Wow. What does one wear to meet the pope?
I had taken one suit with me, and I only did that as an afterthought. But I was lucky I did, because I ended up having to wear it a lot. Another night, I got to go to a party at the French Embassy, which is normally closed to the public, and you had to wear a suit. There's also this cool night in Rome every fall called the White Night, where everything stays open until 4 in the morning. And the museums are open till midnight. There's a great energy in the city then.
Rome is famous for its men's clothing. So, did you shop for a new suit once you got there?
No, but I did wear a scarf. [He runs upstairs and returns with a blue cashmere number.] You just throw it around your neck and knot it. I was thinking scarves are so cool, so great. I got back to Dallas and wore one out and felt kind of self-conscious. I felt a little too foppish, like a dandy, so I stopped wearing it. It's one of those things that's only good for Rome, I guess, because you can dress with a little more pizazz there.
The Life Aquatic was filmed at Rome's famous Cinecitta Studio, where classics like Roman Holiday, Three Coins in the Fountain, and Cleopatra were filmed. How did you like working there?
It was incredible. Cinecitta is where Fellini shot a lot of his movies. I'd been there a couple of years before, when they were filming Martin Scorsese's Gangs of New York. Scorsese had said some nice things about Bottle Rocket, the first movie I worked on, so I arranged to visit the set and was able to shake hands with him and watch them filming. Sometimes when we were filming there you'd have an early call to be on set at like 6 in the morning and they'd be making their fresh bread for the day. The best place in Rome to get bread is called Il Forno. It's really old and it opens early.
How about the evenings? Where'd you go at night?
La Maison, which is part of a cluster of clubs near the Abby. Everybody smokes there, so that's a bit of a drag. But it's offset by the way people there are so elegant. Sometimes [in the States] the music scene is too loud. There it seemed more tasteful. At clubs in Rome, you'd see a doorman outside of what looked like this thousand-year-old building, and then you'd go inside and it'd be kind of modern.
Is there one particular memory of Rome that's stayed with you?
Romans are soccer fanatics, and I went to see a couple of games. It was fun, and I kind of got back into the sport while I was over there. I had a friend who visited, and we were kicking a soccer ball around in the piazza one night, at like 2 in the morning. We had gone out to a club and came back to give my dog some exercise and he was chasing the ball back and forth, and the police guarding the French Embassy were watching us, and my friend and I were thinking, Are these guys gonna kick us out? But they started getting into it and started kicking the ball around with us. It was a great moment, having my dog there in the shadow of a building designed by Michelangelo and kicking a soccer ball at 2 in the morning with Italian cops.
On the Road with Owen Wilson
What do you always take with you when you're traveling?
running shoes. running is a great way to see a city when you get jet lag and wake up at 5 in the morning. also, good music and stuff. and i always carry my dopp kit and a change of clothes. i never check my bags. i keep things pretty small. it's a little bit trickier when you're traveling with a girlfriend, though, because they can take more stuff.
Wo how did you do it when you went to rome for six months?
i packed up two huge bags with baseball gloves and a football and photographs i like to take if i'm going to be somewhere for a long time. stuff to remind me of home.