Chris O'Donnell: Whatever Blows Your Hair Back

Chris O'Donnell prefers his quiet life in Chicago to the sturm und drang of young Hollywood, but the rising star is happy to sound off about working with Val Kilmer, what it's like to read about his romance in the tabloids, and why some male celebrities frequent hookers.


Chris O'Donnell breezes into the Four Seasons Hotel in L.A. looking more like someone's driver than a guest. In fact, he is neither. He's been staying at a friend's house and has come to the hotel for this interview, a neutral place where the writer can't observe anything too personal about him, and he can make his exit without leaving much of a trace. He's only 25, but he is guarded, and he prefers to maintain as much privacy as possible while still being a recognizable celebrity.

We know something about him -- this is his third Movieline interview -- but we don't really know him. Not yet. Partly because he doesn't really know himself. Or, at any rate, doesn't feel he can articulate enough about himself that would bring us insight and understanding. We know he's from Chicago and still lives there. We know he went to an all-boys Jesuit high school and from there to Boston College. We know he's been in nine movies: Men Don't Leave, Circle of Friends, Blue Sky, Scent of a Woman, Mad Love, The Three Musketeers, Fried Green Tomatoes, School Ties and Batman Forever. We know he likes to golf, is nuts about the Chicago Bulls, and has a steady girlfriend.

What I also found out was that while he was making Batman Forever, O'Donnell was my neighbor, living three houses from me up a narrow canyon in the Hollywood Hills. After I had mentioned where I lived, he said, "Somebody up the street used to yell at me for the loud music."

"You were the guy!" I said. "We used to wonder which house that noise was coming from. So you're to blame for keeping my kids up at night."

No, I wasn't the guy who yelled at him, but when he moved on, I didn't miss him. My two teen daughters, on the other hand, felt differently when I told them who had been living so close by. If they had known, they said, they'd have gone over there personally and told him to either lower the music...or invite them in.

CHRIS O'DONNELL: Just so you know, I'm a really boring interview. I hate doing them.

LAWRENCE GROBEL: Do you find that what you say follows you around?

A: Oh yeah, especially in foreign countries because they just get a piece of it. The funniest thing was when a woman journalist was trying to insist there must have been something between me and Drew Barrymore. She asked, "You've never fallen in love with any of your costars?" And I said, to make her happy, "All right, yes, it happened with Jessica Lange. I tried to ask her out, but she's not into me." A week later I'm watching the E! channel on TV, and it was reported that Chris O'Donnell is actively pursuing Jessica Lange, to no avail. This woman thought I was totally serious, and I was being completely sarcastic. I realized you've got to gauge the level of the intelligence of the people doing the interviewing. It's just weird -- nothing personal -- but I don't feel I can talk freely to a journalist. I don't try to be completely calculating in everything I say and do, but there's no way I'm going to talk. There's no reason to. And that's why I'm such a boring interview, because I don't go for the shock value, or smartass answers.

Q: Right now you may not be sure of what you have to say. Robert De Niro still doesn't know what he wants to say.

A: You get a lot of questions like, "What's your philosophy?" And I'm thinking, I'm 25, I don't have a philosophy. I still go to my dad for advice.

Q: At 25, you've already been in the business seven years. Are you enjoying the toys you're now able to afford?

A: I think I'm pretty smart on what I spend my money on. I still don't have a new car, I drive my old car that I've had forever. But I bought a house in downtown Chicago.

Q: So you're making a commitment to Chicago for now?

A: Oh, yeah. I think the only reason I wouldn't live there was if I got married and my wife wanted to live somewhere else. I'm obviously going to be there for a few years, anyway. I haven't been here in L.A. for a couple of months and was excited to see it all, it's so beautiful out here. But it takes me just a couple of days to remember why I can't deal with it.

Q: What is it about L.A. you can't deal with?

A: I really like it -- there's so much to do, and I have some friends here -- but it's not as exciting as when I first came here. I'm not as naive as I was then. When I spend too much time here, things get out of whack. Too many people here are too concerned about what car they drive, what they look like, where they go, who they hang out with, the whole scene. And when it comes right down to it, the scene here is not that fun. L.A. just doesn't seem real to me. Chicago does. My real friends are there. It's home.

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