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Chris O'Dowd, 'The Sapphires' Star, On 'Bridesmaids' Success And Being The 'Irish Jason Segel'

03/19/2013 10:00 am ET | Updated Mar 19, 2013

The night before I interviewed Chris O'Dowd, I observed him dancing -- surrounded by a group of onlookers, of course -- to the A-ha earworm "Take on Me." This isn't a particularly embarrassing or scandalous observation (look, who hasn't danced to "Take on Me"?), but what was noticeable was just how much fun O'Dowd was having.

Premiere parties aren't always what a normal human being would call a good time. They're often overcrowded, with the talent from the film safely secured in some sort of fortified backroom to protect them from the hoards of attendees who were not in the movie. By contrast, at the New York premiere party for "The Sapphires," O'Dowd looked like a guy who wanted to make sure everyone was having fun. He even yelled at Harvey Weinstein in an effort to get Weinstein to sing. (Weinstein did not sing.)

The next morning, I met O'Dowd at his Soho hotel room to discuss the movie. In "The Sapphires," O'Dowd plays Dave Lovelace, the mostly competent yet -- depending on his alcohol consumption -- sometimes hapless manager of an Australian singing group made up of four Aboriginal women who entertain American troops during the Vietnam War.

We discussed his starring role in the new film and how "Bridesmaids" changed his life, but O'Dowd didn't always adhere to the typical interview format (thank God): instead, he went off on tangents about Van Halen, his idea for a movie with Jason Segel, and -- in explicit language -- his willingness to end my life if I touched his newly delivered pastries.

Chris O'Dowd: Nice to see you. Welcome. Sit down, make yourself at home.

Mike Ryan: Oh, thank you.
If you touch those cakes, I'll fucking end you.

That's quite a threat.
(Laughs) I wanted you to know that I wasn't joking.

For people who are reading this, do you know how you meet people in movies and they're not quite as tall as you thought they would be?
Yeah, yeah.

You are much taller than I would have ever imagined.
I know.

So I take that threat seriously.
Good. Tim Robbins, that's another good one. He is a big dude. He's like 6 feet, 6 inches.

John Cusack is a surprisingly big man.
And I find that very reassuring because there are so few tall actors. And I'm delighted to be one.

Why is that?
It's a hard thing, because women are small. I think that must be why all actors are small. So like in that romantic moment, it doesn't look like you're a pedophile. That's what I'm presuming.

Last night I witnessed you dancing to A-ha's "Take on Me."
Oh, wow. Oh, Jeez Louise.

It was quite a sight.
I think the most important thing about that is that I can't remember it.

You looked like you were having the time of your life, for what it's worth.
We had a blast. I love hanging out with the girls [from "The Sapphires"] because I haven't seen them in a few months, so it was great.

You're a very brave man. When you were standing on stage, you were taunting Harvey Weinstein.
(Laughs) It's a big decision, isn't it? I think what people haven't worked out about Harvey is that he loves it. You know, I think he likes being ridiculed.

Really?
I think so. Either I'm right or I'll never work for him again. So, we'll see.

That's the takeaway from this, "Harvey Weinstein likes being ridiculed."
Wow ... yeah, everybody just go for it. You know, I really like Harvey. And I know he's got this really tough-man thing, but when you come from the British film industry where everybody is afraid of their own shadows -- it's hard to get anything made and find an audience -- it's great working with somebody who is just so gung-ho. Like, I love the gung-ho-ness. It's exciting.

[O'Dowd starts to pour some coffee, then grimaces.]

What's wrong?
I presumed I was pouring coffee.

That doesn't look like coffee.
Well, let's see. [O'Dowd takes a sip.] It's pig's urine. I knew it. They mixed the cups up again. What was the thing?

Well, I think it's good for the world to have a Chris O'Dowd movie.
Oh! I do, too!

It is fun to see you front and center after a lot of supporting roles.
No, it has been fun and it isn't something I do a lot. And it kind of wound up being a bit more front and center than I thought it was going to be, really.

What do you mean by that?
Well, because it's a movie about these four women, but we made up a lot of stuff as we went along. And I think the character probably grew as we shot it.

I'm glad that happened. They're great in this, but I'm not sure the movie works as well without the chemistry between them and you.
I think the dynamic is great. But, it's a tricky one. It's one of those things where you've seen movies about bands and that kind of stuff -- we're not reinventing the wheel with that. What I do think makes it original is, the Stolen Generation stuff is very specific and people, including myself, are very ignorant about it. So, I kind of like that aspect. And I like that I can be there when possible to destroy any moments that are just verging on sentimentality. I feel like that's my job in the movie.

You mentioned you hadn't seen them in a few months. I know this movie came out overseas a few months ago -- it's kind of like your own world tour with a band.
I know, it's been nice. It's my own personal Van Halen, which is all I ever wanted.

The David Lee Roth or the Sammy Hagar version?
David Lee Roth.

Not Gary Cherone?
No! I was listening to a podcast about Van Halen the other day. There was this anecdote about their M&Ms. Do you know that?

Yes, they order the brown M&Ms removed from their dressing rooms when they tour.
Yeah!

