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sibling rivalry
Seattle Times Newspaper January 2002
Sibling rivalry not part of the script for these brothers

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. -- Can the family that works together work nicely together? What if your older brother is not only your co-star but also your boss? And what if the script calls for that older brother to kiss your real-life girlfriend?

According to Dallas-born siblings Owen and Luke Wilson, who appear in the "The Royal Tenenbaums," sibling rivalry is not a problem.

"When I'm working on Owen's film, he's the boss," says Luke, 30, during a recent interview alongside his brother at the Regent Beverly Wilshire Hotel.

"Occasionally there is old baggage that you bring along from having grown up together, but we really get along, and I think there's nothing better if you get along with family."

Sandy-haired Luke and blond Owen bear little physical resemblance to each other -- the younger Luke looks a little older and more conservative than Owen, 33, who looks like the typical Southern California surfer dude.

But the brothers are so close that Luke didn't mind when Owen, who co-wrote "Tenenbaums" with director Wes Anderson, included a scene in which he would have to kiss Luke's real-life girlfriend, co-star Gwyneth Paltrow.

In the darkly comic film, Owen plays Eli Cash, an eccentric novelist and longtime friend of the Tenenbaum kids, played by Ben Stiller, Paltrow and Luke.

The film, which has opened across the country, also stars Gene Hackman and Anjelica Huston as their divorced parents, Danny Glover as their stepfather and Bill Murray as Paltrow's husband.

In an odd twist, Luke's character, a one-time tennis prodigy who crashes and burns as an adult, falls in love with his own sister (Paltrow), but she's already having an affair with his best pal, Eli.

So, what was it like kissing his kid brother's girlfriend?

"I don't think he was jealous about it, but I was a little self-conscious maybe," says Owen. "We're only competing for her affection on-screen."

Competitively speaking, the brothers prefer to duke it out on the pingpong table or basketball court. But competition is not an element of their careers, both say.

Luke credits Owen for jump-starting his career by creating parts for him in two previous Wilson/Anderson collaborations -- "Bottle Rocket" and "Rushmore."

"People always ask if we're competitive with each other professionally, but I feel that he's kind of on another level than I am. He's a really good writer and has produced a few movies. I look up to him more than anything else." says Luke.

"If it weren't for him and Wes, I wouldn't be getting to do what I'm getting to do right now."

But though Owen's career appears to be the one in full throttle at the moment with his starring turn in "Behind Enemy Lines" opposite Hackman and the upcoming "I Spy" with Eddie Murphy, Luke is no slouch either.

After having spent much of his early career appearing in low-budget independent films, in the past two years he has made a splash in "Charlie's Angels" and "Legally Blonde."

Another Wilson brother, the lesser-known Andrew, is still searching for that breakthrough role. He appeared with Owen in "Zoolander" as part of Hansel's entourage and is collaborating with Luke on a film they might direct together.

As kids, Luke says he was a typical little brother, following his older siblings around and emulating everything they did. He says he and his two older brothers were so inseparable that their parents began to worry.

"We have a very close family," says Luke, who lives in Owen's newly purchased home in Santa Monica, Calif.

"We spent so much time together that I can remember us being in our teens and our dad saying we should try to find some other friends because he thought we were our own lowest common denominator when we got together."

Their deep affinity for one another probably helps Owen, Luke and Andrew get through those long days and nights on the set when tempers are apt to flare. Owen says that one of the advantages of working with family and friends is that you can be brutally honest with them.

"We can give each other a little grief and stuff," he says. "And usually it seems like two of the brothers are ganging up on the other. It's like 'Lord of the Flies.' ''
By Miki Turner