Hollywood Gets a Stern Lecture

Owen Wilson’s apparent suicide attempt prompts this burst of old-fashioned, snooty condescension from the U.K. Independent.  I find it quaintly reassuring.  Essentially, the anonymous writer’s position is, Owen Wilson is a minor talent who appears in films barely worth discussing.  But he makes other people a lot of money, and as a result, everyone in Hollywood is acting in a beastly fashion, focusing only on the business implications of his private tragedy.

The whole thing makes for a bracing read.  Here’s how it starts:

Anyone wanting to understand the sheer blood-sucking ghoulishness of today’s Hollywood star factory could do worse than look at what happened to Owen Wilson – the dishevelled, broken-nosed, 38-year-old luminary of such lowbrow comedies as Wedding Crashers and Zoolander – after he was taken to hospital at the weekend.

And here’s a little more of it, to whet your appetite for the high dudgeon on offer:

It wasn’t just the media whose behaviour veered towards the ghoulish, though. Hollywood itself quickly showed its true colours as it worried not about the well-being and recovery of Owen Wilson as a human being, but rather the future of various investments that production companies and studios had placed in him as the star of a flurry of completed and upcoming movies.

DreamWorks Pictures rapidly put out a statement assuring investors that filming on Tropic Thunder, a comedy co-starring Wilson and Jack Black and directed by Wilson’s longtime friend and partner Ben Stiller, would continue regardless. DreamWorks did not say whether Wilson’s part would be recast, although that is presumably an option if he cannot return to work relatively quickly.

Daily Variety, Hollywood’s paper of record, left little doubt about the industry’s bottom-line thinking on Wilson as it catalogued the various projects now left hanging. His incapacitation was “creating a conundrum” for Fox Searchlight pictures, which is putting together a marketing strategy for The Darjeeling Limited, directed by Wilson’s former college room-mate Wes Anderson and due out on American screens at the end of next month.

Paramount Pictures, Variety further reported, faces an even bigger problem with its Wilson-headlined film, Drillbit Taylor, due out next March, “because of the … film’s young male demographic”.

In short, nobody – or almost nobody – in this town appeared to give a crap about Wilson himself, only about his marketability and his capacity to make money for other people, be they reporters, photographers or film producers.

Indeed.

The one thing this writer misses is how difficult it’s going to be to cast Wilson in the roles for which he has almost become a stereotypical choice:  The hang-loose dude with a sleepy sense of humor and the facial expression that says, “It’s all good.”  Clearly, it isn’t, and now that we know of his torments, it’ll be a lot harder for him to fake it.   

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