Owen Wilson and Ed Helms hit the road in the new comedy, Father Figures. STACK met with them in Los Angeles.
Owen Wilson’s most celebrated comedy partnership is undoubtedly with Ben Stiller, sharing the laughs in Starsky & Hutch plus the Zoolander, Night at the Museum and Meet the Fockers franchises, while Vince Vaughn comes in second, partners in crime in Wedding Crashers and The Internship.
But today Wilson finds a new partner in Ed Helms in Father Figures, with the two playing brothers on a road trip to discover the identity of their real father.
No stranger to road trips, Helms is best associated with Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Justin Bartha, with whom he shared three Hangover adventures.
But the two brothers in Father Figures are not such a convivial pair, locked in fierce familial competition over who is the most successful.
Helms’ divorced middle-class doctor Peter has a kid who hates him and a lonely private life, while his brother Kyle is a beach bum who’s made millions from licensing his likeness to a barbeque sauce company.
For decades the brothers imagined their father was dead but while attending their mother’s (Glenn Close) wedding, Peter imagines he sees their father on an episode of Law and Order: SVU, prompting them to set out to find him, hitting on Terry Bradshaw, Ving Rhames and J.K. Simmons as potential candidates.
“I’m kind of weirded out by families that are super-transparent. I see the value in it, but I’m a little bit of a prude that way.”
This wild goose chase, dubbed “Operation Who’s Your Daddy”, sees the siblings in pursuit of all their mother’s exes from the last days of disco.
When STACK catches up with Helms and Wilson in Los Angeles, they fess up to a certain squeamishness at considering their own parents as sexual beings – a state-of-mind surely shared with many of us.
“I don’t want them to be that open with me. I’m kind of weirded out by families that are super-transparent. I see the value in it, but I’m a little bit of a prude that way. I don’t know too much about my parents before I came along,” admits Helms, 43, at which point Wilson can’t resist goading his co-star with a throwaway, “You didn’t want to know you were conceived in New Orleans?” remark.
Forced to reveal their private conversation earlier, The Office star confesses, “I was telling Owen how I found out that I was conceived in New Orleans.”
Conversely, Wilson, whose elder brother Andrew and younger brother Luke are also actors, admits to being the historian in his own family. “I’ve always been that way, in that I like to gather the family stories. I‘ve always been very curious about stuff with my parents and grandparents and everybody, and was pretty good at remembering the stories.
“But when it comes down to it, I’m on the same page with Ed in that there’s some stuff you don’t need to know, but I like knowing the history stuff. I like good stories,” says Wilson, 49, who now has two children of his own.
The directorial debut of Lawrence Sher, previously a cinematographer for Hangover director Todd Phillips, Father Figures plays it purely for slapstick, although Wilson believes the theme takes on a different meaning for adopted children in search of their blood parentage.
“In that sense I would say that a quest like this would be kind of exciting.” he says. “For myself, I loved having the parents that I have but there‘s always those moments as a little kid – when your parents are mean to you – where you imagine, ‘Whoa! What if my parent was…?’ and you have this idea that someone out there that you don’t know is your actual parent.
So the romantic part of me thinks that would be like a great adventure and fun to find out. But I’m sure it would come with a lot of with a lot of baggage, too.”
Father Figures is in cinemas on February 1.