Because if a venue can't get that right, then they don't trust them to set up the equipment correctly, either.
Exactly. It's in the rider so people don't die during the concert. I think I heard that on "This American Life."

So that's what's going on here with your cakes and your coffee?
Yeah -- oh! -- if they hadn't gotten this right, I now know that the floor is OK (laughs) because the cherry is on top.

Your career kind of fascinates me. I know you've been around and have been in movies like "Pirate Radio," but after "Bridesmaids," in the U.S., you went from not very known to very known really quickly. And everyone has accepted that.
Is that what it feels like?

From the outside looking in. I didn't know much about you before "Bridesmaids," but now I'm happy to see you show up in movies like "Friends With Kids."
Oh, God, well, I'm glad that's your interpretation.

Is that not accurate?
Oh, no ... no. I didn't mean it to sound like that. I kind of don't know what it's like for an audience. Maybe at the start, everybody was like, "Who's the Irish Jason Segel guy?"

I've never heard that one.
I think there's probably a little bit of that. This is what I've learned as time's gone on: I think I have a similar sensibility to those guys. So, I think there's a familiarity with that. I think because they're used to ... thankfully I'm not living in an era of Ken and Barbie-type leading men. Because I would be fucked. So, I'm glad that I'm living in an era where it's kind of Judd Apatow-type leading men.

I have a theory. I think it has a lot do do with the fact in "Bridesmaids" you're using your real accent instead on an American accent. I think people responded to that.
I think that's true.

Was it ever suggested that you use an American accent for "Bridesmaids"?
No, they were the ones. Actually, they were amazing. Because I went in and did an American accent in the audition -- it kind of didn't occur to me not to. Particularly because he's a cop and this was before I looked into it properly. Are there even Irish cops? I don't know if that's a thing. I know there are now, but at the time I was like, "I don't know." So, I went in with an American accent and luckily Paul Feig is a huge Anglophile and knew my sitcom really well and was a big fan of it. He said, "Hey, why don't you try it in your own accent?" And it just kind of went well and we improvised for a good while like that with Kristen -- yeah, and it played well. And Judd liked the idea that he didn't want there to be any kind of formulaic love story. So, anything that he could do to make it just seem a little bit odd -- like having a guy with a different accent -- was probably helpful to him.

I know that you do an American accent on "Girls." But is it harder to express true emotions when you're worried about doing an American accent?
There's that. I think what's more difficult is that I improvise a lot. And that's hard when you're doing an accent. Because I can do all the prep I want in the world for the part, or whatever. But then, on the day, when I just throw in a bunch of stuff, you just can't do anything like that.

When we hear Christian Bale talk in his real voice, it's surprising because we're not used to it. You're never going to have that problem.
There's part of me that feels like I wish that the first thing I had done was in an American accent.

Really? Wouldn't you have to do that every time?
Well, it's not that you have to. It's people would accept whatever you do after that. I think I'm going to find it hard to do anything that's not in my own accent from now on. That means I can never play anybody's brother. It kind of, in a very specific way, it kind of takes you out of a lot of parts. Which is a bit of a shame.

Though, you're well-liked by audiences. I know people have you high on their "actors who seem nice and look like fun to hang out with in real life" list.
Seems nice.

Well, I personally changed my mind when you threatened to "end me."
By the way, you are welcome to the cakes.

I'm picking Jason Segel now.
He's my choice, too.

I'm glad we agree on that.
We have to do a buddy movie.

You and Jason Segel?
Yeah.

You two could switch accents.
Yeah! You know, he actually is a really good friend of mine. We've been kind of talking about doing a movie where him and somebody else are brothers and they've got like one missing brother. It's like a real bullshit formulaic thing. It's almost like the new "Twins" movie that they're talking about doing with Eddie Murphy.

Please don't pitch it like that.
(Laughs) And I can just stop talking and go, "One hundred million dollars."

It sounded really good until you compared it to the new "Twins" movie.
It will be me and Jason and Kevin Hart. (Laughing) And Kevin is like, "He's my brother? What?" And then Jason will be doing an Irish accent. And I'm doing his accent. And, yeah, then we all go and sleep with Melissa McCarthy. But that's the big end scene and nobody sees it coming.

Start a Kickstarter. If "Veronica Mars" can get funded ...
That happened?

It raised like three million dollars in two days.
Oh, God.

It's kind of controversial.
Is that a bad idea, though? It sounds like it would be awesome.

It's mixed. Some people worry the studios will take advantage of this.
Oh, well, they definitely will. That's what they do. What do you get back? If you put money into Kickstarter, what do you get back?

You're mostly just donating.
Because when you put money into the company or whatever, you get stuff back.

It's not like buying stock. It's more that you think it's a fun project and you want to help support it. You might get a prize like a T-shirt or your name in the credits.
It sounds good! Let's do it! Where do I sign on to this "Veronica Mars" thing?

You need to get your "Twins" sequel funded.
"Squins."

I'd donate to that.
OK, I'm going to let you know when that happens. Because if that was an empty promise, I'm going to end you.

Mike Ryan is senior writer for Huffington Post Entertainment. You can contact him directly on Twitter.

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