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Chris O’Donnell: I Chose Family Over Fame

05/19/2010 at 08:00 AM ET
Courtesy Redbook

After appearing as Batman’s sidekick Robin in the 1995 film, Chris O’Donnell‘s acting career was on the brink of a major breakthrough.

However, the then 25-year-old quietly stepped away from the spotlight to focus on starting a family.

“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 reveals in Redbook‘s June issue.

Now celebrating his 13th anniversary with wife Caroline, the couple has welcomed five childrenLily Anne, 10½, Christopher ‘Chip’ Eugene, 9½, Charles McHugh, 6½, Finley, 4, and Maeve Frances, 2.

Courtesy Redbook

The NCIS: Los Angeles star is relishing fatherhood — even if neither he nor Caroline rush to tackle the challenges that accompany the job!

“Maeve starts crying at 6:45 a.m. and [we will] start kicking each other under the sheets: ‘Maeve is crying. Get her,’” O’Donnell, 39, laughs.

“Or you’ll do that fake pretend sleep, where as soon as the other person gets up, you’ll say, ‘Oh, are you going to get her? I’ll stay here then. I didn’t even hear her.’”

And while O’Donnell has starred in a handful of other major roles since his days as Robin, his brood always manage to keep those memories alive.

“I used to try to be really low-key on airplanes, with my hat pulled down. Now I pre-announce to the people around us, ‘I want to apologize in advance,’” he jokes.

“When Chip was 3, as soon as we sat down, he said, ‘My dad was Robin in the Batman movie.’ I was like, ‘Oh my God. How are you guys doing?’ I give up.”

Courtesy Redbook

– Anya Leon

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Showing 91 comments

M926 on

Beautiful family :-)

Becka on

It’s so nice to see a Hollywood person choose family values opposed to greed, fame and limelight. Someone who is NORMAL!! Bravo Chris!

Nicole on

It’s great to hear a father speak about deliberately scaling back his career or turning down opportunities, in order to be with his family. I’m sure that Chris O’Donnell is not the only man in Hollywood who has done this, but more often you hear about these sorts of choices from mothers.

Amy on

I remember thinking about his departure from mainstream Hollywood back then b/c I was a fan. I also remember hearing of his marriage & was very impressed that he made the decision to choose a normal life over all the tabloid hysteria. Is so great to see him back on the small screen, & will continue to follow him! Great role model for all of Hollywood!!!

Tammy Sams on

Chris O’Donnell MUST be an awesome dad!!!!

coco on

Love him on NCIS: LA. So glad he is on there–a class act. What a treat to have a real man in Holly-weird. Way to go Chris. You will never regret putting your family first. So happy for all the blessings in your life. You deserve it! :)

Jack on

I agree with Becka that it is nice to see a celebrity having the right priorities in my opinion. I think he does great in NCIS-LA.

mya63 on

Those 5 little smiling faces are priceless. Hollywood can not touch that!!!

Texan on

Love, Love, Love, Chris!!! So proud of him and for him. What a beautiful family. LOVE NCIS Los Angeles!!

Thanks Chris!

Kathy P on

It’s good to see that there are some people in the limelight that know what’s truly important, and that’s your family. Kudos to Chris for making his family #1.

essie on

I love Chris on NCIS: Los Angeles — see he chose family; and good things still came to him. Good for him!

AubreeS08 on

So good to read a nice family story these days.

Becky on

What an adorable family..Sounds like he’s as lucky as his wife that they have each other and five beautiful kids..

shell on

What a great story! This is a true MAN. So nice to hear a happy story amidst all the cheating and lying scandals that grace the headlines daily.

Nice on

I met Chris back when he was a kid filming Scent of a Woman. At the time, he really was kind of a jerk, but it’s awesome to see how he matured to be a talented guy with his priorities in the right place. His family is lovely and when he does chose to appear on the big or little screens, his performances are memorable. Don’t let them tell you you can’t have it all!

