Owen Wilson on Iconic SoCal Artist Ed Ruscha

Spencer Lowell
Ruscha, left, and Wilson

The "Zoolander 2" actor fell for the artist's work during the filming of "Bottle Rocket"; three purchased artworks later, they're pals: "Art is good the way they say it's good to play classical music for babies."

This story first appeared in the Nov. 8 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

When Owen Wilson was in his 20s and in Los Angeles to film scenes for his breakout 1996 movie Bottle Rocket, he went to The Ivy at the Shore and saw a painting by Ed Ruscha, famed for his landscape and text-based works that cast a deadpan eye on Southern California's man-made environment.

"Me and my brothers and Wes [Anderson] would go to The Ivy at the Shore when my parents came to visit," recalls Wilson, "and they had a great big painting that said, 'Brave Men Run in My Family.' We all loved that, my dad in particular. That always stuck in my mind."

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Within a few years, the actor, who next appears in Anderson's The Grand Budapest Hotel, fell into the art world's gravitational pull, becoming friends with New York gallerist and artist Tony Shafrazi, hitting the Art Basel Miami Beach art fair regularly and collecting works by Cady Noland, Donald Judd and Andy Warhol. Wilson met Ruscha through Shafrazi, and the actor not only has acquired three of his works, but the two have become friends. (Ruscha and his wife, Danna, got Wilson into Breaking Bad.)

One of his Ruscha pieces, a painting of a mountain, is called The Celluloid Light Projection, a Ruscha-ism for a movie. Once, says Wilson, "Ed knew I was going off to make a movie and he said, 'Good luck on your celluloid light projection.' I always thought that was a funny thing to call a movie."