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Owen Wilson: "I Wasn't Sure 'Midnight In Paris' Would Work"

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Owen Wilson stars in Woody Allen's latest, as a struggling novelist who vacations in the City of Lights with his fiancee, played by Rachel McAdams, and her family, only to fall for the charms of the city and, more specifically, a beautiful fashion student played by Marion Cotillard. Opens May 20.

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Newly minted Golden Globe nominee Owen Wilson is about to take a trip back in time. Not all the way back to 1920s-era Paris to hobnob with the literati (again), but just far enough to share his memories of making writer-director Woody Allen’s critically hailed film “Midnight in Paris,” which bows Dec. 20 on home video and which nabbed him a Best Actor nomination (as well as a Best Director nob for Allen). Chatting exclusively with PopcornBiz, Wilson admits that all the acclaim kinda snuck up on him.

It must be gratifying to see that the film has lingered so long in audiences’ favor, considering that it was released so much earlier in the year.

It's funny to think that it came out back in May. I was in New York the other day and it was still playing at a theater there. That seems pretty incredible.

Did you feel like something special was happening with this performance while you were making the film?

No – I didn't feel that way! I'm always a little bit pessimistic. I know that I enjoyed being in Paris, but I had no idea how the time travel stuff would all work, would it seem too far fetched, would people buy it, and it was a nice surprise when the movie came out and people seemed to enjoy it so much.

What was the thing about the film that first attracted you to it?

It was working with Woody Allen. That was kind of an exciting idea, and some of the people that were going to be in the movie. Also, making a movie in Paris. I would say that those were all sort of attractive ideas to me, more than did I read the script and go, 'Okay, this is great.' I really enjoyed reading it, but like I was saying, I just didn't have a sense of how this time travel element was going to work. So that was always sort of the wildcard for me. Then that ends up being one of the things that people liked the most about the movie. So Woody pulled that off. It's funny, but I guess by not paying too much attention to it, nothing fancy, but just at midnight get in a car and I'm in the past. I always understood the logic of what was happening. It was just a question of if people were going to buy that one minute I'm here in modern day Paris, and then in the next minute I'm with Hemingway and Fitzgerald. Is that going to be a charming thing or is that going to be something where you don't really go along for the ride?

Audiences did really lock on to that concept, that wish that you could visit a place in time that you never lived in but feel romantic and nostalgic about. Is there a time period that you fantasize about, wondering what it would've been like if you were around then?

Yeah. I talked with Woody and I guess for him it was probably that time a little bit. That time would have to be in my top three, maybe, also. It seems pretty great.

Can you relate to having romantic fantasies not be what they were in your head when you have a taste of the reality of it?

Yeah. I suppose sometimes you build things up in your mind, like an expectation and sometimes something doesn't quite measure up. But I think that's the great thing about a city like Paris. It can live up to that romantic notion that you have of it. I would say that. You're asking if I've had a 'Breaking Away' type moment, like I'm excited for the Italians to come and then they come and they don't like me and they stick something in my tire and I crash by the side of the road. Have I had that? Not quite.

Has acting in some ways made you a better writer?

I think just more experience, probably. I think the fact that I read a lot as a kid and was an English major and had to read a lot in college, I think that helped me as an actor and certainly as a writer just with having a sense of dialogue and story. Then I was just very lucky that my parents are both creative. It's just the way that I grew up. I was around really funny, creative people who were a great example.

When you get something like your Golden Globe nomination last week for acting, does mean something a little different than having been nominated as a writer?

I was very excited to hear that news. I was thrilled when we got nominated for 'The Royal Tenenbaums,' but maybe because I didn't necessarily think of myself as an actor, especially in the beginning, that is a sort of nice surprise because I continue to do it and make out a career out of it. Then to get recognized with that is exciting and unexpected.

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