Darcy on

I did not know he was on this show….I will be tuning in soon!

nacho on

How refreshing to see! He has still been able to make a living and raise a family. I’ve liked him since Fried Green Tomatoes. What a great role model! You CAN have it all if you don’t get too greedy in your pursuit.

anneclarey on

A wonderful Catholic husband, father and role model. Well done Chris!

Melisa on

I’ve loved this guy since he was Buddy Threadgoode in Fried Green Tomtatos. What a classy guy, choosing what means the most….family.

layla on

I have so much respect for him. A true family man. Not many men would give up what he did to start a family…heck, not many women would either- and their dealing with a biological clock!
And it’s not just even about starting a family, but also being around to help his wife with raising them. He’s a good man, so doubt about that. may he contiue to be blessed!

Rachelle on

Lovely family. My Border Collie’s name is Finley.

Petesgirl on

I was at the Batman premier and we all headed over to the after party and there were a line of paps taking pictures and they were pushing me out of the way and Chris took me aside and asked if I was ok and then posed for some pictures with me and was just awesome. I will always remember that and appreciate him for his kindness! Beautiful family Chris!

zak on

How refreshing – a “Hollywood” leading man that is truly in love with his family. And proud to show it!! Wish we had more role models like Chris!

bridgette on

So great to see all positive comments. I’ve followed Chris for 15 years and have always thought he was a class act. You never see him in tabloids and rarely even see pictures of him period. He’s not out partying like all the losers in Hollywood, he’s at home taking care of what’s important. And what so awesome is that he’s come back strong with a great role inspite of being gone awhile. Just goes to show who he is count for something. Hope his success continues for many years to come.

Sarah on

Ha! My husband and I do the same kick under the bed and pretend to be asleep act too! Cute family!

Panthers4 on

I am a HUGE Chris O’Donnell fan. This article just confirms what I have said all along – he is AWESOME. Chris was my first crush (and still #1 on my list – think Friends). I only started watching NCIS-LA because I saw he was going to be playing Callen. Yeah – I get to watch him every week. To this day my favorite movie is Scent of A Woman. His performance as Charlie was so endearing. I can’t wait until my daughters are old enough to watch that movie. Thanks for being you Chris. Keep up the GREAT job.

ML Lotus on

He seems like a geniue down to earth guy. Love his work! Of course he is one of many who have been able to work in Hollywood as well as have the family life away from Hollywood. Good for you and best wishes.

Sheryl on

It is so nice to see a man put aside money and fame in favor of rasing a family. His wife is a lucky woman. He is a wonderful actor and now I am please to read a wonderful father and man as well.

Jinx on

Chris is a real man: One who puts family before himself and his career! Chris is also great on NCIS: Los Angeles. It’s interesting that both Chris and Mark Harmon seem to be such upstanding family men with their values in order. Bravo to the NCIS honchos for choosing such two fine leading men, who lead by example both on and off screen.

Angel on

It is nice to see a celebrity with good family values! That is pretty rare today!

Beth on

Chris you are a class act in every way. I’ve always liked your work and am glad that you are back on NCIS LA. Love the show! May others take a page out of your book and perhaps they too will realize that at the end of the day what really matters most isn’t how much money one has or where one ranks on Hollywood’s It List, but where one ranks on their little people’s list!

Sherri on

I’ve always liked Chris, his kids are the cutest, and he is a great golfer. The guy has everything that matters. Best of luck.

JR Jake on

I have been a big fan of Chris’ for a long time, even before NCIS which I have not seen. He and Pacino in ‘The Scent of a Woman’ was a truly good movie for both actors, and you could tell his silent and strong persona transcends his personal life.

Loved the above pictures, beautiful children and adoring father; hat is good stuff. Ahhhhh Chris, that is why God gave us each two legs and two arms. You don’t have to strain your arms and back pulling 10 arms and legs. Just imagine what they could do if you allowed them to WALK instead of you pulling them through sand. Not the easiest thing to do. P.S. Now I know why I never see you plastered all over the tabloids, just a little more than busy with other things I see. Good luck wih your family and career, you have your priorities straight.

Manal on

Sexy dad & beautiful children! but its funny how all of u ppl are saying how great he is because he chose family , but now imagine that if every actor/actress chose this path!we wont be able to enjoy the great performances of Sandra Bullock and Denzel Washington!!

