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Luke Wilson: Courageous Nerd Hall of Fame

by Conor O'Brien

August 2020’s Courageous Nerd Hall of Fame inductee is Luke Wilson. Once a month, Courageous Nerd will honour actors, writers and directors from across the entertainment industry by inducting them into the Courageous Nerd Hall of Fame.

Luke Cunningham Wilson was born on 21 September 1971, the youngest of three boys. His older brothers are fellow actors – Owen Wilson and Andrew Wilson. All three brothers share the middle name Cunningham, which is their mother Laura’s maiden name. Luke, like his siblings, was raised in Dallas, Texas.

In a 2010 interview, Luke discussed whether he had any formal training as an actor: “You just see so many good projects out here that just never really come together. It’s a real testament to James L. Brooks that he saw something in the script [Bottle Rocket], wanted to make it this way, and stuck with it. Columbia Pictures told him, “We like this movie, and we want to make it with you producing. But could we please, please, please, please, please do it with other actors? Actors people have actually heard of? Anybody besides these Dallas guys?”

Luke continued: ‘There’s no use making this movie if we don’t make it with these guys.’ But as far as training, no — I just watched movies and read books about actors I liked. I never had any formal training.”

Luke made his feature film debut in 1996 with the crime-comedy Bottle Rocket. It had been previously released as a short two years earlier. His older brother Owen and Wes Anderson wrote the script. Luke played the lead role of “Anthony Adams” opposite Owen as “Dignan”. One famous Bottle Rocket fan was acclaimed director Martin Scorsese. He said that Wes Anderson “knows how to convey the simple joys and interactions between people so well and with such richness. This kind of sensibility is rare in movies.”

Aside from Luke and Owen, the Bottle Rocket cast also included James Caan, Robert Musgrave and oldest Wilson brother, Andrew.

Luke Wilson
Luke Wilson and Owen Wilson in ‘Bottle Rocket’ (1996)

In 1997, Luke played a supporting role in Guy Ferland’s Telling Lies in America. The coming-of-age drama film also featured Kevin Bacon, Brad Renfro, Calista Flockhart and Jonathan Rhys Meyers. Also in that year, Luke cameoed in Scream 2 as the actor portraying Billy Loomis in Stab, the film-within-a-film.

The following year, Luke appeared alongside Drew Barrymore in two romantic comedy films. In Best Men, he played Barrymore’s love interest “Jesse Reilly”. This film also starred Sean Patrick Flanery, Dean Cain and Andy Dick. Their second film together was Home Fries. That cast also included Catherine O’Hara, Jake Busey and Shelley Duvall. Luke played a minor role in Rushmore, written and directed by the creative team of Wes Anderson and Owen Wilson.

In 1999, Luke and Martin Lawrence co-starred in Blue Streak. This was a buddy cop film about a jewel thief (Lawrence) who masquerades as a member of the LAPD. The film being well received but the planned sequel was never produced.

Luke Wilson
Martin Lawrence and Luke Wilson in ‘Blue Streak’ (1999)

In 2001, Luke appeared in one his most notable roles: attorney Emmett Richmond in the hit comedy film Legally Blonde. He starred alongside Reese Witherspoon, playing her love interest. Selma Blair, Victor Garber, Jennifer Coolidge and Matthew Davis played supporting characters. Two years later, Luke reprised his role as Emmett in Legally Blonde 2: Red, White and Blonde.

Also in 2003, Luke starred alongside Will Ferrell and Vince Vaughn in Old School. He played the lead role, “Mitch Martin”. The comedy told the tale of depressed 30-somethings who start a fraternity to relive their college days. Many of the supporting cast members went on to success including Jeremy Piven, Ellen Pompeo, Patrick J Adams, Simon Helberg and Terry O’Quinn.

In 2004, he reunited with Ferrell for Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Between 2002-2005, Luke also had a recurring role on FOX’s That ’70s Show. He played ‘Casey Kelso’, older brother to series regular Michael (Ashton Kutcher) and infrequently appeared.

Luke Wilson
Vince Vaughn, Will Ferrell and Luke Wilson in ‘Old School’ (2003)

Luke toplined Mike Judge’s 2006 science fiction comedy feature Idiocracy. He played “Corporal Joe Bauers” who is cryogenically frozen in 2005 as part of a project, only to thaw five centuries later. A review by AV Club opined that “There’s a good chance that Judge’s smartly lowbrow Idiocracy will be mistaken for what it’s satirizing, but good satire always runs the risk—to borrow a phrase from a poster-boy for the reverse meritocracy—of being misunderestimated.” In that same year, Luke starred in My Superhero Ex-Girlfriend – perhaps a precursor to a later job.

In 2007, he returned to his romantic comedy – and blonde – roots with Blonde Ambition. Bearing no connection to Legally Blonde, Luke played Jessica Simpson’s love interest, who works as a postman in his father’s company. Between 2007-2010, Luke’s further films included Blades of Glory, Henry Poole is Here, Death At a Funeral and Middle Men.

Luke returned to television in 2011, playing the main role of ‘Levi Callow’ on the HBO series Enlightened. Created by Mike White and lasting two seasons, Laura Dern starred as his character’s ex-wife. In 2015, Luke co-starred in the Netflix Western film The Ridiculous 6 opposite an all-star cast including Adam Sandler, Terry Crews, Taylor Lautner, Jorge Garcia and Rob Schneider.

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Taylor Lautner, Luke Wilson and Adam Sandler in ‘The Ridiculous 6’ (2015)

For the next four years, Luke appeared in several film projects. These included such examples as Concussion, All We Had, Brad’s Status and Measure of a Man. In 2019, Luke managed to land not one but two major roles in his career.

The first of these was Zombieland: Double Tap, the long-awaited sequel to 2009’s Zombieland. Joining returning cast members Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Emma Stone and Abigail Breslin, Luke played “Albuquerque”.

Secondly, he was cast in a major television starring role on DC’s Stargirl. On the show, he portrays mechanic Pat Dugan, the new stepfather to protagonist Courtney Whitmore (Brec Bassinger). However, Pat is secretly a former superhero sidekick known as “Stripesy”. His normal world is turned upside down when Courtney discovers his allies old apparel, becoming the mentor to his stepdaughter and her new teammates – Wildcat (Yvette Monreal), Dr. Mid-Nite (Anjelika Washington) and Hourman (Cameron Gellman).

Stargirl aired on both DC Universe and The CW for Season 1, transitioning completely to the latter for Season 2.

All in all, Luke Wilson has had an interesting, diverse career. His current role as Pat Dugan introduces him to a whole new audience. Long may it continue!

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