Anyone who crushed on Chris O’Dowd in “Bridesmaids” — you know who you are — might rethink things when they see the Irish actor in some of the new films he has in the pipeline. First up is his role as underachieving husband to Maya Rudolph in “Friends with Kids,” in which the couple watches hopefully as two of their pals (played by writer/director Jennifer Westfeldt and Adam Scott) pair up for a breeders variation of the “friends with benefits” theme. Meanwhile, a married couple to whom they’re close (played by Kristen Wiig and Westfeld’s real-life partner Jon Hamm) have kids but then fall apart. “Maybe my character doesn’t help out as much as he could,” O’Dowd told The Playlist, “but he’s a superhero compared to Jon Hamm.” The actor then explained how working with friends helped the project, and where his upcoming characters fall on the nice guy-jerk spectrum.
The Playlist: This is almost a “Bridesmaids” reunion, with the couples switched around — instead of being with Kristen Wiig, you’re now with Maya Rudolph. Did you know when you were doing “Bridemaids” that this might be on the horizon?
Chris O’Dowd: No, no, no. This came up three or four months after we wrapped “Bridesmaids.” When I auditioned for it, I’m not sure everyone else was in place. I never thought, “Oh, it’s going to be all the same guys again!” I knew that Jon was doing it, obviously, and I loved the script, and it was just a huge bonus that everyone was doing it. It was kind of a reunion. Some of us put on a lot of weight. [Laughs]
Did it help to already be familiar with one another? Because you’re supposed to be playing old friends…
A: Yeah, on the acting side of it, even though we’re different characters, it was great, because we were already comfortable with each other. And they’re really talented people, as much as they’re nice and they’re fun, which is important. For the scenes like the ruckus at the dinner table, or when we’re at somebody’s birthday, it’s a lot easier when you know each other. It’s not like you’re going, “I have to start all over again!” You know that you’re going into a scene where you won’t be left to fend for yourself to plow the comedy out of it.
It’s a comedy, but you don’t play it as a comedy, or as a typical rom-com…
It’s not pushed. I think it’s very natural. I think it was well-written in that regard. The movie lives or dies on whether it’s believable or not, and I think it is. I think that’s why it works. It’s an interesting premise, but that’s not the best thing about the film. The relationship between the two lead characters is gorgeous, and I don’t feel like I’ve necessarily seen that portrayed with such heartfelt realism before. If we had been doing fucking mugging faces, it would have really undercut it.
You reteam with Paul Rudd, whom you worked with on “Dinner for Schmucks” and “This is Forty.” Was that the same kind of situation, where your underlying working relationship strengthened the relationship between characters?
Yeah, because all my stuff is with Paul. It definitely helps. I play a guy who works for Paul Rudd’s record company, which is kind of failing. And I’m a hipster, almost like a Williamsburg guy, who just bitches about everything and thinks Paul Rudd is too old to be in the record industry. And the guy I play is awful — he’s just an asshole. He’s got an ironic mustache, and skinny jeans, and a superiority complex. He tries to chat up Megan Fox to get her to go out with him.
Your character in “Friends with Kids” also admires Megan Fox…
She’s attractive — what are you going to do? Your character is probably going to find her attractive — otherwise it would be unreal. She’s great in the film, though. In “This is Forty,” she’s a lot smarter, so it doesn’t work out well for me. [Laughs] She’s really funny in “Friends with Kids,” I think.
You also now have John Michael McDonagh’s “Calvary” coming up.
Brendan Gleeson‘s a priest who just has a horrible time from everybody in this town. I’m just one of the people giving him a hard time. My character has a very difficult relationship with his wife, let’s say. He’s not the sweetest guy in the world to his wife.
You’re not the main accuser? Since people in the town seem to think the priest has committed child abuse…
No, no, no. It’s more … you’ll have to see it. I start at the end of summer sometime. It’s a fantastic script. I’m really looking forward to it.
In the meantime, your film “Frankie Go Boom” is going to be at SXSW.
I think it’s a fun film. It’s pretty crazy — like a mirror image, or the negative image of “Friends with Kids,” with the madness and lunacy of this self-absorbed, narcissistic drunk that I play. The movie starts with me coming out of rehab, and we’re told that I was an awful guy.
In “Frankie Go Boom,” I secretly tape my brother having sex with a girl and put it on the Internet — not pleasant. It’s really about what you do when something gets on the Internet — what happens? Most of the movie is trying to get it down off the Internet, and how difficult that is. Oh, and I drown a pig for fucking kicks. [Laughs] Didn’t even eat it, just fucking drown it. And this is while my character’s sober. He’s a real dick.
Just when everyone started thinking you were a nice guy!
A: [Laughs] I’m going to be playing two or three dicks in a row! Anyone who found me attractive after “Bridesmaids,” this will undercut all of that! [Laughs] So I’m delighted about that. I’m an asshole from now on. That’s it. And I play a character on this show “The Crimson Petal and the White” which will be on Starz this summer, and that one is the worst. I don’t want to give it away, but he’s pretty disgusting. I was single until recently [when he got engaged to Dawn Porter], and now women around the world will be going, “Yeah, that’s okay, because we fucking hate you!”
“Friends With Kids” opens on March 9th.