Arriving at the venue for The New Yorker Festival’s event with Owen Wilson and moderator Michael Specter, the first thing I noticed was the three chairs on stage, a signifier of a potential guest. My guess was either a Wilson brother or Wes Anderson, the director and co-writer with Wilson on some films including their first, Bottle Rocket, and their most recent, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. When Specter came out with both Wilson and Anderson in tow he joked he wasn’t even going to introduce the director but many in the audience played along. He later said Anderson was there to assist in the conversation with Wilson — which would have been great.
Specter acknowledged that he was not prepared for Anderson’s presence when he was finding clips of Wilson for viewing. Yet, Specter’s posture and questioning for the next hour distinctly leaned towards Anderson. The clips, some from Bottle Rocket, The Royal Tenenbaums, The Darjeeling Limited and Fox all included Wilson, but the attention was given to Anderson more. Did we really need to know that there are people on the internet who are recreating the “whack-bat” game?
At the conclusion of the event, I had stood up to ask a question and ended up being last. I prefaced by asking if there would be a sequel in his Shanghai [Noon] movie series, and then I thought I asked Wilson if he would like to revisit any of his characters in a sequel. I was glad the Shanghai reference got a laugh from the audience and a response from Wilson. But then Specter asked Anderson if he wanted to continue some movie and I took it as a cue to go ahead and return to my seat.
Owen Wilson & Wes Anderson. Photo Credit: Amy Sussman / Getty Images
Essentially, Specter failed the audience who came to see Wilson; he turned the event into a Wes Anderson love-fest. I appreciated Anderson and was happy to have seen him, but he should not have been the focus of the discussion. Very little was said about Wilson’s latest on-screen role, Midnight in Paris. Wilson’s brief discussion of working with Woody Allen was hilarious. On set of the film, Wilson realized that Allen’s critiques of his character’s wardrobe resulted in his wardrobe conforming the director’s own. Only occasionally was Wilson able to take the baton from Anderson to respond to questions that should have gone to him to begin with.
The painful failure of this event made me angry — as well as the woman sitting behind me, audibly cursing, and the couple I spoke to outside. Had I asked around more, I probably would have found even more people with the same thoughts.
Owen Wilson. Photo Credit: Amy Sussman / Getty Images