Saturday, April 03, 2010

My Chris O'Donnell interview

Batman's Robin is back, minus the cape
By Raymond de Asis Lo, L.A. Correspondent (The Philippine Star) Updated April 04, 2010 12:00 AM
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Chris O’Donnell (left) plays ‘G’ Callen, a highly-trained special agent on AXN’s NCIS: LA
MANILA, Philippines - Mention the movie Batman & Robin and you will instantly notice a sparkle in Chris O’Donnell’s eyes. It’s not the type that ignites enthusiasm and invites a pleasant response; it’s something similar to someone finally resigning to some unavoidable fact and it can only be described as that “I-could-never-really-get-away-from-it” moment.
This writer saw that slight glint materialize out of the actor’s blue eyes a couple of weeks back at our on-set two-part roundtable interview during breaks from filming the 20th episode of his very first TV series called NCIS: LA at the Paramount lot in Hollywood.

No, the actor didn’t throw a tantrum or anything like that. He was actually the one who good-naturedly brought it up after a journalist from Singapore creatively asked him if he can name one memorable movie role that he has done.

“Well when it’s something like Scent of a Woman I’m glad they don’t forget me,” he said referring to his breakthrough role as Al Pacino’s companion in the Oscar-winning 1992 movie. “But if it’s something like the second Batman & Robin I wish they would forget me,” he said before breaking into laughter.

It’s no secret in Hollywood that in 1997, when he was at the height of his career and was competing with the likes of Leonardo Di Caprio for plum roles in high-profile movies (during the interview he denied the persistent rumor that he was offered the role of Jack before Leo took it), Chris, the Hollywood golden boy at the time, opted to do what was touted as the biggest movie of 1997, Joel Schumacher’s version of Batman & Robin. It was a disaster. Not only did the movie flop but it almost caused the demise of the lucrative Batman franchise. It had to take nearly a decade before Warner Bros. could resurrect the superhero back to screen.
Batman & Robin was so bad that even the actor’s burgeoning career lagged afterwards. A couple of movies he did after this debacle received lukewarm response from the public and he decided to take a brief hiatus from the movies.

But if there’s any regret at all on his past career choices, he didn’t show it. “I think that there are just different chapters in your life and part of it is when you do films, you make a character in your head and what comes out of the screen — the way people interpret it — may be different and so for me it was what was in my head… so it’s more about the process of making it than waiting for the final results and sit back analyzing.”

“There is no point in mulling over a list of things you could have done,” he added. “I’m always fighting for roles but I think that you kick yourself over for things that you were offered and you didn’t do. Hindsight is really easy and if that was that easy to pick films then life will be easy.”

These days, the good-looking actor is enjoying a much welcome resurgence with a lead role in the biggest American TV breakout hit of the year, the NCIS spin-off called NCIS: LA.

In the series, Chris plays “G” Callen, a highly-trained special agent whose biggest weapon is his ability to transform himself to whoever he needs to be in order to infiltrate the criminal underworld. In the series, the NCIS crew are tasked to apprehend dangerous and elusive criminals that pose a threat to the security of the United States.

NCIS: LA is a crime procedural drama that utilizes state-of-the-art investigative tools and gadgets and features action-packed sequences. The actors, including Chris and his co-star actor-rapper LL Cool J, had to undergo weeks of rigorous weapons training before the TV pilot was shot.

“I’ve done this on plenty of shows,” he recalled, “but it’s always good to get a refresher and we have a technical advisor here who’s always around when a scene involves a gun and that’s always helpful because you want to try to make things as accurate as possible.” In 1999, before he took a four-year movie hiatus, he did an action film called Vertical Limit.

Although he did all those trainings, do not expect the actor to start jumping out of exploding cars anytime soon. “No, I’m not doing any stunts. I’m not crazy and I don’t do things that are unreasonable.” He stressed that “there are certain times in which you let the stuntmen do their work and there are certain times when you can do it and stunts are a big part of the show.”

