The Darker Side of Owen Wilson

The Darker Side of Owen Wilson

It’s rarely a shock when a star’s personal demons rear up in the form of a
police blotter. Robert Downey Jr.’s ’90s jail stints, Christian Slater’s 59-day
stay behind bars on assault charges in 1998 and Lindsay Lohan’s alleged
coke-fueled car chase this summer all followed a pattern of prior troublesome
behavior. Each performer was known to have spent time in treatment for
addiction. For these celebrities, a mug shot somehow seems as appropriate a
career visual as a red carpet wave.

But the hospitalization this week of Owen Wilson, 38, after police responded to
a report of a suicide attempt at his Santa Monica home, astonished anyone who
knows him simply as the affable, blonde man-child from Wedding Crashers
and You, Me and Dupree.To us outsiders, Wilson’s partying seemed to be of
the happy-go-lucky, nobody-gets-hurt variety. While other stars got DUIs, Wilson
always appeared to have a ride home with one of his cool actor-brothers, Luke,
35, and Andrew, 43, or someone as blonde, pretty, rich and famous as he, like
Kate Hudson. When he wasn’t busy filming blockbuster comedies that played off
his lovable slacker image or writing smart scripts like Rushmore and
The Royal Tenenbaums with his friend from Texas, director Wes Anderson,
Wilson’s life as documented by the tabloids consisted of tossing a football at
the beach, riding his scooter alongside his dog, Garcia, and dating whatever
impossibly beautiful woman he wanted. The gossip site awarded
Wilson the moniker “The Butterscotch Stallion,” a nod to his, er, appetite for
female companionship.

Obviously something darker was going on amidst all those flaxen-haired mellow
good times. The only comment from Wilson, who’s said to be in good condition at
Cedar’s Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, has been to issue this statement:
“I respectfully ask that the media allow me to receive care and heal in private
during this difficult time.” Nevertheless speculation about his drug use,
depression over his May break-up from Hudson and a recent fight with a friend
have peppered the coverage of Wilson’s hospitalization. A People magazine
cover story out Friday quotes a friend as saying: “Owen was very despondent. He
slit his wrists. He almost did not make it.”

It’s unusual that an actor in his professional prime should suffer such a
dramatic meltdown. Wilson dropped out of Tropic Thunder, a Dreamworks
comedy he was set to start shooting in a few weeks with buddy and eight-time
co-star Ben Stiller. And it’s unlikely he’ll participate in any publicity for
The Darjeeling Limited, his new film with Anderson, which opens the New
York Film Festival in September.

Of course, Wilson’s career is the least of the concerns of the people showing up
to visit him at Cedar’s, including his family, Anderson and friend Samuel L.
Jackson. A suicide attempt, if in fact that’s what happened, signals that a
person is in the deepest kind of pain. While it may be a surprise to those of us
who know him only by his twinkly-eyed screen persona, Wilson’s crisis probably
didn’t sneak up on those close to him. And the actor and his loved ones likely
won’t return to the good life quickly, either.