How famous is Alex O’Loughlin? Ask him and he’ll assure you that he isn’t, but ask the marketers who put his name above the title on ads for the Jennifer Lopez romcom The Back-Up Plan and they may whistle a different tune. The truth is that O’Loughlin is the sort of actor who’s been on the verge of stardom for a while now, a charismatic, handsome Australian with the sort of dedicated female fanbase that comes when you play a sexy vampire in your first American project, the television series Moonlight. That series was canceled, as was O’Loughlin’s last show Three Rivers, but CBS has high hopes that an O’Loughlin-led Hawaii Five-O revival will be a fixture of its fall schedule.
On the eve of The Back-Up Plan’s release this Friday, O’Loughlin called up Movieline to discuss the way Jennifer Lopez informs his notion of celebrity, the amount of faith CBS executives have had in him, and how he still smarts (just a little!) from losing the role of James Bond.
– by Kyle Buchanan,
19 April 2010
Question: You’re part of this sudden infatuation Hollywood has with Australian actors, and yet you’re the only one without an embarrassing Aussie soap on his resume. How’d you dodge that bullet?
Alex: [Laughs] Yeah! I dunno, I’m sure I’ve got a few other embarrassing things on my resume. From the beginning of my career, I wanted to follow a specific path, and that’s been part of it: I went to drama school instead and did three years and got my degree. I think a soap opera thing like that can be a good thing for a lot of people, but my path took me somewhere else.
Question: When you got out of drama school, did you have a plan of, “OK, I’m going to go to Hollywood?”
Alex: I drive what we call in Australia a “ute,” or a utility pickup truck, and once I got out of drama school, all I wanted to do was get in my ute and go fishing. The last thing I wanted to do was get into the industry. That was three solid years of studying constantly every day, working two jobs on the weekends just to keep myself on the stage and pay the school fee. I did plays the whole time, and it was an incredible education, but I wanted to get as far away from it as possible.
Question: Had you just overdosed on acting?
Alex: It was like I’d been working for three years. I just needed to get in my ute and go to the beach and hang out with my mates and get back to what’s important. I did that, and work started coming to my way. I always knew that I’d go to the States — I’d been to the States before I went to school and it’s the mecca for film and TV — and I’d sort of been crafting relationships and I continued to do so after I got out.
I ended up moving here once and for all four and a half years ago, and I did know I would come here, because the collaborative pool of actors and filmmakers and talent in America is just so much bigger. It’s vast, and there’s so much more work and possibility here. I guess it was just always in the cards.
Question: Let’s talk about how The Back-Up Plan fits into that. You have a very ardent female fanbase. Is making this movie your gift to them?
Alex: Yeah, I do have a great fanbase, and they’re wonderful. They’ve been very supportive of my career and very understanding of my life and the fact that I’m not very good at blogging or Twittering or anything like that. I’m deeply appreciative of my fans and I try to express that whenever possible, and I certainly like to express that in my work.
This movie needs to make some money — it’s important to Jennifer and it’s important to me, and it’s important that people enjoy it. I think it’s a good film. I’ve seen it, and I enjoyed it.
(The crazy life on Twitter – in my opinion, he is wise not to have an account!)
Question: It’s being looked at as a comeback vehicle for Jennifer, who hasn’t made a film in a few years. Did you feel any of that pressure while you were making it?
Alex: No, I don’t think she will allow herself to feel that pressure. I’m sure she’s aware of what people are saying, but she went off and had some babies [during her hiatus], you know? She went and lived her life. I don’t know … talk to me, and you might get a different response than someone who’s interested in the idea of celebrity.
I like my job, and I’m not naive or ignorant to the nature of what happens in this industry, but I didn’t become an actor to get famous. I became an actor because I love the work. I love being on stage, I love being part of a collaborative art form and seeing what we can create in a film, but fundamentally, the most important thing to me is what comes before that, and that’s life.
Your life, your family, your people … I mean, without life experience, you can’t tell stories anyway. You’re a boring actor. Jennifer was away having a lot of life experience and now she’s come back to work, and I kind of laugh when people say, “Ooh, she’s making a comeback!” No, she was making a couple of babies. Why don’t you pay twelve bucks and see the movie if you like a comeback?
Question: How do you handle the fact that you are getting famous? What are the downsides to it?
