DUBAI // Owen Wilson says checking Dubai's soaring summer temperatures during the filming of his latest movie, Midnight in Paris, helped him to bond with his director Woody Allen.
The American actor was speaking at an intimate event during the 8th Dubai International Film Festival (Diff) yesterday, where he received the festival's Variety International Star of the Year award.
In Conversation with Owen Wilson, at the Souk Madinat Jumeirah's First Group Theatre, was a chance to hear the actor speak up close about his personal life and career.
Wilson said he had been nervous about the prospect of working with the "legendary" director Allen, but checking weather updates helped them break the ice on set.
"Woody would always be on his iPhone during takes, checking the weather around the world," he said. "So I asked him, 'Where is the hottest place right now?' and it was actually Dubai."
He said Allen had sent a "well-written" letter to him, asking him to take on the lead role in the film.
"He described the character as a bit more intellectual than I normally play," said Wilson, who is best known for his roles in comedy films such as Wedding Crashers, You, Me & Dupree and Shanghai Noon.
Midnight in Paris, which was filmed over six weeks in Paris during August last year, is Allen's highest grossing film to date.
Described as a nostalgic, romantic comedy-fantasy, the film's cast includes Rachel McAdams, Marion Cotillard, Kathy Bates, Carla Bruni, Adrien Brody and Michael Sheen.
"I had the pleasure of working with all these great actors, playing such iconic figures," Wilson said, adding Allen gave the cast a lot of leeway.
"We were free to sort of try different things and you could kind of say the lines how you wanted to say them. We wouldn't do a lot of takes either."
Wilson started his career as a writer and is behind the critically acclaimed film The Royal Tenenbaums, which he wrote with the director Wes Anderson.
The comedy starred Gene Hackman, Ben Stiller and Gwyneth Paltrow, among others, and was nominated for an Academy Award in 2001 for Best Original Screenplay.
Wilson originally had his acting debut in the 1996 comedy Bottle Rocket, which he also co-wrote with Anderson.
Bottle Rocket caught the attention of big names in Hollywood, including Ben Stiller, who invited Wilson to appear in The Cable Guy with Jim Carrey.
"Ben really loved Bottle Rocket and said he was excited to find stuff we could work on together," said Wilson, 43.
Stiller and Wilson have since worked on 10 movies together, including Meet the Parents,Zoolander and the film adaption of the TV series Starsky & Hutch.
All three movies were a success at the box office, something Wilson contributes to their strong friendship.
"You develop a level of comfort with people, which seems to be a natural thing," he said.
"I've worked with Ben Stiller a lot because I like his sense of humour and he's an incredibly hard worker. I don't have to worry too much that he'll be sweating the details."
The actor, whose parents worked in creative industries - his father at the Dallas PBS television station and his mother as a photographer - said he never dreamt he would become an actor.
"I was living in Dallas, so it seemed so far-fetched to just go off to Hollywood," said Wilson. "I thought I would just be a writer but Wes pushed us to act in Bottle Rocket. It's funny how things work out."
This is a first visit to Dubai for Wilson, who said he went for a swim at two in the morning after arriving on Friday night from Dallas with his mother.
"The water here is much warmer than Malibu is right now," he said. "Actually, it's warmer than Malibu ever is."
Wilson said the changes in Dubai were more radical than anything he had experienced in his 20 years in Hollywood.
"It's amazing," he said. "I was looking at old picture of Dubai and there wasn't much here 30 years ago. You go to the old part of the city and it's not that old.
"It's more like Dallas where we have a 7-Eleven from 1981 and it's a landmark."
Wilson, whose girlfriend Jade Duell gave birth to their son in January, is working on the animated movie Turkeys with Woody Harrelson. "It's just a little animated movie that we hope will be funny and good," said Wilson.
He said he would also "love to film in Dubai".