Mandy on

It just proves that celebs who say they can’t get away from the press are lying.

drcarebug on

I love that he puts his family first. His wife was a teacher, not someone in the industry. While he may have made enough from his various acting jobs, I imagine they live frugally compared to others of his calibre. His wife is from a prominent family too if I recall. Either way, money does not seem to be an issue with them and they recognize that you can’t put a price on the time you have with your kids since they grow up so fast and are only there for so long. How nice to hear a bautiful, positive story for a change without any diva behavior, substance issues or infidelity. Keep setting the example O’Donnell family! And not on a reality show!

Mike Rossi on

Great story…as a father of 7, I admire the hell out of him. It’s great figuring out what life really is about…and at a relatively tender age.

Carol on

I have always loved him – at first for his incredible looks and after reading this, the person he is…he is so under used in Hollywood – even if he chooses not to be a big star they should still cast him in movies. So much better than the new crop of youngish actors now.

Traci Manwaring on

The Jimmy Stewart of this generation…indeed.

Suzanne on

The comments to this article are kind of interesting… A few days ago there was a story about Mira Sorvino wanting to stay home with her kids, and the comment section became a war ground for mothers who work and mothers who stay at home… Yet Chris here decided to stay at home and not really work anymore and everyone thinks it’s amazingly commendable. Maybe it’s just because he doesn’t say he didn’t want kids raised by nanies … but what about his comment that if he had worked in big movies he probably wouldn’t have gotten married? What if a woman had made that comment?

Rita on

He made the right decision and he shouldn’t worry, because of this decision if he keeps true God will bless him over and over and he will always be well off. He has a beautiful family and is very blessed.

MOMO on

Usually it’s WOMEN who have to make these choices.. it’s nice to see a MAN forced to make them too..
He will NEVER regret the choice he made.

Gin on

Oh, please. Ron Howard was able to raise a family AND have successful Hollywood career. So did Meryl Streep. And Kevin Bacon. And Schwarzenegger. And many others. Maybe Chris hated the pressure, or maybe he didn’t have the goods to be a major star, but it’s absolute nonsense that he had to make a choice.

Debbie on

I’m also a HUGE fan of Chris O’Donnell. I first fell in love with him in the movie “Men Don’t Leave.” He’s a class act. It’s nice to see how a man can leave Hollywood behind and focus on what really matters in life; love and family. He’s always been a gold standard by which other men in Hollywood should fashion themselves. Priorities in check, great father and husband and not to mention a great actor! He’s amazing!!!

Vanessa on

Not to mention he actually married a normal woman….a school teacher. Is it weird that I think I love him a little bit just for being a regular guy?

Lauren on

I am truly stunned. As soon as I saw the number of comments on this post, I immediately tried to figure out what Chris said to cause yet another uproar. Seeing a comments section full of praise and kudo-well deserved, I might add-is shocking to me after seeing what this site has become in the past two months. What a refreshing sight. I truly hope it doesn’t take a turn for the worse.

Chris isn’t my usual type at all, but I’ve always thought he was totally hot, and his obvious love of family and ability to balance it with work makes me really wish he was MY husband :) In an industry where priorities are so rarely in check, he clearly has his head on straight and has come out on top because of it. Well done, Chris.

Liz on

I LOL’ed at the fake sleep comment, my husband and I do that with our dog! “Oh ok you’re going to get her, I will just stay here then.” Haha. We are 9 months pregnant with our first baby and I am sure that trend will continue!

I love Chris too but also agree with whomever said that some Hollywood actors DO have those big careers and make time for family too, Chris just chose to focus on family more, and that’s his decision and it’s great if that’s what he wanted. Matt Damon comes to mind…HUGE actor, but also big family man too.

Alice on

Beautiful family!! It was a risky decision to make as an actor, if Hollywood forgets you you’re toast! He was brave and it paid off. With a skyrocketing career it’s just hard to drag kids around the world (when they’re older), and if you don’t it’s hard to be away from them I guess, even if some seem do really well (Naomi Watts for example or as the previous poster said, Matt Damon).

