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Interview: Chris O'Dowd on Shooting 'The Sapphires' in Vietnam and Taking a Role in 'Thor 2' for Fun

By Mark Lukenbill | Indiewire March 19, 2013 at 10:04AM

Chris O'Dowd, the hilarious Irish charmer who shot to international fame after his starring role opposite Kristen Wiig in "Bridesmaids," hasn't paused for a second after becoming a comic hit stateside. The former "IT Crowd" star has become one of the most formidably dependable scene sealers in the Judd Apatow camp of actors and comedians with roles in last year's "This is 40," Jennifer Westfeldt's indie comedy "Friends with Kids," and a recurring role in HBO's "Girls" as Thomas-John, the slimy, insecure Wall Street husband of Jemima Kirke's Jessa. Somewhere in there he also managed to find the time to take the lead role in Wayne Blair's Australian musical "The Sapphires," which has been pleasing crowds on the festival circuit and will be released by The Weinstein Company on March 22nd.
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Girls Jemima Kirke Chris O'Dowd

To switch over to "Girls" on that note, obviously in these last few episodes you haven't been featured as much as Jemima has kind of been absent while she had her baby. Are you coming back at all, or is that plot over?

I wouldn't have thought so. I think... You know, it's one of those things, I went to do one episode of the show which is where I try to have a threesome with the girls. We just had so much fun that Lena asked me to come back and do some more. When she suggested I come back I was a little bit like, "…how? How does that character com back? In what possible situation?"

Yeah, I think a lot of people had that thought.

And she's like, "I want you to marry one of the girls." That's fucking insane! What are you talking about? And she said, "No, no, it's going to be really fun." And so I came back. And it kinda worked! Because, I think, Jemima's character is kinda nuts as well, you kinda buy it. I can't imagine that my character will come back but after experience, never say never. It's great, it's such a good show. I've just been catching up on it this week, actually. I just watched that recent one where Hannah goes and lives in that guy's house-

With Patrick Wilson.

Patrick Wilson, right! It's just some of the best television; it's so great. She's such a talented girl.

Were all of your scenes in "Girls" tightly scripted? Now that you're in "Family Tree," the new Christopher Guest series [upcoming on HBO], I'm curious about your background in improv.

It is to an extent but they do let you go. Because I do so much ranting in "Girls," a lot of stuff just comes out. Like I think all the Mary Poppins stuff I think I kind of made up on the day. Lena's cool with it, but it's so well scripted that you don't even need to improvise. It's just if you're as self indulgent as I am you do it. And with Judd's stuff there's bits of improv, but the Christopher Guest thing is just a totally different experience. It's very challenging because you have to be so focused all of the time, otherwise there's no scene if you don't come up with something. It's very well structured. Chris and Jim Piddock wrote a great script in a sense where, you know, it's a really great story. So all you have to do is come up with the jokes. The thing that I found hardest is I come from a sitcom background and the grammar of that is what's the shortest route to a punchline. That's not the way that Chris works. So it's almost trying to not be gaggy and funny, but also be really funny. Which is tricky. But it's one of the most fun things I've done, he's amazing.

Some of your first roles were for Mike Leigh. Does that kind of prepare you at all in a sense, or is it two completely different types of improv?

It is! Mike Leigh's thing is interesting because you improvise the day before and then he writes down everything that you

Chris O'Dowd and Michael McKean in 'Family Tree'
Ray Burmiston/HBO Chris O'Dowd and Michael McKean in 'Family Tree'

said, and then when you shoot you shoot word for word what you said the day before. So it's not like an on camera improv. But it's all part of the game, I suppose. It's all very useful in terms of learning how to do that kind of stuff and the different ways people work, from someone like Judd who just works so quickly on his feet and has a good education and Chris who's just the funniest person I know. It's an education.

Coming off of your series "Moone Boy," [on British network Sky1] which you wrote, is writing still something you're interested in? Do you have anything else that you've written in the works?

We just shot the second series of "Moone Boy," which I'm in the edit for now, and I'm writing the third series which is shooting this summer and I'm going to direct that one as well. So I'll probably get behind the camera a bit more. I'd like to write a movie next that maybe we shoot next summer, but I don't have any idea what it would be. So I probably need to get going with that.

I've got like five bad ideas. I just need one great idea and I'll be set.

So you're obviously extremely busy. There's a number of projects I could ask about. I do want to mention "Friends with Kids," from last year, as I think it was incredibly underrated and a pretty great little comedy.

Thank you, I think so too! I really like that movie. Those guys are so great in it. Adam [Scott] is so great in it. I wish kind of more people had seen it, just to see his performance if nothing else.

Are there any other upcoming projects that you would want to mention?

I've got "Cavalry," [the John Michael McDonagh film] coming out sometime in the Autumn. But "The Sapphires" is terrific and I hope it finds an audience because I think it's a very unique. It's a very fun look at oppression.


This article is related to: Interviews, The Sapphires, Chris O'Dowd, Girls, Thor: The Dark World





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