Belfast Telegraph

Why life’s a laugh again for Owen

As his new comedy Hall Pass arrives in cinemas here, Owen Wilson tells Shereen Low how he has bounced back from personal problems and is loving life as a dad

What a difference four years makes for Owen Wilson. His ‘annus horribilis' in 2007 saw him taken to hospital amid an alleged suicide attempt, following a rumoured split with You, Me And Dupree co-star Kate Hudson.

After asking the media to respect his privacy, he then passed on a role in Ben Stiller's Tropic Thunder.

But fastforward to the present day and it looks like the actor's life is back on track.

Returning to top comic form with roles in Fantastic Mr Fox, Little Fockers and the just released Hall Pass, Wilson's personal life is also on the up. He's enjoying being a dad and is very proud after welcoming Robert to the world in January, his son with girlfriend Jade Duell.

“He is cute. I've played a father in movies a few times but now I'm 50 days into it for real,” he boasts, chuckling away.

Dressed down in a T-shirt and jeans and in high spirits, the 42-year-old admits the couple have it easy with their son, who goes by middle name Ford.

“We've been really lucky and I have been getting sleep. The baby seems really quiet and he's not a crier,” he says in his recognisable Texan twang.

“He's a little Zen baby, you know? He always seems really relaxed.”

Fortunately, he got some practice with children in Hall Pass, as Wilson's character Rick has three children with wife Maggie (Jenna Fischer).

Written and directed by comic siblings Peter and Bobby Farrelly of There's Something About Mary and Dumb And Dumber fame — and also featuring an appearance by British funnyman Stephen Merchant — the premise of the movie follows the American concept of a ‘hall pass’ which Rick and his best friend Fred find themselves on the receiving ends of.

After getting fed up with their husbands gawking at other women, wives Maggie and Grace (Christina Applegate) reluctantly decide to grant them a week-long break from marriage, where their spouses have the freedom to do what they want, no questions asked.

“It's not that his marriage is bad, just a little predictable. And he has this illusion [of what life might be like] if he was still ‘out there' and single,” he says.

While the buddies reminisce over the carefree days of their former youth, in reality, it doesn't quite turn out to be the respite they expected.

Stroking his famously crooked nose, Wilson explains: “For a lot of men, it would seem like a dream come true. You remember back when you were single, going out to bars.

“But it's a double-edged sword. If you're going to get a hall pass, that means your wife is too — and chances are they might have more luck than you.”

He concedes the idea of settling for one woman can seem hard.

“Even if God told you this is the perfect woman and the best match on the planet for you, you'd still want to try No. 2.

“And that's a slippery slope because then you'd wonder what the person back in 97th is like.”

The actor, who has been linked to Rachel McAdams, Jennifer Aniston and Sheryl Crow in the past, reckons his unconventional looks and Hollywood status don't offer any assistance in the dating stakes.

“It's never as easy as you'd like,” Wilson admits. “Just try to make them laugh,” he suggests. “But I do think it's a myth that men pick up women. Girls let it be known that they're interested.”

Wilson made his big screen debut in Wes Anderson's Bottle Rocket in 1996, which he also co-wrote with the film-maker. Marking the beginning of a long partnership, they've since reunited for Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr Fox.

At times, Wilson — who received an Oscar nomination for his writing work on The Royal Tenenbaums — has to pinch himself about all his achievements.

“Sometimes I stop and think how strange this all is. Something that began as a little idea, that Wes and I just walked around talking about between ourselves, has turned into all this,” he says.

But with upcoming roles in the Cars sequel and Woody Allen's Midnight In Paris, the future's looking even brighter for Wilson.

Hall Pass is in cinemas now

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