The actor tells PEOPLE he based his latest role on Yosemite Sam

By Arnesa A. Howell
Updated May 15, 2009 09:20 AM
Todd Williamson/WireImage

Hamlet? Richard III? A Streetcar Named Desire‘s Stanley Kowalski? Just who did inspire Owen Wilson when it came time to reprise his role as the cowboy Jedediah in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian?

“I watched a lot of Yosemite Sam,” the actor, 40, told PEOPLE at Thursday’s premiere of the movie at the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. And the best part of playing a miniature cowboy was “knowing you were never going to hear from the director, ‘Owen, that was too much!’ It’s like the guy’s over the top. So, however kind of loud and Yosemite Sam-like you can be, it’s going to be good.”

The latest Night at the Museum again teams Wilson with pal Ben Stiller. “It’s unbelievable. This is like I think the 10th movie that we’ve worked on together,” Wilson says. “And then we’re working on another one too coming up. Who knew way back when, when I was in The Cable Guy, that that was gonna lead to us kind of teaming up and being in the same movies so much.”

And the love goes both ways. “He’s a good friend of mine, so I love working with him,” says Stiller, who admits that this latest teaming was “weird” because Wilson “shot all his stuff later on” so “we’re in a movie together, but we’re actually never together.”