03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Interview: Christopher McDonald Plays Guys You Love to Hate

Christopher McDonald admits it: "I love to work," says the 54-year-old actor, who turns up in Splinterheads, opening today (11.06.09) in limited release.

Then he shrugs and adds, "Terms like 'ubiquitous' are not good. I think I'm one of the only actors who's had two films opening against each other on the same weekend, like, five different times. But hey, I don't choose the dates. I just like great parts."

Or parts he can convince himself might be great: "I don't say yes to everything," he argues. "I do turn things down. But I do look for ways to say yes."

"For me, it's got to be a good story, or I've got to like the character. It might be about who's directing it or who else is involved. It might be the economics of it. Or it might be a great location. I mean, I'm going to Montenegro at the end of the month -- I've never been there. I get to work with Janet McTeer -- and play the secretary of defense of the United States. And the money isn't terrible either."

If McDonald's name isn't familiar, his face must be -- the Internet Movie Database lists almost 150 different credits since he made his film debut in The Hearse in 1980 (after an appearance in a 1978 TV movie) -- and that figure only counts the TV series once, though he did multiple episodes of several shows.

It's the face -- and his imposing, ramrod 6-foot-3 physique -- that makes him distinctive. His eyes have a certain twinkle that can imply mischief, mayhem or monomania. His smile can be smirky or sharklike -- and his delivery frequently has the tang of sarcasm, which can be particularly funny when he's playing characters who aren't as smart as they think they are.

Those characters -- bullying, fatuous, petty, egotistical -- have become a stock-in-trade for McDonald, most famously as a strutting professional golfer named Shooter McGavin in Adam Sandler's Happy Gilmore. That character still gets him recognized, almost 15 years after the fact.

"Last night, I was in a bar," he says, sitting in a Chelsea office, "and it was packed with Marines who were off that ship, the U.S.S. New York, that's docked by the Intrepid. When I walked in with a friend, they gave me a standing ovation and were chanting, 'Shooter! Shooter!' One of them said they'd watched it, like, 100 times."


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