Owen Wilson Shares What Willie Nelson Taught Him About Life

Owen Wilson and Willie Nelson have been poker buddies for years, but Nelson has also been one of Wilson’s creative inspirations, the actor told us in our recent cover story.

Wilson is among dozens of guests honoring Willie Nelson this weekend with concerts celebrating the singer-songwriter, who turned 90 on Saturday.

“As a kid growing up in Texas, it seemed like there was nothing bigger than Willie Nelson,” Wilson said at Saturday’s concert, according to NPR. “And looking out at the Hollywood Bowl tonight, it still feels like there’s nothing bigger than Willie Nelson.”

Wilson was one of the night’s emcees, along with Helen Mirren, Ethan Hawke and Jennifer Garner. Performers included Neil Young, Snoop Dogg,  Miranda Lambert, Norah Jones, Chris Stapleton, Kris Kristofferson, Beck, Rosanne Cash and many more.

Owen Wilson on Willie Nelson and Staying Creatively Engaged

Wilson new film, Paint, is about a middle-aged public TV painter who refuses to gracefully cede (or share) his platform with a rising young artist. That led us to ask Wilson about the older actors he’s worked with, and whether any of them served as mentors.

It turns out he may have learned the most from a musician: His old friend Willie Nelson, with whom he has a standing poker game in Maui, Hawaii, that also includes Woody Harrelson.

We ventured that an old Onion story about Nelson — with the headline Smiling Willie Nelson Reflects On A Lifetime Of Weed And Women — seems like one time the comedic, made-up website seemed pretty close to reality. We asked if Nelson is a person who seems to have it all figured out.

“I think that it’s less a feeling of, ‘OK, this person has it figured out,’ and more a thought that the road goes on forever, in terms of being creative,” Wilson told us.

“You’ll go over and he’ll say, ‘I was working on this,’ and then have some lyrics or something. I think there’s some people who, in order to feel happy in life, have to really be engaged creatively. And then, you know, the obvious stuff that I think we all sort of know — family and friends and how important they are.”

But, Wilson added: “I don’t know if you ever have things completely figured out. Or you might, one day. And then the next day, you’ve stayed up late playing poker, and you lost, and you wake up in a bad mood, and you couldn’t feel further from having things figured out. You can have it figured out, figured out, figured out, not figured out.” 

Scenes from the red carpet at the Willie Nelson 90th birthday concert Saturday.

Saturday’s concert was so packed with talent that other performers held the stage for the first three hours, NPR said. Nelson then took the stage to perform “Are There Any More Real Cowboys?” alongside Neil Young.

He also sang two songs with country star George Strait before he was joined by Snoop Dogg. And a rollicking party went on backstage throughout the night, a few folks reported from the stage.

The Hawaii poker games between Wilson, Nelson and Harrelson have spawned pop-culture legends. When singer Maren Morris filled in as the guest of host of The Tonight Show With Jimmy Fallon last year, she welcomed Nelson as a guest, and asked the country legend about reports that Wilson and Harrelson have lost so much money to him that he’s jokingly dubbed a part of his house “Woody’s Wing.”

“Well, that’s a good story,” Nelson said. “Let’s say it’s true.”

Main image: Willie Nelson performs at Thunder Valley Casino Resort in in Lincoln, California on June 17, 2015, courtesy of Shutterstock.