Playing Lightning McQueen gives Owen Wilson 'street cred' with his kids
Owen Wilson grows old with Lightning McQueen
Lightning McQueen has been a part of Owen Wilson's life for more than a decade, since the first Cars movie was released in 2006.
Cars 2 came out five years later and there was no more talk of another one.
And then at the end of 2011, Wilson attended the star ceremony on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for Pixar's chief creative officer John Lasseter, the father of the animated Cars franchise.
Wilson - who has two sons, Robert, six, and Finn, three - recalled the encounter.
"He said, 'Why don't we do another Cars?' So I was pumped up. Having two little kids now, it is exciting for me to get a little street cred from those guys. They were at the premiere with me the other night, and they loved the movie," said Wilson.
His children do not seem to know or care that he is the voice of Lightning though.
His older boy is a Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles fan, "but I think we made some headway with this premiere and Cars Land (in Disneyland), so I have won them over for the time being".
It has won over audiences worldwide too, with Cars earning US$462.2 million (S$630 million) and its sequel US$562.1 million.
I definitely get roles where I am a father more than a member of a fraternity. Those days are behind me.Actor Owen Wilson, 48
We were at The Beverly Hilton hotel in Beverly Hills, and the US actor is a trouper, making time for the press even though his father died recently.
In Cars 3, which opens here on Aug 31, racing champion Lightning is no longer the rookie after 11 years.
A new generation of racers has pushed him out of the game, and he has to decide whether to rest on his laurels and retire as a legend or continue fighting.
Much like the real-life Nascar drivers who told the film-makers that they hated the thought of retirement as they did not know how to do anything else, Lightning needs to get back into racing, but he also needs to step up his game.
Young race technician, Cruz Ramirez (Cristela Alonzo), who knows all about technology and creating winners on simulated racetracks, offers to help.
Lightning baulks but comes to realise that success has many paths and even an old dog can learn new tricks.
Armie Hammer voices Lightning's new nemesis Jackson Storm, and Kerry Washington, Nathan Fillion, Lea DeLaria and Chris Cooper voice supporting roles, with Brian Fee directing.
STRIKING A CHORD
An ageing Lightning certainly struck a chord with Wilson.
"I definitely get roles where I am a father more than a member of a fraternity. Those days are behind me," he said with a laugh.
"So it was nice knowing that even as I am playing roles that reflect kind of the passage of time, at least I have Lightning. He does not get older.
"Then all of a sudden, they are making him deal with the same kind of issues, so even the animated world is not immune to the ravages of ageing."
Wilson is 48 now and definitely feels it when he plays with his little ones.
"I need to do some stretching before pillow fighting, otherwise I am liable to throw my back out. (Ageing) happens so slowly; you do not quite notice it and you begin to hear yourself saying or thinking stuff that you would have heard your parents say."
Wilson recalled going to the premiere of the first Cars film without children and the late Paul Newman, who voiced Lightning's mentor Doc Hudson, was there.
He added: "And then a couple of nights ago, I was at Disneyland, and now I have two kids and there is a Cars Land."
Fatherhood has been "definitely fun" but "tiring".
Wilson said: "At the premiere when I was going through press lines, a journalist had given me a little green card, which I stuck in my pocket. During the movie, I gave it to Finn and the next thing I knew, Robert said, 'Where is mine?'
"Then we had to deal with that little meltdown. So yeah, sometimes it feels like I am like (US diplomat Henry) Kissinger trying to make peace.
"But luckily, they get along for the most part. Finn idolises Robert and wants to do everything his brother does."
Fatherhood has also mellowed Wilson - if you can say that about an already laid-back guy - and he said he does not worry about reviews any more.
He said: "I remember being more nervous about the outcome of a movie, how it was going to do, and about reviews earlier in my career.
"Now I find that I hope it does well, but I do not care as much or it does not bother me as much, so that is a nice feeling.
"You do your best and maybe it finds an audience, maybe it does not.
"But you cannot really control it, so I feel like having kids has given me that perspective in a better way."