August 15, 2008 / 10:01 PM / 10 years ago

Luke Wilson trades booze for miracles in new movie

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Miracles and booze — an unlikely pairing that immediately attracted star Luke Wilson when he first read the script of “Henry Poole Is Here,” a quirky film drama that debuts in theaters on Friday.

File photo shows Luke Wilson at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah January 21, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

Wilson told Reuters he connected to the seemingly-doomed protagonist, Henry Poole, and the movie’s poignant, uplifting message about personal redemption.

The 36 year-old actor, who along with his brother Owen Wilson made a name for himself in low-budget films such as “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore,” said the combination of both drama and comedy in the tale of spiritual awakening also appealed to him.

“It has a lot of sly humor in it,” Wilson said. “Even when all Henry wants to do is buy booze, he keeps getting dragged into these conversations, and I love the idea of this curmudgeon who has to deal with people despite himself.”

When Poole learns he has a fatal disease, he moves back to his old neighborhood to drink himself to death. But ruining his self-destructive plan are two neighbors and what may, or may not, be a miraculous water stain on the side of his house.

On one side of Poole lives a nosy, slightly crazy woman, Esperanza (Oscar nominee Adriana Barraza), who thinks she sees the face of God in the stain. On the other side is a single mom, Dawn (Radha Mitchell), who cares for a mute daughter.

Esperanza’s faith coupled with Dawn’s friendship, conspire to bring Henry back from the brink of a major self-disaster.


The Texas native has carved out a successful career in Hollywood thanks to such film comedies as “Old School,” “Blue Streak” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.” But off-screen, he seems more low-key and thoughtful than his on screen persona.

He said he could understand Poole’s unhappiness and his desire to spend time by himself.

Wilson also seems to have his ego in check, which is a rarity in Hollywood, confessing to worrying about whether his work in a film will connect with audiences.

“Sometimes at the end of a movie, I’ll panic, and wonder, ‘Did I do a good job?’ Then, I realize I’ve been spending too much time alone. You go from being surrounded by people, working every day and being constantly stimulated, back to doing nothing.”

The film’s themes of hope and the power of faith resonated with him in part due to his Catholic upbringing. He said his grandparents and parents were religious, and he noted his family was “very important” to him.

Faith and family must have been important to him one year ago this month when his brother Owen was hospitalized. Numerous media reports said he’d attempted suicide. Since then, Owen has not publicly talked about that episode, and at the time he issued only a statement asking for time to “heal in private.”

Luke said his brother is doing “really well” these days.

And while Luke Wilson is known for acting, he wrote and co-directed the 2005 comedy “The Wendell Baker Story,” along with his other brother, Andrew. The movie also starred Owen.

“I’d definitely like to direct again,” said Wilson, “and I’d love to do another film with my brothers. We had the best time.”

Luke Wilson and Rachel Seiferth in a scene from "Henry Poole Is Here". REUTERS/Overture Films/Handout

Editing by Bob Tourtellotte

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