Chris O’Dowd is a rising young Irish actor. He was born in Boyle, Co. Roscommon. He is a graduate of University College, Dublin. He began his acting career with the famed Druid Theatre in Galway. He also starred in the early seasons of Irish television series “The Clinic”. In the UK he was featured in “The IT Crowd” and “Roman Empire”. In 2009 he moved on to starring roles in “The Boat that Rocked” and “Hippie, Hippie, Shake”. Won rave reviews for his performance in “Bridesmaids” in 2011.
Chris O’Dowd interview in “The Telegraph”:
Here, pigeon! Pi-pi-pigeon, come on!” Chris O’Dowd is perched on a wall in the middle of a park in south London, attempting to entice a bunch of standard-issue, unkempt, cankerous-looking urban “rats-with-wings” by sprinkling muffin crumbs around him.
He’s complying with the wishes of theTelegraph photographer, but the tactic isn’t producing the Tippi Hedren-style shot he’s after.
The birds maintain discreet distance, possibly because O’Dowd’s dog Potato, a Jack Russell-cross, is straining at the leash and regarding the creatures with a canine gourmand’s eye. O’Dowd has another explanation. “I guess they’re just immune to my manifold charms,” he shrugs, aiming an ineffectual kick in the retreating pigeons’ direction.
If that’s the case, the birds are very much alone. The 31-year-old O’Dowd has spent the past five years honing his own particular brand of genial, loquacious slacker allure as Roy, the feckless computer geek, in four series of Graham Linehan’s Bafta-winning Channel 4 comedy The IT Crowd.
Recently, he’s broadened his range, playing straight in the BBC’s period drama The Crimson Petal and the White. And now he’s hitting the Hollywood mainstream as one of the two specimens of male eye candy – the other being Jon Hamm, no less – in the comedy Bridesmaids, which stars Saturday Night Live alumnus and the film’s co-writer Kristen Wiig as Annie, whose maid-of-honour status, along with her life, unravels in the run-up to the wedding of her best friend.
“Yeah, there’s been some love, and some fun, and I don’t take any of it personally, even – or maybe especially – the positive stuff,” he says, as we settle down with cappuccinos at the park café.
“I know people are talking about the character, even if they’re saying my name. I like to think that when people meet me in real life, they go off me immediately.”
As if on counter-intuitive cue, O’Dowd’s girlfriend, the journalist and documentary-maker Dawn Porter, arrives to escort Potato home. There’s an exchange of “see you later honeys”, and O’Dowd settles into his chair.
He cuts a striking figure: 6ft 4in, somewhat leaner than the 15st he’s been known to attain, his off-duty-actor beard of a piece with his messy dark hair, dressed in jeans and Hawaiian shirt – the latter a variant on the ones he sported at the LA premiere of Bridesmaids and a recent slot on Conan O’Brien’s show. “I’m a Hawaiian shirt guy,” he says, with a grin. “I’ve made that life decision.”
O’Dowd is engaging company; with a default setting of convivial drollery. When informed that, at a screening of Bridesmaids the previous evening, the women present had reacted most emphatically to the most outré sexual scenes and jokes, he shakes his head: “Yup, if I know one thing about women, it’s that they’re filthy.”
He even responds to the news that attendees also had the chance to have their photo taken with a bow-tied, bare-chested hunk with near-equanimity. “In the US, they’re at pains to avoid the term ‘chick flick’ in connection with this film,” he laughs. “Here, they’re wheeling out the Chippendales.”
If “chick flick” is now on a par with “Mel Gibson vehicle” as a synonym for box-office morbidity, it’s because Bridesmaids arrives at a time when the debate over Hollywood’s “women problem” – the argument that “female-driven” films are a tough, if not impossible, sell to male moviegoers – has been reignited. Even the likes of Stacey Snider, the CEO of DreamWorks and one of the most powerful women in Hollywood, has opined that “girls revealing themselves as candid and raunchy doesn’t appeal to guys at all”.
For O’Dowd, the whole debate is specious. “Surely we’re past all this,” he says. “French and Saunders and Smack The Pony and Miranda Hart and a bunch of other people have killed this notion in the UK.
