NCIS LA’s Chris O’Donnell felt ‘uncomfortable’ with former co-star ‘Worked for the movie’
10th May 2022

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Well before Chris O’Donnell landed the role of NCIS agent G Callen, or even became Dick Grayson/Robin opposite Val Kilmer and George Clooney’s Batman, he starred alongside cinema royalty Al Pacino in the Oscar-winning film, Scent of a Woman. In a recent appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, the NCIS: Los Angeles star revealed Al purposefully made him uncomfortable to help his performance.

NCIS: LA lead Chris has opened up about his intimidating experience working with Al Pacino near the start of his career.

The future CBS regular beat the likes of Matt Damon and Ben Affleck to land one of his first major roles as Charlie Simms in Scent of a Woman, for which he received a Golden Globe nomination.

Chris’s character, a preparatory school, is hired as an assistant to Al’s Frank Slade, a blind, cantankerous and alcoholic Army lieutenant colonel.

Although the future NCIS star managed to hold his own against Al’s performance, which won him his first Academy Award, he admitted to losing sleep due to nerves.

“I didn’t know anybody,” he recalled. “I was young and just stuck in this building. And I couldn’t sleep because I was working with Al Pacino.

“I would use to, literally, get up at four in the morning, put on rollerblades and rollerblade up and down Times Square in the middle of the night.

“In the dead of winter. Just to calm down and try and sleep. I was out of my mind, I was a little nervous.”

The actor told the story of one of his first leading film roles to talk show host Stephen, who had realised it had been 30 years since Scent of a Woman’s release.

While Chris enjoyed working with the iconic actor, he also felt Al was rather distant towards him throughout most of the filming process.

He told Stephen: “He was amazing. It was interesting, for the first… I think we filmed for six months.

“For the first five months of it he was really kinda cool to me. And not, like, engaging.

“And I found out after the fact, Marty Brest, the director, had said to him, ‘Chris is really nervous around you. Don’t make him comfortable’. Because it worked for the movie! It worked for the character.”

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In order to elevate Frank and Charlie’s difficult and often hostile relationship, director Martin – also known for Midnight Run and Meet Joe Black – requested Al not to befriend his co-star for the first weeks of filming.

It wasn’t until months later that most of the film had been completed and the Hollywood legend finally loosened up and revealed to Chris his real self.

“Finally, like, the last month, he’s like, ‘Do you want to come over and play cards? Do you want to go to dinner?’” Chris recalled.

“I’m like, ‘where’s this been for five months?’ Then I kind of figured it out and thought, `I can appreciate that.’”

Stephen joked: “You didn’t realise he was making you method act?”

Chris added: “He was scaring the hell out of me. We had dressing rooms next to each other with thin walls, and I could hear him in there working on these scenes.

“And I would freak out, like, ‘we’re not working on that scene today!’ He’s working on scenes for the next week, coming up with all this stuff. I’m like, ‘Good God, I’ve got to learn my lines, I’ve got to prepare.’”

Working with Al was clearly an invaluable experience, as Chris is now leading one of the United States’ most popular series, which will be beginning its 14th season later this year.

NCIS: Los Angeles season 13 continues Sundays on CBS in the USA. A UK release date is yet to be announced.

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