Action hero DAD
Funnyman Owen Wilson, 46, films own stunts in action thriller No Escape where he plays a father trying to protect his family
Owen Wilson walks into the press junket for his upcoming action thriller No Escape and he is pacing back and forth a few times, looking at his Fitbit (a fitness tracker), before he eventually sits down at the table.
We are at The London West Hollywood hotel for our interview and he is dressed fairly laidback, opting for khakis and a blue button-down shirt, his shaggy blond hair in its usual form.
"It's a prop from the movie," he jokes, referring to his Fitbit, telling us that his goal is 10,000 steps a day.
"They guarantee that you live to 150," he laughs.
"Did you wear it while filming?" one journalist asks.
"Wish I did. Gosh, I would have set some records," Wilson answers in his distinct voice.
No Escape is the 46-year-old US actor's first action movie in almost 15 years, his last being 2001's Behind Enemy Lines.
In it, American businessman (Wilson), his wife (Lake Bell) and kids settle into their new home in South-east Asia but suddenly find themselves caught in the middle of a violent political uprising, as they frantically look for a safe haven in an environment where foreigners face immediate execution.
Although we are used to seeing Wilson in some type of comedy or a Wes Anderson film, he was right at home in the action genre.
"I read the script and thought it was an exciting story," he says. "But it's one thing to read it and another thing to be on set filming in Thailand, standing at the top of this building, ready to jump to the one next to it."
And that was just one of the many intense sequences in the movie, with Wilson nailing all of the action as if his career depended on it.
The gruelling shoot took about 39 days but the leading man never once complained about the physicality of the role, says director/producer/writer John Dowdle and his brother, writer/producer Drew Dowdle.
"I really didn't think of it," Wilson admits.
"I think the humid weather and other conditions sort of helped. It was like one less thing you had to act. It was tiring running around holding someone, especially when one of the girls' stunt double was so much heavier to carry around. But it was that kind of stuff that helped me to make it believable."
He adds: "I didn't come into this industry with those expectations that I'm just going to do comedy. When I read a script, I imagine myself in that particular role and it needs to resonate with me."
But Wilson did find the early scenes of No Escape - where he plays a regular dad - very familiar. "It was sort of the dad from (the 2008 comedy-drama) Marley & Me that was stuck in South-east Asia with some kind of revolution."
As a parent in real life, Wilson - who has two sons with two former girlfriends - injected his own experiences into the role but says that most of it came instinctively.
"It's just the way humans are hardwired; we want to protect children," he says.
"We had great actors play our daughters, and these were very intense scenes, so it was easy to connect with what they were feeling. I'd also think about my dad and the stress my parents had worrying about us. There were constant stitches, emergency room trips and more (while we were) growing up and I took some of that stress we put my dad in for this movie."
Next up for Wilson is a trip down memory lane and in the familiar territory of comedy.
He will reprise his role of male model Hansel for Zoolander 2, the sequel to the original cult favourite from 2001, which opens here next March.
"It's odd filming a movie we did 14 years ago," he admits.
"It seems like people are really excited about us doing it, so we'll have to see how it turns out. You usually don't do sequels to movies that didn't do well at the box office but it just seemed to live on. It's one of the biggest movies people come up to me about, especially internationally; it has a huge following."
Chick flick star gets tough
Lake Bell is bubbly and cheerful in person, which is what you'd expect of someone usually seen in comedies and chick flicks instead of No Escape, an international action thriller so intense, you're on the edge of your seat and biting your nails, waiting for what is going to happen next.
But the 36-year-old US director/writer/actress, who gave birth to her daughter Nova last year, finds this departure "appealing" and the opportunity to exist in different genres "so damn cool".
We sat down with Bell at the The London West Hollywood hotel to talk about motherhood, Owen Wilson and elephants.
DID THE "MAMA BEAR" MENTALITY COME INTO PLAY WHILE FILMING?
Even though I wasn't a mum at the time of shooting, it was really interesting that when you have a baby, there is something all-encompassing about this surge of energy to protect; this fierce animalistic charge you have. And when we were shooting, it was easy to look at these two little girls in these situations that were really difficult and want to protect them. It was helpful not to complain because if they didn't complain, we couldn't either.
DID YOU HAVE TO DO ANYTHING TO PREP FOR THE MOVIE?
It wasn't like we went into rigorous training before the movie and it was on purpose. We shouldn't look like action stars (but) like real people who happen to get into a situation that's extraordinary. I love the way that it's written -it's a little messy, that we don't all of a sudden know how to MacGyver something into a shotgun.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE WORKING WITH WILSON?
I think it's kind of genius casting on (director John) Dowdle's part. You have both Owen and me, who you're not used to seeing in this type of movie. You think it might be funny, but s*** gets bad really fast, so it kind of lulls the audience into a false sense of security. Owen is the captain that leads this family unit. He had a commitment and confidence in his performance and I was thankful to be able to work with him on this.
DID YOU EXPLORE THAILAND?
We didn't have time during shooting, but afterwards I did with my husband. We went to this elephant sanctuary numerous times since I had never seen elephants up close before. It brings you into the reality that nothing else matters in that moment when you're in the presence of such grand creatures.
Even though I wasn’t a mum at the time of shooting, it was really interesting that when you have a baby, there is something all-encompassing about this surge of energy to protect; this fierce animalistic charge you have.
— Actress Lake Bell (above), who welcomed a baby girl last year