Although he made his film debut in the acclaimed independent film Bottle Rocket, actor Luke Wilson, born on September 21st, 1971, initially got more recognition for his real-life role as Drew Barrymore's boyfriend than for his acting. Fortunately for Wilson, his onscreen talents outlasted his relationship with Barrymore, and he has enjoyed steady employment and increasing visibility through substantial roles in a number of films.
A native Texan, Wilson was born in Dallas in 1971. The son of an advertising executive and a photographer, he was raised with two brothers, Owen and Andrew. The three would all go on to make their careers in film, with Wilson discovering his love of acting while a student at Occidental College. In 1993, the brothers Wilson collaborated with Wes Anderson to make Bottle Rocket, which was initially a 15-minute short. The gleefully optimistic story of three Texans who aspire to become successful thieves, Bottle Rocket premiered at the 1993 Sundance Festival, where it attracted the attention of director James L. Brooks. With Brooks' help, the short became a full-length feature film released in 1996. That same year, Wilson also appeared in the coming-of-age drama Telling Lies in America.
After large roles in three 1998 comedies, Bongwater, Home Fries, and Best Men (the latter two co-starring Barrymore), Wilson went on to star in another three comedies the following year. The first, Dog Park, was a Canadian film directed by Kids in the Hall alum Bruce McCulloch and featured Wilson as one of a group of twenty-somethings undergoing the trials and tribulations of love. Blue Streak starred the actor as the sidekick of robber-turned-policeman Martin Lawrence, while Kill the Man (which premiered at the 1999 Sundance Festival) cast him as the owner of a small copy center competing with a large chain store across the street.
Though he would stick closely to comedy through 2001 with roles in Charlie's Angels (2000) and Legally Blonde (2001), Wilson took a turn for the sinister in the thrillers Preston Tylk and Soul Survivors (both 2001), before reteaming with his brother Owen and Wes Anderson to give one of his most memorable performances as Richie, the suicidal tennis pro in The Royal Tenenbaums.
In 2003, Wilson reprised two past roles, appearing in both Charlies Angels: Full Throttle and Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde. That same year, he also scored a hit as one of the stars of Todd Phillips' Old School. 2004 saw Wilson embark on The Wendell Baker Story, a film he stars in, co-directs with brother Andrew Wilson, and co-writes with brother Owen Wilson. Laced with supporting roles and cameos from such iconic friends as Harry Dean Stanton, Kris Kristofferson, and Eddie Griffin, this quirky low-budgeter made the festival rounds in 2005-6 and the responses were encouragingly supportive; Variety's Joe Leydon observed, "The co-directing Wilson siblings smartly refrain from pushing anything too hard or too often, making the unpredictable eruptions of straight-faced absurdity all the more effective. Luke Wilson is extremely engaging in lead role." Many praised the Wilson brothers' directorial and scriptwriting intuition and their willingness to take risky-yet-triumphant gambles onscreen.
Wilson joined the cast of early 2006's box-office sleeper hit The Family Stone, a family drama with an ensemble that includes Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson and Sarah Jessica Parker; the remainder of the year sees Wilson appearing in a string of supporting roles in light and dark comedies. In a minor performance in May 2006's Hoot, Wilson plays Officer David Delinsky, who attempts to sabotage a plot by local children to blow up a pancake house. His appearance in July 2006's My Super Ex-Girlfriend marks director Ivan Reitman's return to the big screen since 2001's box-office disappointment Evolution; it stars Uma Thurman as a superhero who gets even with her ex-beau (Wilson) after he casts her aside. He also highlights summer 2006's Mini's First Time, a black comedy about an incestuous daughter and stepfather who have the mother committed to a mental hosiptal; co-stars include Jeff Goldblum and Carrie-Anne Moss. Idiocracy, directed by cult fave (and Beavis and Butthead creator) Mike Judge, has Wilson as a moron hurled a thousand years into the future by the U.S. Government, only to discover he is the most intelligent person on the planet.
In the tradition of 8mm, 2007's jet-black paranoid thriller Vacancy will co-star Wilson and Sex and the City's Sarah Jessica Parker as husband-and-wife who check into a hotel and unwittingly become the targets of a snuff film, while, in that same year's semi-spoof Dallas (2007) (adapted from the early-eighties TV sensation and directed by Gurinder Chadha) Wilson will tentatively co-star as Bobby Ewing, alongside Jennifer Lopez as Sue Ellen, Shirley MacLaine as Miss Ellie, and John Travolta as the infamous J.R.. Wilson's additional film roles throughout 2007 include Barry Munday (an indie pic helmed by Chris d'Arienzo and adapted from Frank Hollon's novel Life is A Strange Place, about a chauvinist who wakes up and discovers his own emasculation); and Last Seduction helmer John Dahl's mafioso comedy You Kill Me. In 2010, Wilson appeared in the films Death at a Funeral and Middle Men. ~ Rebecca Flint Marx, Rovi