Parsing the weirdness of the Owen Wilson-Wes Anderson MySpace interview.

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Oct. 29 2007 5:58 PM

Owen and Wes

Parsing the weirdness of their MySpace interview.

MySpaceTV, the four-month-old video-sharing wing of the networking site, is developing a specialty in pseudo-vérité and quasi-nonfiction. Last Monday saw the debut of Roommates, a slumber party of a serial wherein four actresses portray a quartet of post-collegiate pals starring in a documentary. It's an inside-out reality show, a make-believe that toys with the terribly familiar terms of vacant voyeurism. Weirdly enough, Roommates quickly found a chat-show complement in an interview, posted to MySpaceTV over the weekend, between director Wes Anderson and actor Owen Wilson.

The occasion was, of course, their current film, The Darjeeling Limited; the site's "Artist on Artist" series provides a cozy little venue for the hyping of projects and the synergistic stroking of egos. But anticipation for this latest installment ran a bit higher than for, say, Dane Cook's tête-à-tête with Jessica Alba. In August, Wilson injured himself in an incident that was characterized by the Santa Monica police as a suicide attempt. Would the star's talk with his friend and collaborator—his first interview since that calamity—represent some new development in PR crisis management? Well, kinda, maybe. But while wishing Wilson good health and happiness, let's mull over another question: What the hell was that?

Troy Patterson Troy Patterson

Troy Patterson is Slate's writer at large and writes the Gentleman Scholar column.

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The clip opens on a shot of the two men perched on director's chairs and the crew fussing about in preparation. Wes, natty in corduroy and clammy with nervousness, requests some more powder for his forehead. Owen, slick in denim and happily relaxed, passes his cell phone off to an assistant. They're in separate studios on opposite coasts, and while someone's gone to the trouble of creating the illusion that the two sit together on a set dressed in Charlie Rose black, Anderson is all too pleased to point out the artifice. "This is like the same technology they use for Transformers," he says. "We're just using it for journalistic purposes right now."

Well, sort of, perhaps, but even by the lenient standards of Hollywood reporting, their conversation unfolds with blazing vacuity. Consider the moment in which the topic turns to India, the setting of the new film.

Anderson: "What made you, umm, trepidatious about going to India?"

Wilson: "Well, first of all, just the idea that you have to get so many shots … "

Anderson: "I didn't get any shots."

Wilson: "You didn't?"

Anderson: "Did I?"

But the two men soon find themselves in agreement about the fact that monkeys have opposable thumbs.

The chat rolls along thus, softball-like, for five minutes that seem like 20 seconds. You are still beginning to sort out whether the video is a low-key parody of a celebrity interview—or perhaps just a touchingly awkward attempt to shill a movie while a parade of unacknowledged elephants pirouette through the room—when Anderson declares that time is up. "Alright, I'll talk to you in a little while," he signs off, as gentle as anyone getting off the phone with a sick friend. To which Wilson, sunny and mellow, replies: "Okay." When I call this clip stunningly banal, I'm trying to offer a compliment. There's something as comforting as oatmeal in its refusal to serve as a showbiz confessional, to gratify the thirst for tears and sap. You might click it into existence feeling like a vulture—a scavenger preparing to snack on celebrity misery—but you come away aware of yourself as a mildly bored human.

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