Standing out from the Crowd
Donie O’Sullivan talks to Bridesmaids star and former UCD student Chris O’Dowd. Described as one of Hollywood’s “leading men, viagra ” O’Dowd recounts his time in UCD, clinic his involvement with the L&H and offers students one very important piece of advice – “Don’t sleep in bushes!”
At the age of 32, ampoule Chris O’Dowd has an impressive set of films under his belt. Aswell as roles in big Hollywood blockbusters like Bridesmaids, Gulliver’s Travels and Dinner for Schmucks, Irish and British audiences know him from his role as Roy in the Channel 4 show “The IT Crowd.” But life hasn’t always been rosy for the Roscommon man – he once lived in Belgrove.
O’Dowd studied sociology and politics in UCD – “I didn’t finish my degree. The politics part of it was fine, but I was doing sociology as-well and I could never bring myself to find an interest in it. “
Confronted with the prospect of returning to finish his degree as a mature student, O’Dowd laughed,”oh yeah, so fucking mature!”
“Seriously though I have thought about coming back to finish the degree a lot. It doesn’t bother me really, but it would be kind of nice, I have never finished anything – at some stage it would be good to finish something.”
Like many the UCD student, O’Dowd found the move from rural Ireland to Dublin somewhat a culture shock when he first came to the university.
“What I found weird [about UCD] until I found my clan. It’s so fucking Donnybrook. I found it strange to feel so instantly ridiculed for my accent. But then I started becoming friends with loads of guys from Ag Soc and then I could ridicule them for their accents. It was just kind of a vicious circle.”
OO’Dowd who lived in digs in his first year before moving onto campus for his second and third year was highly involved in an array of societies on campus: “I found out quite early on that it is the best way to go through college for free. I think in my second year I was on eight different committees and I never bought a pint.”
O’Dowd however was a real debater and was a prominent figure in the L&H – “I feel like the only time I saw the inside of Theatre L was when I was doing a debate. Taking the piss out of world leaders.”
O’Dowd recounts one occasion when his role as L&H record’s secretary got him in some hot water. “I remember one time when I was on the L&H committee and I was the guy who would introduce people. We had F.W. De Klerk on. My feelings about F. W. De Klerk aren’t great. I always thought he was the guy who decided he wasn’t racist when it looked bad. So armed with that and a few drinks to calm my nerves I decided to welcome him to the packed Theatre L in front of national media by doing the national anthemn of South Africa and I asked everyone to sing it as he came down the steps. The song that I sang was push a palm tree get a coconut. I guess it was pretty disrespectful, a lot of people booed, but there was still a good two dozen people who sang it.”
As-well as the L&H, O’Dowd said he spent much of his time in UCD “under the ground” in the Dram Soc theatre. O’Dowd thought the society had moved to its new base in the student centre, but when he was informed that this was not the case and they were still in the basement, he joked – “it’s the fucking best place for them.”
The College Tribune reminded Chris of a mini-soap he made while on campus called “Melgrove Place.” The video which is on YouTube has less than 600 views, involves a young Chris, with his top off, engaging in what appears to be some form of Tai Chi on the Merville football pitches. Chris can’t recall making the film but joked “I imagine it’s amazing, I was a big dude then as-well.” (The video can be seen on collegetribune.ie)
O’Dowd made very few mistakes as he progressed to a glittering career in show business, however one poor decision does stand out – he once wrote for the University Observer. “I don’t think I ever held a position at the paper, I would just contribute occasionally, I can’t really remember.”
Asked did he ever consider writing for the College Tribune, O’Dowd quickly replied, “I didn’t, only because I had self-respect.”
O’Dowd also dabbled in student politics while he was here but never ran for a position himself.
“I am sure I always backed some candidate in an election, because there was always the chance of free beer coming out of it.”
“I didn’t have, as I don’t now, any big political allegiances. I always found it strange when I saw people who were like young Fianna Fail there. How could you be young Fianna Fail? They stand for everything young people should hate, it always seems so weird to me.”
As is the case with some SU sabbatical candidates even today, O’Dowd said he considered running for Ents officer when he realised he wasn’t going to pass his exams – “As my finals were fast approaching and I realised I wasn’t going to pass them I would have done anything to get out of the firing line really.”
“I think I ran a campaign or two. I got Niall Donnelly elected. He was an Ents officer who ran his year at the greatest loss of any year”
“I hadn’t seen him since college and randomly I was in a bar in LA three months ago and bumped into him”
“He runs a bar and is a really successful entrepreneur. We have been hanging out, he’s fucking great craic!”
O’Dowd said he managed to get through college without getting a part time job by scamming some of the university’s biggest societies, “I managed to work out another scam. My dad is a graphic designer and I would get him to make all the societies’ brochures their Freshers’ kind of stuff at the weekends . So that would sort me for the year and would mean I wouldn’t have to get a real job.”
Speaking about his meteoric rise to fame, O’Dowd explained that appearing on shows like Conan O’Brien is quite a surreal experience. “My life is surreal, it has changed a lot in a reasonably short amount of time. I am really enjoying it though.”
“I have been shooting a couple of films for the past month or so. I was doing one in Australia and Vietnam called “Sapphire.” It’s based on a true story about three Aboriginal girls who end up almost becoming an Australian version of the Supremes. I play an Irish entertainment officer who brings them on tour of the America air force bases during the Vietnam war.”
Sapphire won’t be in Irish cinemas until later next year, but in the meantime we can expect to see Chris in “Friends with Kids,” which also stars Kristen Wiig. Wiig and O’Dowd proved to be a formidable pair in the summer hit “Bridesmaids” – “Bridesmaids was so funny and just so on the money and I always think American humour is more close to Irish humour than British humour is. There is a very similar mentality.”
Images of O’Dowd in a swimming pool with Megan Fox and Jason Segel appeared in newspapers and magazine all around the world last month. Fox will also feature in “Friends with Kids” and also alongside Chris in Judd Apatow’s “This is Forty.” On Fox Chris said, “what can I say, she loves to swim. Weirdly the last two films I’ve been in, she has been in them too, she just insists on it now,” he laughs.
O’Dowd, who has starred in four series of the IT Crowd says that although they may not have time to make another series “we will definitely do a special, or a few specials.”
“I am writing and starring in a TV show in Boyle, which I am just finishing off writing now with my mate from Kilkenny. We are going to be shooting it in January and it will be on next summer on Sky One – I think it will be really funny.”
O’Dowd is a Twitter enthusiast and has almost 70,000 followers, “I have to say I’m not that great at replying to everybody. I just use it as a platform to write jokes and say stupid things. It’s hard to get exactly what it’s for.”
He expressed his disappointment at the lack of abuse he receives on Twitter and has challenged Tweeters – “I really want people to have the balls to give me more shit.”
O’Dowd offers a refreshing form of humour, is very humble and his vivid memories of UCD show he hasn’t forgot where he came from – surely the L&H will reward one of their most enthusiastic former members with a James Joyce award in the not too distant future.
Asked to offer one piece of advice to new UCD students, O’Dowd, speaking with experience, gave a very important tip – “Don’t sleep in bushes – it always feels like ‘oh it’s fine, it’s one in the morning, it’s so far to walk back to Dundrum,’ or whatever but at four and five in the morning when it gets so cold you’re going to regret it. Just go around knocking on doors , like a cute Longford whore!”