) and the winning comedy "Legally Blonde" (both 2001) - leaving him to casually walk through his thankless role as Reese Witherspoon's love interest in the latter hit. Later that year, he reunited with Wes Anderson and brother Owen, starring as a thoughtful tennis prodigy in turmoil in the creative pair's "The Royal Tenenbaums," a weird but warm look at a family of failed geniuses. It was his portrait of Richie Tenenbaum - the headband-sporting, hawk-loving brother - which provided the most sophisticated outlet for Wilson's talents to date.
While brother Owen broke open the box office in 2003 with his "Shanghai Noon" follow-up, "Shanghai Knights," Luke took a leading role in "Old School" - a film which also co-starred Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn and for which few held high expectations. The trio played middle-age men who desperately try to recapture the irrepressible fun of their college years by starting their own off-campus frat. Although he was the main character, Wilson's charms did not translate and he made for a ho-hum leading man in the otherwise raucous hit comedy that made Ferrell a star. Also in 2003, Wilson managed to land reprisal roles in two blockbuster sequels, "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" and "Legally Blonde 2," while still making time to co-star with Kate Hudson in the romantic comedy misfire, "Alex and Emma," as a blocked writer gradually falling for the sassy stenographer he hires to help put his ideas on paper.
In 2004, he enjoyed a lighthearted cameo with his brother Owen, playing the flying brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright, respectively, in "Around the World in 80 Days" (2004), as well as having a memorable walk-on in Will Ferrell's "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" (2004). By this time, Wilson was clearly established as a central figure in what many characterized as a comedic Rat Pack-style clique of actors - called "The Frat Pack" - who frequently teamed up and/or came d in each other's films-the group also including his brother Owen, Ben Stiller, Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Paul Rudd and Steve Carell.
Wilson next appeared in the all-star ensemble of "The Family Stone" (2005), as one of the offspring of a tight-knit, Bohemian New England clan whose holiday season and family dynamic is upended when his brother (Dermot Mulroney) brings home his uptight girlfriend (Claire Danes). He then joined Uma Thurman for "My Super Ex-Girlfriend" (2006), in which Wilson learns his girlfriend is a superhero and breaks up with her when she gets too controlling and neurotic, prompting her to use her powers to exact revenge by tormenting and embarrassing him. Meanwhile, he co-starred in the family-friendly "Hoot" (2006), a children's mystery about a young boy who moves to Florida and encounters strange events while trying to save a group of endangered owls.
The typically comedy-oriented actor next made a rare appearance in the horror genre, starring opposite Kate Beckinsale in "Vacancy" (2007), another in a long line of suspense thrillers released by the Hollywood meat grinder. In this all-too-obvious take on "Psycho," Wilson played the soon-to-be ex-husband of a woman (Beckinsale) who is forced to spend the night at a seedy motel run by an odd, but seemingly harmless proprietor (Frank Whaley). But when the couple discovers a cache of homemade slasher flicks that were noticeably shot in the very room in which they are staying - both must put aside their differences and work together to survive. To be fair, while most horror thrillers of this ilk were typically brushed off by critics for being redundant and tedious, "Vacancy" at least received its fair share of positive reviews.
Wilson's follow-up, a supporting role in John Dahl's dark comedy, "You Kill Me" (2007), starring Ben Kingsley and Tea Leoni, was also well-received by film critics. Wilson's busy year also included a cameo in the Will Ferrell figure-skating comedy "Blades of Glory" (2007), another in James Mangold's revisited Western "3:10 to Yuma" (2007), a voice-over role in the animated sci-fi film "The Battle for Terra" (2007), and an unfortunate starring role opposite Jessica Simpson in the embarrassing "Blonde Ambition" (2007). Wilson rebounded by making his debut as writer and co-director of "The Wendell Baker Story" (2007) in which he starred as a good-hearted ex-con attempting to go straight with a job at a retirement hotel that is populated by great aging film actors including Seymour Cassel and Harry Dean Stanton. A true Wilson family affair, the film also co-starred Owen Wilson and was co-directed by oldest Wilson brother, Andrew. Later that summer, Wilson's happiness with life and career was cut short when news came that brother Owen had been hospitalized following a suicide attempt at his Santa Monica home. The family closed ranks and remained tight-lipped about the incident, asking the press for privacy to allow Owen, who was being treated for depression, time to recuperate. After months out of sight, Owen made his first public appearance in October at the premiere of Wes Anderson's "The Darjeeling Limited" (2007), but preferred to not discuss the incident, while his beloved brothers also followed suit.
Wilson made a return to more emotionally complex material the following year with his starring role as a terminally ill man forced to consider spirituality when his home is unwittingly turned into a religious shrine by a zealous neighbor (Adriana Barraza) in "Henry Poole is Here" (2008). The offbeat but poignant film met with a positive reception and Wilson went on to star as a college professor competing with his colleagues (Gretchen Mol, Dave Koechner) for a tenured post in the low budget comedy, "Tenure," from first-time feature director, Mike Million. That fall, Wilson also donned suit and tie to play a successful Internet pioneer whose life is in turmoil in "Middle Men" (2009). After a role in the American remake of the French farce "Death at a Funeral" (2010), WIlson co-starred with Samuel L. Jackson in the thriller "Meeting Evil" (2012) and appeared on TV in Mike White's cult comedy-drama "Enlightened" (HBO 2011-13). Wilson co-starred in the indie drama "Straight A's" (2013) and garnered good notices in the breakout hit "The Skeleton Twins" (2014) starring Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig.
Director (Feature Film)
Cast (Feature Film)
Writer (Feature Film)
Producer (Feature Film)
Misc. Crew (Feature Film)
Co-starred with brother Owen in the short film "Bottle Rocket," directed by Wes Anderson.
Had supporting role of Calista Flockhart's co-worker in "Telling Lies in America."
Made a cameo appearance in the film-within-the-film in "Scream 2."
Made his TV debut as a sheriff in an episode of "The X-Files."
Appeared in back-to-back romantic films opposite Drew Barrymore, "Best Men" and "Home Fries."
Landed his first leading role in the comedy "Dog Park," which was released theatrically in 2001.
Was featured in the Sundance-screened comedy "Kill the Man."
Appeared in the sleeper hit "My Dog Skip."
Featured as Cameron Diaz's love interest in "Charlie's Angels."
Cast as Reese Witherspoon's romantic interest in the comedy hit "Legally Blonde."
Made rare TV appearance as Ashton Kutchner's older brother in "That '70s Show."
Reprised role for the sequel "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle."
Again played Emmett in "Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde."
Cast as Orville Wright in the Disney live action feature "Around the World in 80 Days," co-starring his brother Owen.
Starred as a regular guy who dumps his superhero girlfriend in Ivan Reitman's comedy "My Super Ex-Girlfriend."
Co-starred with Kate Beckinsale in the horror film, "Vacancy."
Starred in Mark Pellington's "Henry Poole is Here."
Starred as Jack Harris, one of the pioneers of internet commerce, in the crime film "Middle Men."
Appeared in the film "Concussion" alongside Will Smith.