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Whatever Happened To Luke Wilson?

No group of performers defined the 2000s quite like the "Frat Pack." A play on the name of Frank Sinatra's "Rat Pack" and the teen actor "Brat Pack" of the '80s, the Frat Pack was a collective of guys who primarily starred as immature, silly dudes in a lot of dude-bro movies, and often with each other. The core group: Will Ferrell, Vince Vaughn, Ben Stiller, Owen Wilson, and his brother, Luke Wilson.

Both Wilsons got their start in their home state of Texas, collaborating with Wes Anderson in his early films like Bottle Rocket, Rushmore, and The Royal Tenenbaums, and went on to become big stars in their own right. Luke Wilson starred in the Frat Pack classic Old School, along with major roles in beloved movies like My Dog Skip, Idiocracy, and lots more. He often showed up as the stable, good-guy love interest in romantic comedies (particularly Legally Blonde), and on shows like HBO's Enlightened.

We haven't seen Wilson in the prime roles as much lately, but that's just because he's been busy doing other stuff.

He's an indie darling again

Most actors don't stay omnipresent forever. That's to say that while they may not appear in major blockbusters or award-winning movies and TV shows as much as they once did, it doesn't mean they aren't working. Sure, Luke Wilson hasn't had a big hit like Old School or The Royal Tenenbaums for a bit, but he's still pursuing his craft and making small, independent, and interesting movies — and a lot of them — which is precisely how he started his career back in the early 1990s.

For example, he played Kristen Wiig's husband in The Skeleton Twins, co-starred in Helen Hunt's directorial debut Ride, co-starred in Greg Kinnear's directorial debut The Girl Who Invented Kissing, portrayed a grieving dad in Meadowland, was an outlaw in Outlaws and Angels, the father of a teenager in the 1962-set coming of age comedy Dear Eleanor, which are just a few of the many quirky, low-key movies that are certainly available at a Redbox near you.

He was in a ridiculous movie

When Luke Wilson signed up for his role in 2015's The Ridiculous 6, it probably seemed like a fun idea and a surefire hit. Adam Sandler led the all-star cast on the film, the first in a lucrative and exclusive deal with Netflix, which included Wilson, Terry Crews, Will Forte, and Harvey Keitel. The plot concerned an Old West outlaw who after being raised by a Native American family, finds out he has five half-brothers, who team up to go find their father, who abandoned them all.

A western comedy, easily and affordably viewable on Netflix, and with a cast like that? What could go wrong? This could have been a nice comeback vehicle for Wilson, but that's not what happened. Both during filming and after the film's release, Native Americans protested the film for its hackneyed, "disrespectful" portrayal. "The examples of disrespect included native women's names such as Beaver's Breath and No Bra, an actress portraying an Apache woman squatting and urinating while smoking a peace pipe, and feathers inappropriately positioned on a teepee," reported a Native American website called Indian Country (via The Washington Post).

Nevertheless, shortly after its release in December 2015, Netflix Chief content officer Ted Sarandos announced that The Ridiculous 6 quickly became the service's most-watched movie ... ever.

He hit the road

There's just too much stuff to watch in this age of "Peak TV." Really good shows, or even just-okay shows made by well-known creators can get lost in the shuffle of multiple cable networks and streaming services offering up premium content.

Ironically, it's the creative explosion of TV that attracts filmmakers to the medium in the first place. Take for example Roadies: writer-director Cameron Crowe has made a few movies about rock music, particularly Singles and Almost Famous, and Roadies works as a companion piece to those films — a realistic, lovingly-rendered show about the crews and behind-the-scenes workers who make rock concerts happen without a hitch. It debuted on Showtime in 2016, and had Luke Wilson in the leading, sympathetic, and meaty role of Bill Hanson, a rock band's tour manager and recovering alcoholic whose discomfort with aging manifests in a pursuit of much younger women. Despite that, ratings were shockingly low: only around 500,000 people tuned in for the first episode. Showtime canceled Roadies after a single season of 10 episodes.

He's out there saving lives

In February 2018, Luke Wilson was driving in Los Angeles when he was involved in a three-car accident. According to eyewitness accounts, the driver of a Ferrari accelerated and then lost control. The back end of the supercar swung into the path of oncoming traffic, where it smashed into a BMW, clipped and dented the driver's side door of Wilson's SUV, and then smashed into a pole. A witness named Sean Heirigs told his daughter to call 9-1-1 while he could go help the driver of the BMW ... which had been hit so hard it had flipped over, the passenger side of the car laying on the street.

Wilson had already hopped out to assist the driver, a 50-year-old woman, whose leg was caught on something in the vehicle. Heirigs said Wilson feared the huge amounts of smoke indicated there was fire in the BMW, meaning they needed to act quickly. "He was the hero, he led the charge," Heirigs told reporters. Wilson figured out a way to pull the driver through the back of the car, which he did with Heirigs' help. "And this was all going on while the Ferrari's wheels are still spinning and blowing rubber and smoke everywhere," Heirigs said. The BMW driver was hospitalized for minor injuries; the driver of the Ferrari died at the scene. Luke Wilson got back in his car and drove home.

