‘NCIS: Los Angeles’: The Unique Connection Between Star Chris O’Donnell and Former Olympic Hero

by Suzanne Halliburton

Did you know that one of your favorite stars in NCIS: Los Angeles, Chris O’Donnell, has connections to a former American Olympic hero?

That’s Chris O’Donnell, who portrays Callen, an NCIS: Los Angeles special agent. And his connection to a certain Olympian goes back to early in his career. That’s when O’Donnell was in the middle of his movie career, when he landed the part of Robin/Dick Grayson in Batman Forever in 1995. The movie was the sequel to Batman Returns back when Val Kilmer played Batman. O’Donnell also starred as Robin with George Clooney as Batman.

(Photo by Warner Bros. Pictures/Sunset Boulevard/Corbis via Getty Images)

So What’s ‘NCIS: Los Angeles’ Star Chris O’Donnell’s Olympic Connection?

So what’s the Olympic link? As Robin, O’Donnell didn’t do his own stunts. After all, Robin was a super hero. Mere mortals can’t do super hero stuff. But Olympic heroes can.

That brings us to O’Donnell’s Olympic connection and how it ties in to NCIS: Los Angeles. Mitch Gaylord was O’Donnell’s stunt double. Remember him? The Tokyo Olympics are dominating August sports and gymnastics are generating some of the top headlines.

But think back in 1984, when the Games were in Los Angeles. The United States was one of 65 countries that boycotted the 1980 Games to Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. And fans were hungry to celebrate all the pomp and heroics of an Olympics, especially competition on our own soil.

Mitch Gaylord was one of the breakout stars. The United States, especially the women, now are world-wide gymnastic powers. But that wasn’t the case in 1984. Americans never really had a reason to cheer for gymnasts in international competitions. But both the American men and women grabbed our attention in LA.

While Mary Lou Retton won the women’s all-around, Gaylord helped the American men earn team gold. He was the first American male to register a 10 at Olympic competition. And he earned three individual medals — a silver on vault and bronze for parallel bars and the rings. He also was a teammate of Tim Daggett. If you watch the Tokyo Olympics, you know Daggett as the long-time gymnastic analyst.

(Photo by © Wally McNamee/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)

Gaylord went into acting, starring in American Anthem with Janet Jones, the future wife of NHL legend Wayne Gretzky. And then he played a small part in the Batman movies and served as the stunt double for a future NCIS: Los Angeles star. Gaylord also appeared on Hollywood Squares and was in national commercials for a variety of products, including Nike, Diet Coke, Levi’s and Vidal Sassoon. He became an inductee into the US Olympic Hall of Fame in 2006 and the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame in 2009.

Gaylord now lives outside Dallas. He’s a motivational speaker and fitness entrepreneur.

(Photo by SGranitz/WireImage)

As for O’Donnell, he stepped back from blockbuster movie roles to start a family. He proposed to his future wife, Caroline, during the Christmas holidays in 1996. They now have five children.

“I was being offered these huge films that would have taken my career to a different level, and I decided to put on the brakes. I knew if I continued on that track, I probably wouldn’t have gotten married,” O’Donnell explained to Redbook Magazine in 2010.

Chris O’Donnell has played Callen on NCIS: Los Angeles for the past 12 years. And he’ll be a big part of the storylines when the series kicks off season 13, Oct. 10. So stay tuned.