Hollywood heartthrob Luke Wilson has a very personal investment in his new comedy "The Wendell Baker Story." Wilson not only plays the film's title role, the entire project was his idea. Wilson created the character for himself, wrote the script, found financiers and then co-directed the movie.
"I just thought it would be fun to write a real fast-talking, hustler type guy," Wilson said at a recent screening of the film in New York. "I wasn't getting those kinds of parts, or parts I necessarily liked or felt connected to."
Texan Wendell Baker, played by Luke, lands in prison for making fake driver's licences for illegal Mexican immigrants. After the likeable character serves his time, he decides to reform himself to try and win back his ex-girlfriend. But Wendell faces many obstacles along the way, including a mean-spirited head nurse (played by Luke's brother Owen Wilson) at the retirement home where Wendell gets his first job.
The entire production was a family affair, with the oldest Wilson brother, Andrew, co-directing with Luke, the youngest.
The two brothers said sibling rivalries did not come into play, and they had very few conflicts while working together.
"Luke wrote the script so we were basically on the same page, " Andrew said at the screening. "There were a couple times where I yelled 'Action!' at the exact same time he said 'Cut'. But we worked that stuff out. He was in almost every scene, so I looked at my job to just help him shoot what was written."
Luke said having someone he could trust to give him a hand directing was key to keeping the production moving. "I always felt I had a good gauge on how scenes were going with other actors," he said. "But when I was in the scene myself, it would help to have Andrew say, 'I think we got it. Let's move on,' or 'Let's take another shot at it.'"
Andrew said his favorite times were when his brothers were in the same scene.
"We had a great time, working with those guys together," Andrew said. "And Owen, you just kind of turn the camera on with him, and it's really fun."
The three brothers moved to Los Angeles after making their first film "Bottle Rocket" -- another quirky comedy -- which was released in 1996.
"It's a lot better than mowing lawns," Andrew laughed.
The Wilsons attribute their creative streaks to the influence of their parents while growing up in Dallas. Their father was in charge of the public television station in the city, while their mother was a photographer.
"They were big moviegoers and took us to a lot of films," Luke said.
"The Wendell Baker Story" is playing at theaters across the country.