As expected, in his first interview since his September suicide attempt, Owen Wilson did not break down, shed tears, or reveal the complexities of his psyche. Instead, he talked about India, vaccinations and monkeys.
His interview with filmmaker and friend Wes Anderson was posted on MySpace.com Friday at midnight. Speaking in his charming drawl, Wilson chatted with Anderson about the making of "The Darjeeling Limited," their latest project together. The piece lasted about five minutes. Neither addressed Wilson's personal struggles, which have garnered more press than the movie itself.
Talking about making the film, Wilson waxed poetic about monkeys in India and how, perhaps like Hollywood hangers-on, they didn't seem interested in his own well-being.
"At first you think, 'Gosh, monkeys, that's so kind of incredible,'" he said. "But you started to kind of feel a little bit, not competitive with the monkeys, but that they ... didn't really have your best interests at heart. ... They want to replace you."
Fox Searchlight, the studio that released "The Darjeeling Limited," currently in theaters, told ABCNEWS.com that it approached MySpace.com with the idea to do the interview. Both Fox Searchlight and MySpace.com are owned by the same parent company, News Corp.
According to a spokesperson for MySpace.com, Anderson and Wilson set the interview agenda themselves, and Anderson directed, edited and produced the whole piece.
Considering all that, Elyane Rapping, a professor of American studies and pop culture at Buffalo University, said it was doubtful beforehand that Wilson and Anderson would talk about anything but "The Darjeeling Limited." She said it's likely Fox Searchlight is using Wilson's suicide attempt as a way to drum up press for the independent film and preserve its reputation.
"I wouldn't put anything past any of those people," she said. "And I think that they have to do this because otherwise it puts it a really dark taint on the movie, that this movie was being made while someone was suicidal. If they don't say anything, then it really does call into question the ethics of the people who made this movie."
It used to be that controversy-saddled celebrities sidled up to big-name reporters when they were ready to tell their tales, revamp their public image and revive their careers. Gary Condit came clean to Connie Chung, Monica Lewinsky cried to Barbara Walters, Britney Spears sobbed to Matt Lauer, Paris Hilton pledged philanthropy to Larry King.
Now that Internet video has come into its own, thanks to the popularity of YouTube and the advent of highly produced shows on sites like MySpace, fallen stars have a far more appealing option: Cut the pesky journalist out of the mix and tell all, on their own terms, on the Internet. It's the ultimate form of image control.
Wilson's interview is part of MySpace.com's Artist on Artist series, which turns the traditional celebrity interview format on its head. Instead of talking to a reporter, pop culture personalities sit down and interview one another. Past pairings include Nobel Prize winner Al Gore and hip-hop artist Mos Def; filmmaker Michael Moore and R.E.M. frontman Michael Stipe.
So if celebrities can craft their own interviews and broadcast them on a Web site that gets millions of hits each month, does that mean all star-chasing entertainment reporters, this one included, should pack up their belongings and go home? Not exactly.