Luke Wilson's latest film, All We Had, is grim stuff. A far cry from the slapstick bro comedy of Old School or the delightful quirk of his many Wes Anderson films, the story of a zero-income single mother, in a rough and unglamorous turn from star/first-time director Katie Holmes, doesn't just go after tear ducts—it stages an all-out assault.
But just as Holmes' character and her daughter are evicted from their home and have their every last hope for survival dashed, a recognizable face appears in the second act as if to announce "Everything is going to be OK!" Luke Wilson, playing a recovering alcoholic back on the straight and narrow, enters the picture, begins dating Holmes' character and, with his megawatt smile, singlehandedly alters the tone of the film from that of a tragedy to a romance.
It is exactly what audiences have come to expect from Luke Wilson, who has so excelled at playing kindly romantic interests he was, for a time, known as "America's Boyfriend." (Modern translation: "Mr. Steal Your Girl").
Even if the Texan-born charmer had his spell of romantic comedies in the early aughts, his filmography truly runs the gamut and boasts some of the most memorable films of the last twenty years. "There are those stepping-stone movies you've worked on that you realize after you've done them how lucky you are," Wilson told us. "Whether it's Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenebaums, Idiocracy or Old School, it's great to get those movies that manage to hit a sweet spot with the audience. That's not easy to do."
Maxim recently caught up with the youngest Wilson brother to learn about his new film, the perks of being "America's Boyfriend," if Idiocracy has finally come true, whether there will ever be an Old School 2 and which brothers the Wilsons would beat in a fight.
First off, it must be so difficult for you to act opposite so many beautiful actresses.
I was joking with someone the other day that I must look like Warren Beatty on paper because of the list of actresses I've gotten to work with. But what you realize about these people—whether it's Cameron Diaz, Gwyneth Paltrow or Olivia Wilde—is that they seem super glamorous, but they're not just some attractive girl. They are all very intelligent and successful for a reason. For instance, this was not a big-budget movie, and Katie was there working tremendously hard.
So I guess there was no time for an off-screen romance between you and Katie? There were plenty of rumors.
We got along great, but no. With someone in the public eye like her, you walk to set with someone, and people say, "Hey! They're a couple now!" Of course sometimes it is true, but I always get a kick out of that.
It must come with the territory of being "America’s boyfriend."
It does seem like there was a solid decade when I was just playing boyfriends. I didn't even think about it. I had a couple of journalists say, "You've made a career out of playing boyfriends," and I just thought, "Jesus Christ! Do I need to make a change?" But luckily, I just got older. Here, I still play a boyfriend, but he has a drinking problem, and she is a single mother who has been through the mill. This movie is a little bit more gritty and not exactly as cookie-cutter as something like Legally Blonde.
How have you chosen your roles?
I have trouble turning down roles. I always respect people who have a clear-cut career path, but for me, I just need a good reason to do the part, whether it's an actor, a director, a script or just wanting to get out of town to go on location. Like when I read the script for Legally Blonde, it was certainly not the kind of movie I was super interested in, but I thought Reese was great in Election so I wanted to work with her. In the first couple of days of working with Reese, seeing the character she had created reminded me of Saturday Night Live. You take this typical Hollywood-type comedy, and you put somebody great in it and that elevates it. It's what I felt about Katie with this movie too.
You must be asked about Idiocracy all the time now given our current political climate.
Yeah. You can definitely draw a comparison between Donald Trump and President Camacho, who are both so over-the-top. I got asked to be on some panel to talk about it recently, but something kind of rubbed me the wrong way about that. It is funny how people bring it up since it was one of those movies that was completely dumped by the studio. I think 20th Century Fox released it on like seven screens, and it kind of came and went. I remember thinking, "Oh God. That's too bad." It bummed me out because I knew the director Mike Judge had the same problem with Office Space, but that—I believe—went on to become the second-most rented film for 20th Century Fox after Star Wars. And sure enough, the same thing happened to Idiocracy.
The people want to know: Will there ever be an Old School sequel?
They were trying to get it done, and I, of course, would do it at the drop of a hat. It's just a matter of getting Will, me, Vince and Todd to get everybody's schedule in sync and to get the right script. As funny as those guys are, they are pretty damn thoughtful and would hate to squander the goodwill of the first one with one where it just seemed like the studio was just trying to cash in. But God, I'd love to do it.
It seems you're pivoting to more independent and smaller films recently. Is that intentional?
Now I only do projects I really care about. The idea of going down to Shreveport and staying in a hotel for six weeks sounds kind of grim to me, whereas in my twenties and thirties, I would have been like, "Just let me know when I gotta be there, and I'll head down." And maybe I'll get tired of it one day. When I hear actors talking about retiring—like when I heard Russell Crowe say it—I used to think, "Gosh, why would a guy ever say that?" Now, I can see what they mean. They're older than all the crew people, and they don't have the same spark or inclination to do it. Like, why would you want to be on a team with someone who doesn’t want to be there?
Lastly, if the Wilsons were to go up against another band of brothers in a fight, which would it be?
It would be good to have a cage match with the Gronkowskis, but that would probably get us slaughtered. And those Hemsworth brothers seem pretty damn built. Are any of those One Direction guys brothers? Maybe we could take them...
Luke Wilson stars in Katie Holmes' directorial debut 'All We Had', now playing in select theaters. Watch the trailer, above.