Suzanne, quite simply he is not offending anybody. Working in the same area your family lives or away all around the globe is quite a different choice than staying home or not.

Jenni on

Chris O’Donnell’s kids are beautiful. Good for him. But do you all really think he would be doing a TV show if he still had the choice to do movies? No way. “Batman and Robin’s” lack of success, followed by the flop of “The Bachelor”(which was supposed to be his big leading man role) really hurt his momentum, and by then other actors were given a chance to take those roles. I doubt Chris would be saying all of this stuff about “putting on the brakes” if those two movies had been a success and kept getting him offers. His next big role was guesting on “Gray’s Anatomy”.

Liz above mentions Matt Damon, who is a perfect example. Matt and Chris are the same age (and even kind of look alike to me!) yet Matt has the A-list career and still seems to make family a priority. So it can be done.

It’s interesting that Matt Damon once said in an interview that he along with a bunch of young actors (like Ben Affleck, Edward Norton, Brendan Fraser) auditioned for Chris O’Donnell’s role in “Scent of A Woman”. He said Chris was the only one of all the actors who had a script before the audition, and he wouldn’t share it with any of them. Matt didn’t seem to be mad about it, he thought it was funny. But I don’t know… that might be karma biting Chris. All of those guys are still doing work in movies (with varying degrees of success) and Chris isn’t.

Micah on

Truly someone in Hollywood to admire. Someone who actually puts his family first without the usual lip service of doing so. There are many other H.Wood families that I desperately wish would do the same and not be seen or heard from again- the beckhams’, the cruises’, the gosselins’, etc. Chris has proven that you can still be A-list and have a normal family upbringing for your children if you choose to do so. Most in H. Wood choose their own selfish greed before what’s even best for their family. Truly admire Chris and his choices! As another poster said- beautiful family inside as well as out.

LA Girl on

Wake up people…he didn’t choose, the choice was made for him. I knew his brother who said that Chris tried to get a career going again in film Vertical Limit (chris was really counting on this) but that bombed. He couldn’t get anything substantial after that. This “putting family first” is just typical Hollywood PR spin (why would he have his kids sit for a PR photo shoot and then authorize the publication of the pictures?)

Steve on

Chris seems like a good guy and tells a nice story, but it is not based in reality. After Batman and Robin (terrible movie) Chris was in The Bachelor and Vertical Limit. Both were big budget movies that flopped, thus ending his appeal as someone who miight be able to open a film on his own. I’m glad his life turned out well, but he didn’t make the choice, moviegoers did.

Julie on

Chris became a born again Christian several years ago. I believe this is where his good sense of family values comes from. God bless you, Chris! Beautiful family! What a great example you are setting for young men!

Heather on

Wow that’s amazing! It’s so great to see that a few people in Hollywood still have morals, values and standards! NCIS is a great show too. I wish him and his family all the luck and joy in the world.

Chris on

Cute kids!

Beth on

I bet Chris O’Donnell’s wife sees his a lot more than Mr. Damon’s!! He is to be commended for making the choices he made. Still supporting his family, but not being a slave to hollywood.

shannon on

Wow…an actor that put family over fame? Now taht is a true “man”. Chris is from Illinois…a good, old fashioned Midwestern guy. Proud of you!

Melissa on

Ummm, are we forgetting who else was in those ‘career killing’ movies? George Clooney in Batman, and Renee Zellweger in The Bachelor? Yeah, those two never managed to come back from those. Oh, wait, they did. Including Oscar noms and wins for both.

To say Chris chose to make his family a priority simply because his career was beyond repair is just insulting and ignorant. It is the same as saying Renee Zellweger hasn’t had a family because she can’t find a man, or a mom stays at home because she is too lazy/too uneducated/too irresponsible to get a good job, or to say a mom works because they just can’t handle being around their own kids. All arguments are stupid, mean, and just plain wrong. Yes, other actors have had great careers and families. Did they do it well? Did their families suffer? Were their families able stay with them, and in effect get the same kind of time they would if they worked close to home? Do they regret it, or think it was a great experience for their kids? The truth is, we don’t know and have no right to judge when we have zero information. We all have the right to make our own choices, feel good about them, and not be ripped apart by the ignorance of others.

