Future NCIS: Los Angeles star Chris O’Donnell had a fantastic start to his acting career. He earned a role in Scent of a Woman, the biggest movie of the year three decades ago.
But acting opposite Al Pacino gave him insomnia. He was only 21, but he was so nervous being around Pacino that he discovered a unique way to burn through his stress. The memories bubbled up this week when O’Donnell appeared on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert. He stayed about three blocks away from the Late Show studio when he filmed Scent of a Woman in 1992.
“I didn’t know anybody,” the NCIS: Los Angeles star told Colbert. “I was young and I’m stuck in this building and I couldn’t sleep.”
Then he explained how he settled down. “I used to literally get up at 4 in the morning and put on roller blades and a down jacket and roller blade up and down Time Square in the middle of the night. (It was) in the dead of winter, just to calm down and try and sleep. I was out of my mind. I was literally … a little nervous.”
Long Before He Played Callen on NCIS: Los Angeles, O’Donnell Starred as Prep School Student Charlie Simms
So why was he so nervous? He never could get very comfortable around Pacino, who won an Academy Award for portraying retired Lt Col Frank Slade, a cantankerous alcoholic who was blinded during his military service. O’Donnell played Charlie Simms, a prep school student on scholarship who was hired to help the colonel.
“I think we filmed for six months,” O’Donnell told Colbert. “The first five months (Pacino) really was kind of cool to me and not like engaging.” O’Donnell said the director finally told him that he asked Pacino to keep him uncomfortable. That’s how the colonel made Charlie feel.
“So finally, for the last month, (Pacino) was like, ‘hey do you want to come over and play cards, go to dinner?’ And I’m like ‘where’s this been for five months?’ Then I kind of figured it out.”
O’Donnell said that for most of the movie, Pacino “was scaring the hell out of me. Our dressing rooms were next to each other. Talking about thin walls, I could hear him in there working on scenes. And I was like “we’re not doing that scene today.’ And he’s working on scenes for next week, and he’s coming up with all this stuff. God, I got to learn my lines and just prepare.”
13 Seasons On a TV Show Allowed O’Donnell More Time with Family
O’Donnell was an up-and-coming movie star in the 1990s. But he married his wife, Caroline, in 1997. Their first child was born in 1999. They now have five kids, ranging in age from seven to 22. O’Donnell has portrayed G Callen for 13 seasons of NCIS: Los Angeles. It keeps him working in one spot for most of the year, which is far more conducive to raising a big family.
On Sunday night, NCIS: Los Angeles will celebrate its 300th episode. Callen isn’t like O’Donnell. On the show, he’s a bachelor with no children. Working as an NCIS agent isn’t family friendly. But we do know that in this episode, Callen is prepping to ask Anna, his girlfriend, to marry him.