Owen Wilson’s Rumpled Snout
[Article and illustration from Lowbrow Reader #2, 2002]
For years, the best thing going on the silver screen has been Bill Murray’s rapscallion pair of eyes. Charmed in the manner of a sad-sack clown too cool to cry — even on the inside! — Murray’s mischievous eyes warm and amuse, granting audiences a one-way ticket to an all-inclusive in-joke.
After decades of dominance, this evil mensch and his glistening bastards have met a worthy rival: Owen Wilson’s nose. Smashed years ago into an anarchic, battered puzzle — an intriguing slab of aged play-dough rotting away at the center of this strange man’s face — Wilson’s rumpled snout winks to the crowd even as the rest of his face conjures bemused sincerity. Worn on Wilson’s male model of Zoolander, it’s a tacit punchline; appearing in Wes Anderson’s arty films it’s a cartoonish smile in a sea of sneers. The nose’s most triumphant moment remains its bit part in Meet the Parents, in which Wilson plays a kind of Gen X Ned Flanders. The actor tackles the role with a laid-back gusto worthy of the great Gene Wilder, cracking a window into his character’s eerie emptiness and self-hatred, but it’s the nose that leads the way, an inescapable blemish that tips his hand almost immediately.
Official word has it that Wilson broke the nose in a pair of football games, first in high school and later at college. This is, clearly, a fib: No comedic contrivance so potent could have such dull origins. So where did the broken schnozzle come from? Is it a ruse? A plastic-putty put-on — a 21st century take on the Groucho moustache — designed to shield an insipid waspish pug nose? Was it demolished at birth, inducing a Thurberish life of hard times and requisite responses? We think not. If you examine the curvatures of the nostrils, one thing becomes clear: Wilson’s bruise bears the distinct mark of a lemon cream pie, tossed through the air by a well-trained clown. It is with every twitch and turn that pie drips from Wilson’s elegantly marred mug, forever rumpled yet snazzy enough to take even Bill Murray to town.
—Lowbrow Reader #2, 2002