CS on

How refreshing to read about a rare family man. He will never regret his choice to be with those who really love him. What a gorgeous family! Hollywood men need to take note from Chris.

robinepowell on

Cute kids!! At least with five, he managed to get another daughter out of it, lol! :P

LA Girl on

To Melissa- I agree my comments may have come across as mean spirited but ignorate and having zero information on the issue, not really. Having 20+ years working in the entertainment industry and having lived in L.A. my whole life we see the reality of the industry. Chris’ own brother said Vertical Limit was make-it or break-it for him. I’m not judging, I’m just saying…

gigi on

His wife is one lucky lady! Great family man that respects his wife and children! Great to read this story about him. There is some normal people in Hollywood!

Stacey on

Wow – putting family ahead of career in Hollywood? Getting married FIRST? WOW! I’m completely impressed, what a beautiful story and a beautiful family.

Melissa on

LA Girl – I am so far away from the Hollywood scene, I would have no idea about the career piece! Totally bow down to your knowledge about that. You were not the only one making comments about his career sinking and so he had no choice but to focus on the family. That was the part that was mean spirited, especially for those who truly have no idea about his career options. The ignorance comes in where we don’t know what is really in his heart and what he wanted. PR spin or not, we just don’t have the information. I hear you that you are not judging him, but so many on here are and it isn’t fair. That is what I meant by ignorance – we all get to make choices (celebrity or not) about what is best and what works for our family. It isn’t fair to decide that we know how he or anyone really feels about their decisions when we just can’t possibly know their truth.

Abi Vasquez on

Thank you for being such a positive role model. We need more of those in Hollywood. Family is truly where happiness lies and were life is at. Congratulations for being wiser than most celebrities who still haven’t figured it out. I wish you the best!

samantha on

This is odd timing given that online – wikipedia and other sources have recently reported that he is divorced; divorce pending; and marrying co-star Daniela Ruah in June 2010. Dad with kids are beautiful shots. Wikipedia has had the information online then recently changed it. Others still carry it. I am confused and glad that People.com once again clears it up. Thanks for doing a great job!

Anonymous on

So nice to read a story about a celebrity who seems to have his priorities straight! He sounds happier and more satisfied with his life than the other celebs who end up wealthy and super famous but alone and depressed.

Hollywood Anonymous on

This is a great story,and the fact that he put his family first sounds nice and all, but in real life he is not the guy this story makes him out to be. According to one of the main people in charge of filming sites for NCIS LA, Chris is not a very friendly people person and does not like dealing with fans very much. Living in LA my whole life, I would have to for the most part agree with LA Girl.

Desert Belle on

Who cares about what lead him to focus on family? The point is that he is a working high-profie actor who is also a family man and proud of it. I don’t care whether it’s a PR spin or not. So tired of the cynicism from L.A. people.

Lindsay on

you can’t believe everything you read on wikipedia. anyone can edit a page. it sounds like some troll has nothing better to do with his time than toy with rumors that haven’t been substantiated by a reputable source.

as for choosing family over fame, what is wrong with being a television actor? Chris has done films, there are many successful actors who are on TV. And we all watch TV and access it more frequently than film, there is nothing wrong with that medium especially if it allows you to have more time with your family.

Jacqui on

I understand that this is a magazine cover regarding America’s Best Husband, but WHERE IS HIS WIFE??? It just seems a little odd that the children are the only ones represented in the photos. As I recall, a husband includes a WIFE… I have not viewed the rest of the magazine but her absence is marked in this article.

JT on

He seems like a nice enough guy, but, if you watch him in NCIS LA, it does seem as though he is a rather one dimensional actor, with a few facial expressions that he repeats over and over again…..it’s difficult to imagine that he would have become a big movie star….but, it’s nice for him that he is finding success on TV.

