Owen Wilson is not a doofus
But actor has an appreciation of what makes good comedy
By Shanon Cook
Owen Wilson plays a good-natured slacker in "You, Me and Dupree."
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(CNN) -- Owen Wilson's latest film character is a real doofus, and he knows it -- but he admires the character's upbeat attitude.
"Dupree doesn't have a job, he gets around on a 10-speed from like 1981, and his heyday was probably back in seventh grade," says Wilson. "But he's not like a cynical slacker. He has lots of ideas and even a philosophy and an enthusiasm. He stays hopeful."
While he might have the purest of intentions, Randy Dupree manages to wreak havoc as an unwanted houseguest in the new movie "You, Me and Dupree."
His best friend Carl (Matt Dillon) takes pity on Dupree and invites him to crash for "a couple of days," much to the disgust of his wife Molly (Kate Hudson). Carl and Molly have just returned from their honeymoon, and would prefer to settle into wedded bliss without the slob sleeping in the buff on their couch.
During his stay, Dupree manages to clog two toilets, set fire to the living room, and send Carl into fits of paranoia, thinking Dupree is making moves on Molly. But he's also able to be a hero and help patch things up when the newlyweds' relationship hits rock bottom.
But don't confuse Dupree with Wilson. Behind the crooked nose and Texas drawl is a pretty shrewd mind.
CNN spoke to the actor about "Dupree" and how he handles his comedic roles.
CNN: To what extent do you identify with Dupree?
OWEN WILSON: It's funny -- when I was working with Mike LeSieur, the writer, at one point before we had Matt Dillon I was thinking of playing Carl. I could relate to a lot of the feelings that Carl had. But I also feel there have been times in my life that I've probably been a little bit of a Dupree, and there have been times when I sort of experienced a Dupree.
CNN: Some people probably want to believe that in real life you're like the characters you play. Are you goofy? Are you a troublemaker?
WILSON: Well, no. I did get kicked out of school, and had to go to military school. But I don't think I'm a big practical joker. ... And I don't know if it's being from Texas, or just the way my parents were, [but] I'm usually pretty polite with people. And then if I'm comfortable, like if I'm with my brothers, then you might see more of a funny side.
CNN: You get banged up quite a bit in this film. Do you have a good chiropractor?
WILSON: I did have to go to this sports therapist to get my neck tweaked. I found that on this movie I did more action-type stuff than I did on [action drama] "Behind Enemy Lines." I think that people should really understand that with comedies, a lot of times you might as well be doing "Die Hard."
CNN: Do you ever use a stunt double?
WILSON: Yeah, I have a stunt double. Jimmy Roberts has worked with me a lot. He's the one who crashes in when a car hits him and stuff.
CNN: And you stand on the sidelines and watch and laugh?
WILSON: And coach him. And say, "Can we do one more?" (laughs)
CNN: How concerned are you that moviegoers may eventually tire of the goofball buddy-comedy roles you play?
WILSON: Maybe I should worry about it but I haven't. I think maybe because my background was with writing. So I usually find that if you come up with funny good stuff, people will be into it.
But I am going to do a movie with my friend Wes [Anderson] in India, and that's not going to be a buddy comedy movie. [I play] one of three brothers, and they go on this journey in India. I haven't really spoken to Wes yet in regards to what I can really talk about.
CNN: You've said you feel you're quite limited as an actor. Are you confident in your ability to pull off more serious roles?
WILSON: I mean limited in the sense, when I think of somebody like Dustin Hoffman who will change his whole look and his whole accent. Even Johnny Depp sort of does that. I don't know how good I would be at changing my voice and doing accents. But I think I can make stuff sound reasonably believable and natural.
CNN: Acting was almost an afterthought for you, wasn't it?
WILSON: It was in the sense that it never seemed like something that you could really be certain would continue. When I got hired for "Anaconda," I wanted my parents to come visit because I thought, "Well, I'm probably not going to be in too many more movies, so they better check it out now." And so it's funny that now I end up doing a lot more acting than writing.
CNN: Is it true you read a lot?
WILSON: I read a lot as a kid. And I was an English major in school but I don't read as much now as my mother would hope.
I actually have a book right here: "Burr," a novel by Gore Vidal. I just started it. I was in Ravello [Italy] where he lived, and I went to go look at his house and they gave me this book. But I'm not in it far enough to even recommend it.
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