Television is not something new to the actor. “It wasn’t a huge transition because I’ve done it before but not in a full season. This is episode 20 at this point. It’s a different adjustment. The longest I’ve been on a film is about eight months. This is uncharted territory and it’s interesting to play the same character this long.”

When he was away from the movies, the actor made appearances on several episodes of the hit David E. Kelley legal drama The Practice in 2003. The following year, he showed his wacky side when he portrayed the role of Charlie Sheen’s ex-girlfriend who had undergone a sex change operation to become a man in the hugely popular episode called An Old Flame with a New Wick of the hit comedy series Two and a Half Men.

It was also in 2004 when he started making movies again and appeared alongside Liam Neeson and Laura Linney in the critically-acclaimed biopic Kinsey. He has appeared in a couple of movies since 2004 but has concentrated most of his work on TV, most notably in the 2007 historical mini-series, The Company.

The decision to focus more on TV was largely in consideration of his family and his five children.

“I miss going on location and filming all over the world because the part of living the gypsy kind of lifestyle is something I’m into,” he emphasized, “but at the same time I’m married now and I’ve got kids so it doesn’t work quite well for my lifestyle. Just because I enjoy moving around I don’t think I should force my kids to do that kind of lifestyle.”

“I do miss that a little bit but it is great to be working in LA with a great crew and a great cast.” Work for the actor means four days of location and four days of studio shoot. “Location is a lot of times fun because it involves shooting the guns, chasing people and doing car chases.”

And this time, luck is working on the handsome actor’s side. US television is a harsh medium. Some TV series gets cancelled after only a couple of episodes if they don’t perform well. Every actor working on a freshman TV series dreams of being picked up for a full season and this was no different in the case of NCIS: LA.

Notwithstanding the fact that the series is a spin-off of another successful series and it stars two of the biggest names on television, the series still had to prove its worth through the viewer ratings results before it can be considered a success.

“Doing a television show at the beginning is kind of like doing a film,” he confided. “You are waiting to see the first numbers come back and you know I’ve never been really that concerned when it involves waiting for how the ratings were and you are waiting for the e-mail and see what the ratings say and you’re kind of on pins and needles for the first few episodes.”

To his relief, the first week’s ratings trumped all the competition and NCIS: LA was picked up for not just a full season but was renewed for another season — the very first show from the 2009 freshman crop to be renewed. Currently, the series is consistently topping its timeslot and is among the Top 5 most-watched shows on TV in the US.

“Doing a character I enjoy playing or actually watching, I couldn’t be happier or fulfilled especially during these economic times — and the business kind of shrunk a little bit you know — everyone of us is just fortunate to be working on a hit show.”

With Batman & Robin now completely behind him and with a hit TV series to boot, Chris indeed can now just laugh off whatever memories he had of that much-lamented movie because right now he is back in the game.

Yes, Robin is back but without the cape, the crotch and the mask.

NCIS: LA premieres on AXN on April 6, 10 p.m.

3 comments:

alma a. orio said...

An exciting day for us browsing and reading your wonderful interview with batman figure Chris o' Donnell, we are so happy and wished more for more interesting views and conversations with similar characters and stars over there.

happy happy birthday and looking forward for many many more natal days to celebrate.

We've timely gone into internet surfing with your mom and informing you we're bound for Manila Gods will April 13,after hersheys graduation by April 12. We have a pleasant trip to Bacolod for our International conference come April 16 to 19.

I guess i'll keep on posting some blogs soon after my trip coz' i was really focused on reading and updating new trends of friend searching and meeting new people this way.

have a blessed day and wish you the best of everything.

We love you and thank you so much for everything. God bless!

Anonymous said...

hellow kua raymond! i read article about your interview with chris o' donnell..hehe..kalisto mo tlaga..adi kami ni mama nagbasa kay adi xa cra ni nanay sa catarman..nhuman pala man ak mag pa enrol kay start nalat buwas sam summer class...nag kta nalat kami ni xtelle..kasabid pa,,..ka bibo...hehe...

cge...kay ngadto nlat kami..

goodluck with your career...more blessings to come...

we miss you na...

nene ine...

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