Chris O'Dowd chats about 'The Sapphires' and the weekend his life changed
Hollywood has been turning everyday actors into overnight sensations since the earliest days of movie stardom. It's a time-honored tradition, the grand showbiz dream realized.
So it's no surprise that Chris O'Dowd says one weekend in May 2011 changed his life forever. The actor began it as the guy from the moderately well-known British sitcom "The IT Crowd" and ended it as a man everyone seemed to be talking about. The reason: His sharp, likable performance as Kristen Wiig's love interest in "Bridesmaids," which morphed from a box office hit into a cultural sensation.
If O'Dowd's Officer Nathan Rhodes made you want to see a lot more of the 33-year-old Irishman, you're in luck. He stars in the new flick "The Sapphires," playing the manager of a group of soul-singing Australian Aboriginal women. The movie, based on a true story, follows their tour of Vietnam, where they entertain the American troops in 1968.
amNewYork spoke with O'Dowd about the film, which opens Friday.
Did you ever feel out-of-your-element as an Irish guy working on a project with Aboriginal Australians? I think that there is a very similar sensibility with the Aboriginal people and the Irish people, which wasn't necessary something I was expecting. It actually felt like a home [away] from home when we were doing "The Sapphires." Also, because I grew up in a family with a bunch of crazy [women]. I had these beautiful, amazing, but constantly ridiculing-me bunch of Aboriginal girls. So it felt like being at home.
How did working there compare to the time you've spent working in America? It's a different environment working here [in the U.S.]. It's great and I love it, but particularly in L.A., because it's such an industry, it feels like everybody's so professional and just kind of gets on with their work. I guess what I'm saying is the people seem to be less drunk here.
Do you share Dave's passion for soul music? I listen to a lot of different kinds of music, but I think I was in a big soul phase when I got the script. So it was very enticing. I was listening to a lot of Sam Cooke's very kind of gospel stuff at the time. And I do love that. The whole era of music. Soul music, if you're 13 years old in 1990 in Ireland and "The Commitments" comes out it leaves a very lasting impression.
Going into it, what told you that this would be fundamentally different than "Dreamgirls" and other films about up-and-coming musical groups? I think it's true that it does have similarities with those things. It's very hard to do a film about any kind of a band where it doesn't feel like we've seen it before. But for me what I found original about it was the specifics. ... And the fact that it's based on a true story and that it's written by the son of one of the women in the original group brought it all close to home.
And it's lighthearted, too. To me, those kinds of movies sometimes -- movies about oppressed people and suppressed people -- can get very maudlin very quickly, and you don't actually learn anything, you just kind of cry together. Sometimes there needs to be a little sugar with the medicine. And I like to think of myself as a little sugar.
To what extent did "Bridesmaids" change your career? It did really change everything. To be honest, I was already doing kind of OK in Britain because I had a sitcom and things like that, so that was a much more gradual rise. Here, nobody knew who I was, so it went from on a Friday nobody knowing who you are to a Monday where it felt like everybody did. And that was perturbing. It's a very unusual scenario. It's like I'd assassinated the president.
When did it first hit you that your fame had reached a new level? I went out with a buddy on the Saturday night of opening weekend. We happened to be in L.A. And we were just out. I had seen the movie. I wasn't going to watch the movie. But we were in a bar and it was like at 7 p.m., it was fine, and then at 10 p.m. people were coming into the bar [and] it was like, "holy s--- that's the guy". So it was like my life changed in three hours. It's a weird sensation.