Owen Wilson as "Nate," Jacob Tremblay as "Auggie," Izabela Vidovic as "Via" and Julia Roberts as "Isabel" in "Wonder." The adaptation of the book by the same name will be released to theaters on Friday, Nov. 17.

Owen Wilson as "Nate," Jacob Tremblay as "Auggie," Izabela Vidovic as "Via" and Julia Roberts as "Isabel" in "Wonder." The adaptation of the book by the same name will be released to theaters on Friday, Nov. 17.

Dale Robinette/

Inspiration comes from many places for an actor, but it's probably more user-friendly when it comes from your own home.

Such is the case for Owen Wilson (Cars 3), who goes from cool dude to cooler dad with his role in Wonder. 

"It's quite the journey," he said last week. 

Wilson found the movie as affecting as anyone who read the book about Auggie, a young boy who must put his face before the world for the first time when he heads to a private middle school. Auggie (Jacob Tremblay) has gone through many surgeries on his face and sometimes wears a helmet to hide his features. 

The movie adaptation of the book of the same name will be released in theaters Nov. 17. Wilson, 48, wasn't as familiar with the source material. 

Dallas' Owen Wilson discusses his kids, 'Cars 3' on 'Jimmy Kimmel Live'

"I had never even heard about it," he said. "My kids are too young. I didn't know about it until (director-screenwriter) Stephen Chbosky wrote me an email. ... He's the one who told me about the movie and sent the script over."

But he is familiar with the feelings that come from being a parent. Wilson has two sons of his own. 

"I know as a parent you have this instinct to want to protect your kid and keep them from being hurt, being exposed to something where they can get their feelings hurt or get made fun of but that's also a part of life ... going out into the real world," he said. "There's only so much you can do as a parent rather than just let them know when they come home that they do have a base where they get that love and support and hopefully that gives them the strength and the confidence to go back out and face the world."

There is a scene that resonates with Wilson. His character Nate has a heart-to-heart talk with Auggie about his choice of headwear. 

"That helmet that Auggie and I have the scene about where I don't want him to wear it ... that's sort of a heartbreaking symbol because, of course, a kid doesn't choose to wear that all the time," he said. "It's a reaction to the way people are looking at him that makes him want to hide and how painful that must be and how strong your little spirit has to be to withstand that."

Wonder is a sweet film that is at turns heartwarming and heartbreaking. It boils down to being a movie about family and friends and how those relationships can turn, sometimes just by how something looks. The film is divided into segments that tell the story from different points of view and thus fosters understanding of characters' motives that can be lost in other movies. Those parts come together to make Wonder an affecting, sweet, whole of a movie.

Wilson, who can be an affecting, sweet whole of an actor, has often played the friend and-or straight man in his nearly 25-year film career. This time, he's paired with superstar Julia Roberts. And instead of a collision of stars, they work well together.

"I just enjoyed her company. Of course, growing up loving her in movies and so, you know, you're a little bit nervous the first time you meet someone like that," Wilson said. "So she did a great job of putting everyone at ease and had me and Izabela (Vidovic, who plays teenage daughter Via) over before filming began ...  just one afternoon in Malibu with her family and seeing what a kind of great close family she had and, you know, normal. It was just a nice way to get to know her and begin the process of making a movie together."

A fun family man in Wonder, Wilson tries to be the same in his own life. He has a "great close family" of his own. He and brothers Luke and Andrew, who are all actors, writers or directors and sometimes all three, grew up in Dallas and were close to their parents, late TV executive Bob Wilson and photographer Laura Wilson.

"No man is gonna be a hero at all times to their children because part of the role, part of the job description is you're the person that says no a lot," he said. "No, you can't use the iPad. No, you can't stay up later. No, you can't have ice cream. And so, you know, it's hard to be totally cool if you're saying no a lot, which I find I do as a parent. But I do think I certainly try to do what my dad did, which was have a great sense of kidding around and having fun together, and I hope that I do as good a job as my dad did."

There's no doubt that with Wonder, he does.

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