In Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, actor Chris O’Donnell plays one of the few human characters in the film. When SFPD Officer Shane’s K-9 partner on the police force – a German Shepherd named Diggs (voiced by James Marsden) – allows his over-eagerness to sabotage his potential, he is sent back to the concrete kennel, leaving his human counterpart to fend for himself. While there, he mysteriously disappears and, unbeknownst to his human partner, ends up in the subterranean base of DOG HQ, the nexus of worldwide canine operations, where he has been called on to helps save the world.
During an interview to promote the film, Chris O’Donnell, who currently plays Special Agent G. Callen on the popular television series NCIS: Los Angeles, talked about making movies his kids can see and juggling film roles with his TV show, which he hinted will have some big changes in the upcoming season. Check out what he had to say after the jump:
Question: Did you do this for your kids, or did you do it because you’re a pet person?
Chris: Mostly for the kids. We’re seeing everything that comes out, these days. If there’s a kid movie coming out, chances are that myself or my wife is taking the kids to the movie, or both of us. So, I did that Kit Kittredge movie a few years ago and had a great experience. My daughter was so excited, and I just thought, “Let’s try to find another family film. If it works out, I would love to do one.” And, this one worked out, scheduling wise. It was just a fun little part. I was in and out pretty quick, and it turned out much better than I ever expected. Now, I’m so thrilled for my kids to see it. This was not supposed to be 3-D when we made it. This was going to be a regular film and, all of a sudden, it’s a 3-D movie now.
How old are your kids now?
Chris: They are 2, 4, 7, 9 and 10. They are book-ended by girls.
Do they help you make your choices now?
Chris: It’s funny, they don’t. I’m not making a ton of choices right now because I’m so busy working on the TV show, but during my hiatus, I definitely will have the opportunity to do a film. I remember, when I was single, I would think, “God, my mom is going to see this movie.” That was in the back of my head. Now it’s, “My kids are going to see this.” It’s definitely something in the back of your head, for sure.
NCIS: Los Angeles gets a little rough, doesn’t it?
Chris: Yeah. They’ve watched them all. There was one episode in a strip joint or something, so we skipped that one, but we can’t stop them. We TiVo it and then, as soon as they get home from school, as soon as they get home from school on Wednesday – the day after the show is on – they put it on. They love to watch it.
Did you do anything to bond with the dog that you worked with?
Chris: No, other than going over and letting the dog smell you and scratch you a little bit. The dog is working. It’s like when you go to the airport and there’s a bomb-sniffing dog, and they say, “Please don’t touch the dog.” They’re working. And then, they’ll be on a break and tell the dog to go lay down, and the dog lays down. Then, all of a sudden, they say, “Okay, let’s go,” and the dog is up and ready to go. The dog has no interest in you. Unless they say, “Be interested in this guy,” the dog doesn’t care. It wants to know what it’s doing next, for its next reward. It’s amazing.
Were there any scenes with the dog that were particularly challenging?
Chris: It was a lot easier than I expected. I thought we were going to be there forever and I was going to be going crazy. I think that I got lucky. A big German Shepard is a really intelligent dog. If you had the pigeons in the room, you might be pulling your hair out, or the cats, but I fortunately didn’t have to deal with that. It was in my contract.
Were you familiar with officers who have a K-9 partner?
Chris: No. I actually know Jim Belushi, who has done a couple of those movies, but I didn’t do any research. I didn’t ride along in a K-9 unit, or anything. It was pretty straightforward.
How did this film fit in with the scheduling for your show?
Chris: This was before the show even started. This was a long time ago. There’s so many effects shots in this movie.
How has it been to work on the show and juggle it with film work? Is that a challenge?
Chris: It’s all about the show, right now. That’s just my #1 priority, as far as work. As far as other things, you just have to prioritize. I’ve had to give up a lot of things that I love to do because the only time I have is with my family now.
Working on a show that’s so physical, do you ever just want to go on vacation during hiatus, instead of working on a film?
Chris: No. I’ve been around long enough to know that, if opportunity presents itself, you’ve got to take advantage of it. This first go around, I wasn’t so anxious because it takes some adjusting. All of a sudden, you’re working 10 months, which is longer than any film I’ve ever worked on, so I was ready to detox and just relax and hang out with my family. But, having just had an eight-week break, where I did everything I wanted to do, I was exhausted. I think I might be more refreshed, if I had actually gone to work for those eight weeks.
How did you explain a movie about talking animals to your kids?
Chris: Well, they’d seen the first one, so it was easy. I showed them that that was what we were going to do. But, the ones that are old enough to be interested understand, and the ones that aren’t couldn’t care less. They just want to know if I’ve got a pack of gum in my backpack.
How was Brad Peyton to work with, having to direct people and animals?
Chris: He’s great. He’s really good. I was impressed. It was funny to be on a set where the director was that much younger than me. I’m so used to being the youngest guy on the crew. It’s a big undertaking to do a film like this, for your first film, but he’s a really talented guy and he earned the respect of the crew really fast because he was really prepared, really specific and knew what he wanted to do. People respect that. He’s very meticulous and patient, in just the way that he could do all these takes and stay focused on telling the story and know the right reaction from a dog when you see it because of what would be consistent with the moment. In the scenes with my character and Diggs, when I’m talking to him in the kennel and the dog reacts, you’re like, “Oh, my god, that was actually a really great performance,” and that’s attributed to the director, not the dog. I go do my ADR looping for NCIS: Los Angeles and I’ll do pages and pages in a couple of hours. We went in for this, and I only have a couple of lines, but we just spent hours in there, going over one word at a time because he was so specific. He knew what he wanted and what he was going for, and he could differentiate between 10 different takes of a line reading of a three-word line. You could just see how this guy is really talented.
What sort of projects do you want to do in the future, film wise?
Chris: I don’t have any particular genre that I’m dying to do, to be honest with you. Like anybody, you just want to work on good material and good projects. My favorite kind of film is just a well-made film. Everybody, when they walk out of a film like Shawshank Redemption, is like, “Wow, can you imagine being a part of a movie like that?” And, I’ve been lucky enough to have some experiences like that, with Scent of a Woman and stuff. You just strive to have more experiences like that.
Do you have your own production company?
Chris: No. I do, but I don’t. I used to, but I’m not doing anything with it. I’m 100% focused on this TV show right now.
Are there any big changes coming up on NCIS: Los Angeles?
Chris: Yeah, there are some cast changes.
Is the show very collaborative, in developing your character over the seasons?
Chris: Yeah. I’ve got a good relationship with (creator) Shane [Brennan], and we talk about my character all the time. But, as far as adding people or removing people, I’ve got no say over that. I’m sure, if they wanted my opinion, they’d ask for it. And, to be honest, Shane doesn’t even have total say over that. That’s more of a network thing.
Why should families go see Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore?
Chris: It’s one of the few family movies that works for everybody. I know from experience. I see everything that comes out now, as far as kids movies. With a lot of them, my kids will finish their popcorn and their slushee and they want to go home because even they don’t like the movie, and this was one where I wasn’t sitting there checking my email the whole time. It works on both levels, for the adults and for the kids.
What do you hope that families or young people get out of seeing this film?
Chris: Just enjoyment and a good day at the movies. There’s no great message here. Obviously, the cats and dogs are working together, so you see that you can be friends with people you never thought you could be friends with. But, I think it’s just about having a good time and entertaining people.