Slouching toward Hollywood

Can four young Dallas filmmakers sell their dream-and still keep their souls? Matt Zoller Seitz follows the trail of Bottle Rocket

Bob is thriving. He's auditioning for parts left and right. This is the most exciting time he's ever had. Bottle Rocket planted a seed in his head; he wants to win more parts, go to Hollywood, and build a brilliantly varied career like Robert DeNiro, or Harvey Keitel.

"I want to do everything," he says. "There's no kind of part I won't play. I want to be all over the place, a real chameleon--the kind of guy who digs down so deep that he sort of disappears, you know, and just becomes the character."

He's so loyal to his friends from Dallas that when he talks about his feelings toward them, he sometimes begins shaking his head incredulously, as if he can barely believe the depth of his affection. He feels his debt to them is more than professional.

"If I go on to have a really great, long, interesting life as an actor," Bob says, "I'll always remember that these guys believed in me and gave me my start. I'll owe my career to them. And I gotta tell the truth, man--in all honesty, I feel like I owe them a lot more than that."

Owen Wilson, now 26, feels the same way about his Bottle Rocket buddies. But while he still sees himself as pretty much the same guy, he realizes other people might not.

He thought about this a couple of weeks ago while attending a Wilson family reunion in New Hampshire. Some of his relatives kidded him about having gone Hollywood. Others asked his opinion on show business issues as if he were some kind of expert. The strangest question came from one of his cousins.

"He came up to me and asked me what I thought of Waterworld," Owen says. "He asked, 'What do you think about the cost?' He sounded like a Los Angeles agent. I thought, 'What an odd question for an eight-year-old to be asking!' I told him, 'I don't know. It's not really my position to think about the cost.'

"Then his dad came up. He said, 'Oh, you're just protecting the industry. You're just a home-teamer.' That seemed kind of unfair to me, because I saw Waterworld, and I kind of liked it."

Owen says he likes living in Los Angeles--something not even longtime residents of the city are willing to admit.

"You're made to feel embarrassed if you say it," he says. "I always hear people saying the city is superficial. But are you ever going to find a place that isn't superficial? I grew up loving movies, being impressed with seeing stars and stuff. This is a place where you can see a lot of great movies and there are stars walking around. It's really exciting right now."

He feels the same way about making movies, despite Bottle Rocket's uncertain future.

"It's difficult to watch yourself up there onscreen. There you are, and your brother is up there, and your other brother, and your friend, and they're all interacting with James Caan and all these other professionals," he says.

"It did seem strange. But you'd be shocked how fast you get used to it."

Dallas photographer Laura Wilson, a former assistant to Richard Avedon, took these pictures in her official capacity as mother of Owen, Luke, and Andrew Wilson. Her photography of a legendary Texas ranch is published in the 1989 book Watt Matthews of Lambshead. Wilson's work also appears in The New Yorker, The London Sunday Times Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, and Texas Monthly.

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