He just wants to rock

What if a dog ... could rock? Well, it would be some kind of "rock dog," wouldn't it? And that is the premise of a bizarre, CGI-animated film called Rock Dog, to which Luke Wilson lent his voice. Wilson used his highly recognizable laid-back, slight Texas drawl to portray Bodi, a Tibetan Mastiff who doesn't want to take over for his father as the guard of a mountain village, but instead wants to pursue the rock n' roll lifestyle.

You know, like, a rock dog.

Based on a Chinese graphic novel, the film is among the first Chinese productions released for American audiences. But American audiences weren't all that interested in the adventures of the dog that rocked: it earned just $9.4 million at the box office in 2017. Critics didn't care for it either, such as Ignatiy Vishnevetsky of The A.V. Club, who pointed out that the movie "has little to show beyond uninspiring and unimaginative city backdrops populated with cloned extras."

Oh, and one last thing: the dog never actually rocks.

He's in charge now

In 2005, Wilson wrote and co-directed (with his brother, Andrew) a feature-film called The Wendell Baker Story. Wilson starred as the titular ex-con who's trying to go straight with a job in a nursing home and win the heart of a woman named Doreen (Eva Mendes). It may have laid the groundwork for Wilson's future in filmmaking.

Nearly a decade later, Wilson returned to writing and directing movies with a short film called Satellite Beach. The piece is the story of a guy named Warren Flowers (Wilson), who navigates the Endeavour space shuttle through the streets of Los Angeles to a museum, and the Atlantis space shuttle to the Kennedy Space Center. The 27-minute piece made the rounds of film festivals, where it did quite well. Wilson and his brother won Best Drama Short Film at the 2014 High Desert International Film Festival, while Luke alone won prizes for Best Screenplay and Best Actor. At the 2014 L.A. Indie Fest, the film took the top prize, "Kick*** Original Short Film."

He'd like to sell you a golf shirt

Wilson was born and raised in the Dallas, Texas area, and while being an actor means he has to spend most of his time in Los Angeles, he apparently gets back to the Lone Star State as much as possible, often just to golf. He also has some organic, homegrown, and yet totally roundabout business connections to his home state. As he told Austin Way, he was on a press tour in 2016 and had only one clean shirt to wear for an appearance on The Today Show: an old, faded, well-worn one made by Criquet Shirts, an Austin-based clothing company. "It was just like your favorite T-shirt that you've washed a couple hundred times," says Wilson. Criquet founders Billy Nachman and Hobson Brown caught Wilson's appearance and sent the actor a free box of new shirts. Before long, Wilson had signed up to become a "brand ambassador" (and prominent stakeholder) for the company.

He lost his father

Luke Wilson has spent some time out of the spotlight privately grieving. In May 2017, Wilson broke the news that his father, Bob Wilson, passed away after a battle with Alzheimer's disease. Long before Luke (or Owen) Wilson started acting, the elder Wilson made huge strides in American television. Beginning in the late 1960s, Wilson was the president of Dallas public TV station KERA-TV, where with local journalist Jim Lehrer he created Newsroom, a precursor to the still-running PBS NewsHour. As the president of an independently-operated public TV station, Wilson had the power to program whatever he liked, and so his KERA became the first American channel to broadcast Monty Python's Flying Circus, the highly influential sketch comedy series. (At KERA's 50th anniversary party in 2011, Python troupe member Terry Gilliam attended and told Owen Wilson, "Neither of us would be here without Bob Wilson.")

Speaking of which, Wilson's influence was directly felt in one of his sons' movies. Owen Wilson co-wrote and Luke Wilson co-starred in the 1998 movie Rushmore. Bill Murray's character observes his rambunctious, ill-mannered sons and quips, "Never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine having sons like this." Owen Wilson placed the line in the script, which he says he took "word for word" from his father's mouth.

Don't Luke away, he's coming back

The Luke Wilson comeback just might be underway, as the actor has a number of good roles lined up in some very promising projects. Donna Tartt's epic 2013 novel The Goldfinch is the rare bestseller that was also critically acclaimed: it won Tartt the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction. A film adaptation was inevitable, and it boasts a stacked, Oscar-baiting cast, including Nicole Kidman, Jeffrey Wright, Sarah Paulson, Ansel Elgort, and Luke Wilson. He plays the main character's deadbeat dad, a recovering addict and failed actor who makes his living in Las Vegas playing baccarat.

Always a versatile performer who doesn't get pigeonholed, Wilson is balancing out that highbrow material with some decidedly more populist stuff, such as a dark road comedy called The S***heads. Wilson and Tracy Morgan play a couple of idiots hired to escort a teenage millionaire to drug rehab. He'll also follow up Rock Dog and Roadies with another music-themed project, a horror movie called Hollow Body, which is about a rock band whose lead singer is a zombie who sucks the energy out of victims and turns it into highly-charged performances.