When news trickled out over the weekend that actor Owen Wilson had reportedly tried to kill himself, I didn’t pay the reports any mind because it sounded a little far fetched. Of course, I now realize that I dismissed the reports as ‘far fetched’ not because I’m in the habit of following his life or career (or, indeed, possess any personal insight) but because I have a somewhat unhealthy dependency on gossip blogs and everybody’s been on the Britney Spears/Amy Winehouse/Lindsay Lohan disaster watch for so long, I’m sort of surprised to be reminded that other people have problems too. And that they deal with them in private.
Unfortunately for Wilson, it doesn’t matter in this instance that he does not belong to the Look-At-Me-I’m-A-Mess crowd. He’s not exactly Marilyn Monroe but he is the Butterscotch Stallion. In any case, a suicide attempt by a successful movie star is big news across the board.
Ideally, it should be nobody’s business but his own, of course. Nobody should have to deal with an event of that magnitude in the public eye. A suicide attempt, whether successful or not, is not just an individual in crisis – it is something that scars an entire family. I speak from personal experience. My own grandfather was an extremely successful and charismatic man with everything to live for; he was also a lifelong manic depressive who eventually took his own life in spite of everything science and family could do for him. More than twenty years later, we’re all still dealing with the consequences of his actions in different ways.
Suicide is a shocking affair, a self inflicted injury that flies against the most innate human instinct – to survive. It is bound to fascinate and become a lightning rod for gossip. But the last thing any family needs in the immediate aftermath of such an incident is to deal with all their issues in public.
This is not the time for people to ask for a copy of the 911 call to be made public – it’s in absolutely nobody’s public interest for us to hear one family’s tragedy unfold in excruciating detail just because the victim happens to be a successful actor/writer. In fact, it’s positively ghoulish. I felt that way about the 9/11 tapes too and those were very different.
Some of the other news organizations, of course, have gone the other way, studying the impact this is bound to have on Wilson’s new movie, The Darjeeling Limited. The film, directed by frequent Wilson collaborator Wes Anderson, is the story of three brothers trying to reconnect with each other by going on a spiritual trip through India.
Written by Anderson and co-star Jason Schwartzman (love him!), the movie also stars Adrien Brody. And everyone seems to agree that the movie will either suffer because Wilson will be unavailable for interviews or attract considerable scrutiny of the tawdry kind when it premieres at the New York Film Festival (where it opens the gala, no less).
And that’s sad because Darjeeling looks like it’s going to be a great movie. Not only is the Anderson-Wilson team one with an enviable record (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) but the New York Film Festival is a generally an excellent judge of cinema when the time comes to hand out its invites.
Here’s a clip to tide you over till September 29 (limited release).