Owen Wilson’s personal problems unlikely to harm his film future

By Sandy Cohen

LOS ANGELES – Owen Wilson’s film future remains bright despite his apparent personal problems.

Hollywood insiders say that the 38-year-old actor, who was hospitalized Sunday after police responded to a report of an attempted suicide at his Santa Monica home, should continue to enjoy big-screen success.

His box-office track record – “Wedding Crashers” topped $200 million, “Cars” brought in almost $250 million – plus his on-screen image as an affable everyman who can charm the ladies while boozing with the boys has made him a favorite with both filmmakers and filmgoers.

“He’s loved,” Bernie Brillstein, a veteran Hollywood manager who worked with John Belushi and Chris Farley, said Tuesday. “It’s serious, but it’s a singular case. Anyone can have a bad day, a very bad day.”

Could Wilson face the same potential producer alienation that threatens other troubled stars such as Lindsay Lohan and Britney Spears?

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“I don’t think the studios will react that way,” Brillstein said.

Wilson’s public perception is “very positive,” industry analyst Paul Dergarabedian of Media By Numbers said Tuesday. “Owen Wilson has a really good reputation and people in general really feel bad for him right now.”

That feeling seems to extend to studio executives, too.

Fox Searchlight had no comment Tuesday about “The Darjeeling Limited,” which stars Wilson, Adrien Brody and Jason Schwartzman. The film is scheduled for release Sept. 29.

Wilson’s next starring vehicle, Paramount’s “Drillbit Taylor,” is set for a March release, a studio spokeswoman said, declining further comment.

Filming began in Hawaii last month on Dreamworks’ “Tropic Thunder,” which is to feature Wilson, Jack Black, Robert Downey, Jr., and Ben Stiller, who is also directing.

Wilson’s hospitalization “does not have any impact on the production,” studio spokesman Marvin Levy said Tuesday.

A spokesman for 20th Century Fox declined to discuss Wilson’s scheduled appearance opposite Jennifer Aniston in the upcoming “Marley & Me.”

“It’s an inappropriate question to ask,” he said. “All our thoughts and concerns are with his health and well-being. Owen asked his privacy be respected and we intend to honor that.”

Wilson released a statement Monday through his publicist, Ina Treciokas: “I respectfully ask that the media allow me to receive care and heal in private during this difficult time.”

Treciokas declined to answer questions Tuesday about whether Wilson attempted to commit suicide.

Dr. Charles Goodstein, a professor of psychiatry at New York University Medical Center, said that while all suicide attempts merit serious attention, celebrities don’t always get the psychiatric treatment they might need.

“People in the entertainment world are thought of as being kind of flamboyant, their moods can shift … therefore they elude detection,” he said Tuesday. “Celebrities have good ways of sidestepping anybody recognizing that they have a problem.”

But where most people are allowed to deal with their demons in private, a different standard applies to movie stars and other public personalities. Inquiring minds want to know.

“It becomes like an online soap opera,” said S. Mark Young, a professor of entertainment business at the University of Southern California. “Now Owen Wilson is someone whose life will be scrutinized by the people who follow this stuff. He’s become part of the soap opera.”

Still, Wilson likely generates more sympathy from the public than Lohan does, Young added.

“People have known for a long time that Lindsay is a drug addict,” he said. “Owen Wilson is a little more difficult to understand. … If it comes out that he’s heartbroken, that’s a sympathy thing.”

Wilson’s emotional issues could have “a deep impact on his future employability and the ability to obtain insurance,” said longtime publicist Michael Levine.

But Brillstein said that the problem lies in media coverage and the public’s taste for ever more sensational celebrity news.

“There is no boundary,” he said. “This (kind of thing) has happened for years but the press was never so vigilant in reporting bad news.”