Jackie on

I remember literally gasping when Chris appeared on screen in Circle of Friends and I saw that movie so many times because he was just so handsome (his Irish accent stunk but w/e). For years I had a picture of him as Robin in my bathroom – in fact he was the only reason I saw that awful movie. I’m so glad that he is working again and that he appears to be in a very happy marriage.

samantha on

Dear Lindsay,

Thanks for weighing in with your thoughts. Unfortunately, it’s not just wikipedia that has reported Caroline Fentress and Chris O’Donnell have divorced; filed for divorce; divorce pending and that he is engaged to co-star Daniela Ruah, who comes from a prominent Portguese Jewish family. It’s a rather large number of online media that have this information online today.

Others are correct; she (Caroline Fentress) comes from a prominent Washington, DC family where her grandfather is a legend.

Again, thanks to People.com for clearing it up. And, thanks to Chris for letting us know the truth through Redbook and People.com.

MoBo on

Someone please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t Chris in “Dead Poets Society” with Robin Williams? What a beautiful family and I hope the marriage lasts forever and ever. Something so rare in Hollywood makes it all the more precious, i.e., putting family first and striving to be a great Dad makes him very sexy. Best of luck to them all.

h on

sorry but isn’t that a lot of good publicity that he is trying to make? If you say that you try live a normal life and with your wife and kids away from the Hollywood disaster, well don’t pose with your kids in a magasine! but this doesn’t stop me from loving you dear Chris.

Bonnie on

Does it get any better than this?

jennifer on

i thing your doing the right thing and will be a wonderful dad.

ps. lots of love

jenny

Sarah on

He’s so awesome–loved him as a young actor in “Fried Green Tomatoes” from 1991 and one of his latest, “Kit Kitteredge” from a few years ago. I really respect his choices when it comes to family first…what a great Dad and husband he seems to be!! Makes my heart melt…

noam on

mobo: he may have had a small part in “dead poet’s society”, but the two main students are ethan hawke and robert sean leonnard.
and while i’m sure he is a good father and loves spending time with his family, i have to agree that, at least in part, his decision to step away from hollywood came at the hands of moviegoers. sure, george clooney and renee zellweger were his costars in two of his flops, and they’ve gone on to oscars, both of them took a major hit. neither became bankable stars until the early 2000s, and renee zellweger is still not considered able by casting directors to open a film on her own. (bridget jones, with its built-in audience, not withstanding.)

happygolucky66 on

where a photo of his wife?

linda on

love NCIS LA and especially Chris in the role of Callen–
nice to hear he’s a devoted dad and husband — and good to look at too!

lac on

He did not step away from Hollywood after Batman and Robin. Batman and Robin got killed by the critics. That movie almost destroyed Clooney’s career also. Then O’Donnell had two movies that bomb right after that.

It’s nice that he has a great family but don’t try and change history

kate on

I saw him this summer in a french city with a girl, obviously not his wife…

anabelle on

pleaseee be my daddy!i love u soo much i think he is a great dad.. i love him

Tim on

Saw Chris and his lovely wife and wonderful kids on a jetBlue flight. What a lovely family and such well behaved children. Good job Mr. and Mrs. O’Donnell.

sw on

I have to admit that I was never a big fan of Chris O’Donnell and only knew him as the guy who played ‘Robin’ in one of the Batman movies. But since I saw him in NCIS: LA, I was hooked! Infact the only reason I am watching this show is because of him and it is because of this show that I am now a big fan of his. I’ve watched a couple of his interviews online and I have to say that he comes across as a pleasant, funny and nice guy. I like the fact that he mentions his wife and kids in his interviews and also speaks well of his fellow NCIS: LA cast members. He looks even better now and I definitely love looking at those beautiful blue eyes of his! His wife is surely the luckiest woman on earth!

Claudia on

Super family man!! As it ought to be??
Go Chris & Caroline, show Hollywood how it can be!!

cj on

believes women belong in the kitchen though…

shoney on

I am a huge fan of Chris O’Donnell. He is gorgeous and a great actor. I love him on NCIS LA and i will keep watching as long as he is in the show. Love him.

Carole mb on

Have watched him since fried green tomatoes and he’s still just as great as ever

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