“I don’t think the public here buy this idea that women and men speak different comedic languages.” He takes a loud slurp of cappuccino. “I think Bridesmaids is a hoot, and I’m an alpha-male. So it’s clearly all ridiculous.”
The makers of Bridesmaids are pretty well-placed to tackle the conundrums. Wiig and her co-writer Annie Mumolo are graduates of the LA-based improv troupe The Groundlings, whose alumni include Will Ferrell and Lisa Kudrow. Director Paul Feig was the creator of the cherished-if-short-lived comedy/drama Freaks and Geeks.
Producer Judd Apatow meanwhile is the undisputed king of the bro-mance – The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Knocked Up – with a company of stock players (Seth Rogen, Paul Rudd, Katherine Heigl) known to some as Apatown. His films, while undoubtedly manolescent-centric, have a little more EQ than most.
O’Dowd declares himself a “borderline fanboy” of the Apatow canon, even though “Judd had no idea who I was. But it turned out that Paul Feig was a big fan of The IT Crowd.”
O’Dowd has now become, if not a resident, then at least a non-dom of Apatown. Since Bridesmaids, he’s completed a film called Friends With Kids, which re-teams him with Wiig and Hamm. And he’s soon to start work on Apatow’s own new movie, This is Forty.
“It follows Paul Rudd and Lesley Mann’s characters from Knocked Up,” he says. “It’s an in-depth look at relationships, marriage and parenting in this kind of post-boomer generation.
“I can’t wait to get started on it, but they approach things very differently there; they’ll shoot until like three in the morning working on making the laughs better.”
O’Dowd puts it down to the tradition of rapid-fire improv troupes in which many of the principals cut their teeth. “Our only equivalent to that here is, unfortunately, panel shows,” he says. “Someone was interviewing me in the US recently and they said they had footage of me on game shows. I was like, what?
“It turned out they meant Never Mind the Buzzcocks. So that’s the difference – they have Chris Farley, we have Ian Hislop.”
Actors always downplay ambition, but O’Dowd makes his own progress sound more hapless than most: “I’ve gone up for loads of jobs in the past that I knew were going to be terrible, and I’ve done my best, and I still haven’t got them,” he says. “So I think I’ve been lucky in who’s decided I’d be worthy of their time.”
Still, he acknowledges that Bridesmaids has the potential to take things up a notch. “Though it’s hard to look at it in a rational, tangible way when you’re broke, which I am,” he says brightly.
“My last two jobs were indie movies that didn’t pay anything; I didBridesmaids a year ago, and the money wasn’t brilliant. So, yeah, it was a big moment to go on Conan O’Brien, but then I realised my cable was turned off because I couldn’t afford it. So I’m on a chat show I can’t afford to watch.”
Penury aside, he’s grateful that such recognition as he currently enjoys came gradually. “I mean, it must be f—— weird to be some 20 year-old heading up Thor or something, right?” he says.
“With The IT Crowd, it built slowly and got better as it went on; I was pretty bad in the first series.” A fifth season has been mooted, but Linehan is busy with a stage version of The Ladykillers, while Katherine Parkinson has just starred in The School for Scandal at the Barbican and Richard Ayoade enjoyed acclaim for Submarine, the coming-of-age movie he wrote and directed.
“Richard’s a genius, isn’t he?” beams O’Dowd, who comes over all bro-mantic when Ayoade’s name is mentioned. “That film left me reeling. I’m so proud of him.”
O’Dowd now seems ready for his own close-up, not least on the evidence of his appearance on O’Brien’s show, where he regaled the host by claiming to have “you know, actually penetrated” Wiig during their sex scene in Bridesmaids (at her express request, of course) and went on to recount his upbringing in Roscommon, where, as the youngest of five, his older sisters would hold him down and spit in his mouth. The latter story, he allows, is veracious: “But I left out the bit where they chased me with pokers.”
His father was a graphic designer and part-time guitarist, his mother a psychotherapist. It was an arty, permissive household, but acting didn’t factor in until he hightailed it to University College Dublin – “the choices back home were the fish factory or my dad’s business; I didn’t fancy the first and was useless at the second” – where his politics degree got increasingly short shrift as he immersed himself in the campus DramSoc.