Alex: Lack of anonymity. I don’t know, I don’t really act like I’m famous. I just do my thing. I’m not that famous, dude. [Laughs] Sometimes I get pointed out or some people shuffle up and ask for an autograph or a photograph, but I’m not at a point where I can’t leave the house, thank God.
I think the downsides would be losing your anonymity and not being able to trust people, to tell whether people want to be with you and get to know you because of your celebrity or because of who you are. I just try to carry the sense of integrity and authenticity I had in the beginning of my career, because I think that’s what makes people interested in you in the first place. It’s important not to lose that.
Question: How much is that notion of celebrity defined by someone like Jennifer Lopez, who’s very much her own brand? She has perfume, music, movies…
Alex: I just know her as her, you know what I mean? I know her as my co-star, her husband as my friend Marc, I know Max and Emme as her kids and they’re my own little mates … I just don’t see it in that way. When I step away and look at it from that perspective, yes, she’s a brand, and the machine behind the J.Lo brand informs and creates that.
She obviously wanted that, and in that case, she’s a very smart businesswoman because she’s made a lot of money, I presume, and she’s had a lot of success and is very well-known. She must be pretty resilient, because I don’t want that. I’m not suggesting I could ever have that, but the other thing you’ve got to realize about Jennifer is that she’s as famous as she is based on her talent.
She’s a very talented woman, an incredible singer, dancer and writer who’s very good at what she does, as opposed to these people you see these days who are famous for being famous. There are celebrities in this day and age who really have offered nothing artistically but they’re on the cover of magazines and stuff. That world, I don’t really get it.
Question: Have you shot the Hawaii Five-O pilot yet?
Alex: We wrapped it a couple of weeks ago, and now we’ve been editing and waiting to see what happens.
Question: If it goes to series, you’ll be living in Hawaii for a while. As a native Australian, I would think you might have an affinity for a warm, beachy place like that.
Alex: I think anybody’s gonna have an affinity for paradise. [Laughs] It’s a pretty beautiful part of the world. Every breath of air is great, every glass of water is sweet. It’s a beautiful part of the planet and it’s a great show.
I don’t really know anybody there — I’m sure I’ll meet people — but if it’s a part of my journey, then that’s what’s going to happen next for me. It’s important for me at this stage, though, to relax and not put too much out there, because you never know what’s going to happen.
Question: You’ve survived two cancelled CBS shows, but CBS head Nina Tassler keeps finding new vehicles for you. What is that relationship like?
Alex: I love Nina, she’s a personal friend. Having advocates at that level, and the amount of belief they have in me, as an actor … it’s really quite moving, to be honest. I’ve been doing this for a quite a while, and this is a business that is full of rejections and heartache.
There are situations where you have to get up, shake the sand out of your chaps, put your fists up, and get back into the ring. Every actor will tell you that there are certain points in your life where you just go, “Aw, man. Why didn’t I become a banker?” It’s moments like this and it’s people like that who renew my faith in myself and my place in the industry, you know?
Question: Is that an attitude that you had when you lost out on the role of James Bond to Daniel Craig?
Alex: I don’t know, man. It can be just as damaging and painful to have that massively international, global slap in the face as it can be to sit in a room with a director who you really respect for an independent film that you really want and be rejected for that, too. It’s all the same thing. At its biggest scale [like Bond], when it’s making headline news, and the fact that you’re talking to me about it all these years later … it was one of the biggest rejections of my whole life.
It’s something that people bring up constantly. What it is was that I wasn’t right for the role, I was too young, and Daniel was fantastic, you know? Maybe I will be right for it later on. It’s a weird thing, you know? You step away from it and maybe adopt some Buddhist philosophy [laughs] … it’s not normal. It’s not normal to go in for a job interview every day and get rejected this much.
Our careers change, though. The last three jobs I’ve had have been offers. I didn’t need to audition. These are the moments in my life when I go, “Wow.” Those trying elements of what it means to be an actor are starting to die down with the faith that these filmmakers around me now have. They say, “I know he can do this.” It means a lot to me.
What a fantastic place to be in, when you don’t have to try to sell yourself at auditions anymore, because people already know who you are and what you have to offer. Some things that can also count in your favour is dedication to your work and your family. If heaps of talent, good looks and a solid work ethic means anything in Hollywood, then there should be a very long line of great offers waiting for Alex, the minute the cameras stop rolling for Hawaii Five-0…….