The Corruption of Chris O'Donnell
Suspecting that Chris O'Donnell is not the straight-laced preppy he has played in movies, our reporter asks the actor about his brushes with The Seven Deadly Sins. Hang on as O'Donnell gets frank about his favorite porno movies and admits how he might be talked into modeling condoms in the buff.
Sitting across from Chris O'Donnell in the lounge of The Argyle hotel, once the St. James's Club. I can't help thinking, How goes the inevitable corruption of Chris O'Donnell? After all, it's been a couple of years since he admitted on these pages to my esteemed colleague Martha Frankel, "I'm waiting to get corrupted. I know it's going to happen sometime." Certainly, he's no less alluring to look at now that his pink-checked, vine-ripened frat boy sweet-ness - first seen in such movies as Men Don't Leave, Blue Sky, Fried Green Tomatoes, Scent of a Woman and The Three Musketeers--is beginning to get edgier and more grown-up. Many admirers who found O'Donnell's Walton Mountain appeal shattering will no doubt still have flutters when they see that the 24 year old, his hair cropped short, appears to be entering into a period of square-jawed, azure-eyed caddish young Paul Newmandom. Certainly a dozen different Tinseltown types I know would be eager to corrupt O'Donnell, given half a chance. Who knows, perhaps they already have after all, if a few years of Hollywood life, including on-screen love scenes with co-stars like Drew Barrymore, an offscreen romantic interlude with Reese Witherspoon and anticipation of his biggest payday to date for playing Boy Wonder to Val Kilmer's Batman Forever aren't signposts on the road to fatally glamorous ruin, what are?
I thought it might be fun to question O'Donnell on Seven Deadly Sins-style stuff personified by voracious starlets, obscene salaries, the dissing of competitors and overweening ambition. In other words, I remark to O'Donnell, a good Catholic boy like myself, "Let's clue in readers how far along you are on the road to damnation."
This cracks him up, "Corruption and damnation?" he says. "I think I'm still pretty locked into my ways." Very Walton Mountain of him, but we'll see, we'll see.
"How about breaking the ice by talking about your love scenes with Drew Barrymore?" I ask, having heard that the duo's nuzzling for their movie Mad Love steamed up the camera lenses. The pairing of these two beauties strikes me as wickedly inspired, kind of like Lana Turner does Andy Hardy. "So, Chris, did you have to strap down your manhood to keep from becoming aroused?"
O'Donnell tosses back his head and laughs, "Classic Stephen Rebello question, I love it! Shooting it, I tell you, was tough because you're basically going at it for six hours and, well, Drew is such a young, sexy girl. Drew and I get along real well, though I don't think you could pick out two people in Hollywood with more opposite upbringings. I come from this very conservative Chicago Catholic family, seven kids, and everyone knows exactly what Drew's been up to. I've read all those People magazine stories and watched all those 'Entertainment Tonight' things about her, too. I mean, at school, we had Amy Fisher parties when all those three movies were on network TV starring Alyssa Milano and Drew and some other girl, but Drew's Amy was definitely the best because the whole thing was, well, just so Drew."
And about the love scenes, Chris? "I wasn't totally nude," he says. "I had on my boxer shorts under the covers, but there were no attachments, no duct tape, no rubber underwear. But those kind of 'What if?' thoughts definitely crossed my mind, yeah. Look, love scenes are part of the job and you're being very professional about it. But, there are brief moments, brief glimpses where you'd like... you know... but you keep your control."
O'Donnell clamps his palms over his eyes, slumps in his chair, laughs, and then says, in a mock whine, "My mother's going to read this, my whole family." Well, mine too, I say, so let's not bore them. "To tell you the truth," he says, "I was more nervous the first time I did one of those scenes." What first time? Does a teen exploitation flick lurk somewhere in his past, his equivalent of Tom Cruise's Losin It or Kevin Costner's Sizzle Beach, U.S.A.? "No, it was the first movie I ever did, Men Don't Leave," he says of the film in which he, 18 but looking 14, played Jessica Lange's son who shacks up with older woman Joan Cusack. "The scene was cut. Joan and I were in bed, got into an argument, and I got out of bed in just my tighty-whiteys, standing there, yelling at her. When we shot it, I didn't know if we were going to be fooling around in bed first or what, but the whole crew was there and I kept thinking, 'Oh, God, what's gonna happen?' Truth is, I was so nervous, I don't think I could have put myself in working order right then--even if I'd tried."
I have heard that Warner Bros, is paying the actor a very fat salary for his role as Batman's devoted sidekick in Batman Forever, a role for which such other actors as Leonardo DiCaprio and Will Smith were supposedly in contention. Ah-ha, then, perhaps O'Donnell has been seduced by greed? "I would definitely not say I've been paid too much," he asserts. "In the scheme of what my brothers and sisters are making, out there working like crazy, actors are overpaid. But, no, I don't think I'm overpaid and I'll be looking forward to some raises, with inflation and all. Most of the movies I've made, I didn't get paid anything for, really."
O'Donnell's future paydays may hinge on how he looks and acts in various stages of dress and undress for Batman Forever. In it, alongside Jim Carrey, Nicole Kidman and Tommy Lee Jones, he plays an embittered, orphaned circus high-wire performer swept up by Val Kilmer's Caped Crusader into a superhero life of righting wrongs. O'Donnell says he's plenty aware of the gay jokes sparked by the old "Batman" TV series when the superhero housemates were played by Adam West and Burt Ward. Indeed, he's already made it a point to explain away his newly pierced ear as "a Boy Wonder thing I had to do for the movie that didn't go over real big with my family when I went home for the holidays." Though the movie's strictly hush-hush at this point, can he give us a preview of his Bat-drag? "They dye my hair black every day, then mousse it so it becomes plastic, kind of like Peter Brady's vampire wig on 'The Brady Bunch,'" he explains. "I showed up for the first costume fitting and they threw me this thong jockstrap and said, 'Put this on.' I thought, 'Oh my God, what have I gotten myself into?'
"Turns out they want a Cirque du Soleil sort of look," he says. "Luckily, everyone in the circus scenes is wearing them. At least, that's what they've told me. We haven't filmed those scenes yet. Then, I've got a full-body, spandex-latex, real superhero fighting jumpsuit, or whatever you want to call it, happening. It's not anything like our TV Boy Wonder. You know, I have to admit, we're four months into the shooting, but they haven't actually finished my suit. Luckily, it's got zippers so you can go to the bathroom. I guess Michael Keaton didn't have those."