He originally wanted to be a speech writer and continues to write; he’s currently developing a sitcom for Sky based on the short he made last year about a bullied 11 year-old with a morbid fear of Santa and a tall, bearded, 31-year-old imaginary friend who, he admits, is not a million miles from himself. And he has “a couple” of films in development in the US: “There are plenty of irons in the fire,” he says, “and we’ll see if any of them miraculously turn into silver coins.”
O’Dowd needs to go, but, in parting, he shares some final thoughts on Twitter – “It’s essentially the same as graffiti on the back of a toilet door, but I need a bump in followers, so can you say that I’m @BigBoyler?” – and Porter, who he’s heading home to. “She’s relaxed and bright and great,” he smiles. “Going out with other actors is never good; actresses are neurotic, and actors are horrendous egotists.”
So he’s as sorted as any hapless, spasmodically employed, horrendous egotist could be?
“I hope Bridesmaids leads to good stuff and I’ll have more opportunities to work with good people, but it’s more difficult than you’d imagine to say no sometimes. So don’t be surprised if I turn up in a pile of shite.”
And he lopes off, scattering disgruntled pigeons in his wake.
His “Telegraph” interview can also be accessed online here.
Although most Americans know him for playing the affable Officer Rhodes in “Bridesmaids” (2011), Chris O’Dowd was already a major star in Britain prior to his breakthrough performance in the Judd Apatow-produced wedding comedy. As the star of the British sitcom, “The IT Crowd” (Channel 4, 2006-2010), O’Dowd played a socially awkward computer geek named Roy. The show made O’Dowd a household name in Britain, and before long he was being courted by Hollywood, appearing in brief but memorable roles in such films as “Pirate Radio” (2009), “Dinner for Shmucks” (2010) and “Gulliver’s Travels” (2010). But it was O’Dowd’s role as the love interest of Kristen Wiig’s character in “Bridesmaids” that made him a bona-fide Hollywood star. That film would go on to gross nearly $300 million at the box office in the summer of 2011, firmly minting Chris O’Dowd as one of the film world’s newest big-screen funnymen.
O’Dowd was born in Sligo, Ireland, and grew up in the small town of Boyle, which had a population of 3,000. A somewhat awkward youth — he was already 6 feet fall by his 11th birthday — O’Dowd played soccer all throughout his teens. Once high school was over, however, he hung up his cleats and enrolled at University College in Dublin. O’Dowd studied politics and sociology while attending the school (his mother was a psychotherapist), but quickly realized that college was not for him. He dropped out shortly after and moved to London to pursue acting. O’Dowd took a job at a charity call-in center to pay the bills, while frequently skipping out to attend auditions. He appeared in minor roles in British dramas such as “Conspiracy of Silence” (2003) and “Vera Drake” (2004), before landing the role of Roy Trenneman on “The IT Crowd.” O’Dowd appeared in all four seasons of the show, which revolved around several tech employees working at a London-based corporation. The show ended in 2010, making O’Dowd a major star in the process. However, with the release of “Bridesmaids” the following summer, the 31-year-old actor would show the world his career was only just beginning.
O’Dowd had an inkling that “Bridesmaids” would be a smash hit. Despite appearing in two major Hollywood movies the year prior, O’Dowd recalled a familial atmosphere on the set of “Bridesmaids” that was much different than his previous American filmmaking experiences. When “Bridesmaids” opened to glowing reviews in May of 2011, eventually earning two Academy Award nominations, O’Dowd’s suspicions proved correct. That same year he reteamed with several of his “Bridesmaids” cast members in the comedy “Friends With Kids,” before appearing in Apatow’s dramedy about married life, “This is 40” (2012). That film was a sequel to “Knocked Up” (2007), with O’Dowd playing a hipster record executive. In early 2013 O’Dowd appeared on the second season of the HBO series “Girls” (HBO, 2012); he reprised his role as a wealthy venture capitalist on the show’s second season.
The above TCM overview can also be accessed online here.