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|Also Known As:||Christopher Eugene O'Donnell||Died:|
|Born:||June 26, 1970||Cause of Death:|
|Birth Place:||Winnetka, Illinois, USA||Profession:||Cast ... actor model|
Golden Globe nominated actor Chris O'Donnell was deemed the next "golden boy" of Hollywood following his breakout supporting role opposite a particularly crusty Al Pacino in "Scent of a Woman" (1992). He held his own with unexpected strength, and because of this performance, went on to enjoy a steady film career playing clean-cut, regular-guys-turned-heroes who fought to save people in courtrooms and from dangerous mountainsides. Among his more famous "hero" roles was that of comic book character Robin; first opposite Val Kilmer in "Batman Forever" (1995) and then alongside George Clooney in the dismal, franchise-halting sequel, "Batman & Robin" (1997). In the new millennium, O'Donnell's flagging film career gave way to stability as a dramatic TV actor on "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) and "NCIS: Los Angeles" (CBS, 2009- ), where his sturdy, everyman quality found a warm reception among primetime audiences.
Christopher Eugene O'Donnell was born on June 26, 1970 in Winnetka, IL to William O'Donnell Sr. and Julie O'Donnell. He was the youngest child in a family with seven kids - four brothers and two sisters. Inspired by a female classmate who earned about $60 per session, he started modeling at age 13 and continued to do so until he was 16, when he began appearing in local commercials including McDonald's and in print ads for Marshall Fields department stores. O'Donnell's squeaky clean good looks soon landed him television roles; the first of which was in an episode of the drama series "Jack and Mike" (ABC, 1986-87) shot in Chicago.
At 17, O'Donnell considered quitting modeling and acting, but was persuaded otherwise by his mother with a new car. He subsequently auditioned and appeared in what became his screen debut, "Men Don't Leave" (1990), playing the role of Jessica Lange's teenage son. He had a bit part in "Fried Green Tomatoes" (1991) as the older brother of Idgie Threadgoode (Mary Stuart Masterson), who dies in a freak train accident. In 1992, he appeared as the preppie student rooming with a Jewish student in "School Ties," starring a roster of up-and-coming young actors including Brendan Fraser, Matt Damon and Ben Affleck.
More preppie, straight-laced roles followed. In 1991, he was originally cast to appear in "The Prince of Tides" starring Barbara Streisand. But Streisand changed her mind and wanted her real son to play the part. Rumor was that she had wanted to personally apologize to O'Donnell for her change of heart, so she called his dorm room. One of O'Donnell's roommates took the call, which came as a huge surprise because O'Donnell had not divulged to anyone in school that he was an actor. In 1992, he was cast in "Scent of a Woman" as a student who has to accompany a belligerent military officer (Pacino) to New York City. O'Donnell portrayed Charlie Simms, a young college student who agrees to look after his charge over Thanksgiving to earn money to go home for the holidays. Simms, however, is unaware that the arrangement would take him to the Big Apple for good food, fine women, a memorable tango and a loaded 45. The role catapulted O'Donnell front and center among moviegoers worldwide and earned him a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role.
Attempting to broaden his appeal, O'Donnell appeared as the inexperienced and strangely coiffed D'Artagnan in another remake of "The Three Musketeers" (1993) co-starring Charlie Sheen and Kiefer Sutherland. He appeared in several films in 1995 - as a college dreamboat who becomes the object of Minnie Driver's affection in "Circle of Friends" and as the other half of a frantic teenage couple co-starring Drew Barrymore in "Mad Love." Even while he beefed up his acting resume, O'Donnell studied at Loyola Academy in Chicago and UCLA, graduating from Boston College in 1995 with a degree in marketing.
John Grisham's novel "The Chamber" was O'Donnell's most intense project in 1996, in which he portrayed the role of young, naive lawyer out to save his racist grandfather from Death Row. The actor wore his leading man shoes for "In Love and War" (1996) opposite Sandra Bullock, as a young Ernest Hemingway, a role that was not much of a stretch from his earlier performances.
In 1995, O'Donnell was cast in "Batman Forever" starring Val Kilmer (as the Caped Crusader), Tommy Lee Jones, Jim Carrey and Nicole Kidman. Insiders said that he and "Titanic" (1997) dreamboat Leonardo DiCaprio were the final choices for the role. Instead of a coin toss, fans were polled about who they thought would win a fight between the two; O'Donnell beat out DiCaprio. In the movie, his natural charisma and rebellious streak made his performance of Dick Grayson, a circus acrobat whose parents are murdered by one of Batman's notorious enemies, and later as Robin, utterly convincing even in green tights. In 1997, he reprised his sidekick role in "Batman & Robin" opposite George Clooney. It was a mishmash of a movie that was said to have put O'Donnell's career in jeopardy, as it did everyone involved with the unfortunate project which tanked the franchise for over a decade. He reportedly was offered the role of J in "Men in Black" (1997) but turned it down; the role ultimately went to Will Smith, making him an A-list star.
But in truth, O'Donnell took time off from showbiz to spend more time with his wife, Caroline Fentress, an elementary schoolteacher and his longtime sweetheart. The couple wed in 1997 and had five children - three sons and two daughters. An avid golfer, he participated in a golf event in 2000 and raised $500,000 for the Motion Picture and Television Fund. O'Donnell's big screen return was in Robert Altman's comedy "Cookie's Fortune" in 1999, as a bumbling cop romancing Liv Tyler. The same year, he starred in "The Bachelor," a lighthearted romantic comedy that he also produced under the auspices of George Street Films, his own production company. O'Donnell scaled new heights in the action flick "Vertical Limit" (2000), playing a mountain climber who rescues his sister in a vertical cave on a climb to the Himalayas.
A year after "Vertical Limit," O'Donnell reached new career heights when he took to the stage in the Arthur Miller production of "The Man Who Had All the Luck" (2001) at the Williamstown Theater Festival, as well as in a Broadway performance in 2002. He also made several notable television appearances, with a recurring role on the drama series "The Practice" (ABC, 1997-2004), and a guest-starring role on a 2004 episode of "Two and a Half Men" (CBS, 2003-15) titled "An Old Flame With A New Wick" as a transsexual - a role that was definitely a far cry from the parts he was accustomed to playing. In 2006, O'Donnell joined the cast of "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) as Dr. Finn Dandridge. He also scored the lead role in "The Company" (TNT, 2007), a miniseries about the Cold War-era CIA.
In 2008, O'Donnell had a supporting role as a pharmaceutical executive in "Max Payne," a live-action adaptation of the popular video game starring Mark Wahlberg as a detective thrust into New York's criminal underworld. Later that year, O'Donnell appeared as the father of plucky, aspiring journalist Kit Kittredge (Abigail Breslin) in the kids' book adaptation, "Kit Kittredge: An American Girl" (2008). A starring role in a special two-part episode of the hit police drama "NCIS" (CBS, 2003-) as an undercover agent led to O'Donnell landing the lead role in the spin-off series, "NCIS: Los Angeles" (CBS, 2009- ), a moderately well received offering that paired O'Donnell with rapper-actor LL Cool J as a fellow undercover agent and former Navy SEAL.
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