Interview: Chris O’Dowd
Capitalising on his starring role in BBC series ‘The Crimson Petal and the White’, and appearances in profile-raising US pictures such as Judd Apatow’s ‘Bridesmaids’ and ‘Friends with Kids’, the thirty-three year old plays Dave, an irascible Irish ex-pat, who turns the band onto classic soul music, instead of their preferred country ballads, and, later, as their manager guides them to success. O’Dowd not only supplies the laughs but is also able to invest his character with a lot more depth than a rather scrappy script provides. Stopping off in London to promote the film during the London Film Festival, O’Dowd discussed the project.
Your co-stars had at least a passing knowledge of the singers prior to beginning the project. Did you?
I didn’t know a sausage. I’d barely heard of Australia by that stage, then I looked into it a little bit and it was fascinating. I can Google pretty hard.
Were the original Sapphires as accomplished vocally as the quartet in the film?
There’s no right answer to that. They were exactly as good.
The actual manager wasn’t Irish. How did you go about assembling your character?
No, he wasn’t Irish. Dave is an accumulation of a few different people who were there. There was a kind of Irish uncle somewhere there in their family but I didn’t base the character on anyone specific.
What is it about this subject matter which appealed to you?
They were a few different reasons. After the success of ‘Bridesmaids’ I was offered a whole lot of romcom type things, and this one just felt a bit different. I love learning about the world, and we are very privileged in the acting business where we get to learn about things, about the world and people through work, rather than having to span through our old encyclopaedia, which I still do but that’s more of a toilet occupation now. So I was able to educate myself in that a little bit, and, you know, I love the music so much; I was listening to a lot of it coincidentally at the time. It’s a combination of all these things really.
The actors playing The Sapphires were already acquainted with each other when you came on board. Did you find that a little intimidating?
Well, as you said, I came on to the project a little bit later, and to be honest, I presumed that they had all known each other for years, mainly because there was so much bickering. But I grew up in house full of women so I felt very comfortable in those kind of surroundings, where you know that you can be loved and humiliated within a heartbeat – that’s what it was like hanging around with those lot.
As well as singing you play the keyboards in the film too. Did you undergo any training?
You know, a little bit! I came onboard three works before we started filming so I learned how to play two or three songs which I mainly did using an iPad app. And it’s okay you know, it’s playing the piano by numbers; I know that it sounds right but I have no idea why. But there’ll be a boogie-woogie album for Christmas.
How was filming on location in Saigon?
It was the first time a Western film company had filmed there in quite a few years, but we had a blast. I remember when we were being driven through the Saigon streets in an American army truck, I wanted to stand up and shout ‘We’re back!’ but I stifled that urge, luckily.
The Sapphires is out now.