known as "the fat kid" in Stand By Me, the guy in that
bug movie, Joe's Apartment, and now a tomcat in his latest
offering of the same name. But he still doesn't mind being asked
if he was "the fat kid in that movie."
O'Connell is one popular guy at Dukes, a small diner on Hollywood's
Sunset Strip. The waitresses call him by name, and two young,
attractive women ask to take his photograph (with them of course), and
more than a few female heads turn to catch a glimpse of his blue eyes,
while he devours a stack of banana pancakes. He's on an adrenaline
high having just flown back to the West Coast from a weekend in New York
where he hosted Total Request Live on MTV to the delight of hundreds of
screaming young fans.
the age of 27, has amassed some 18 films including Joe's Apartment,
Jerry Maguire, Scream 2, and Mission to Mars, since his debut in Stand
By Me in 1986. His latest celluloid offering, Tomcats (by Gossip
and Rosewood writer Gregory Poirier in his directorial debut) is the
story of a group of single guys who've vowed to never cross the marital
threshold, which according to the handsome actor, is "almost
Tell me about your new movie Tomcats.
Jerry O'Connell: It's basically about six guys who are
tomcats, who swear they'll never get married. For me it was what I
refer to as N.A.N., no-acting necessary, because I am a 27-year-old
single guy, living in the heart of Hollywood, stumbling distance to the
Skybar. The guys make a bet, last bachelor standing wins.
The money is properly invested, and what was sort of a meager amount soon
becomes 800,000 bucks. It comes down to me and Jake Busey, Gary
Busey's son, who is hysterical. I don't know if you've ever
partied with one of the Buseys, but I definitely suggest it before your
partying days are over. Anyway, I come up with a scheme to get him
married off by getting in touch with one of his ex-ex-ex-girlfriends,
who's portrayed by Shannon Elizabeth.
She got big
fast after American Pie.
She got big real fast. I was really excited to work with her,
but not nearly as excited as my 15-year-old cousin and his entire high
school of 600 students. I could win the Nobel Peace Prize and my
cousin couldn't give a shit, but do a movie with Shannon Elizabeth...I
knew that's when I had to sign on to do this movie. I go to work
on Monday morning, and they say, "Okay Jerry, we're going to chain
you to the bedposts and our lovely actress is going to come around and
whip you...annnnd 'Action!'" And I get paid for it! So,
I definitely wanted to get involved in this project. I'd just come
off of Mission to Mars, which was directed by Brian De Palma - and I
don't want to say I was bored, but I had the itch to work with people my
own age, and definitely the itch to kiss a lot of cute actresses.
enjoyed the research for Tomcats?
Oh, it was the best! I have to tell you, I don have an
adolescent view about doing lovemaking scenes with Shannon
Elizabeth. I really do get genuinely excited for it. I
really got into it. And then I was abruptly interrupted by the
director going "Cut!" and opening my eyes and being surrounded
by fifty fat guys holding microphones and lights around me. She'd
scurry off to her trailer saying, "Okay, see you
tomorrow." I'd be like, "Wait, what about the
scene? Didn't you feel any sparks?" I have to learn to
differentiate my set life from my real life.
screenplays as well.
I came out to L.A. to do a television show called Sliders with this
secret desire to write. Here I am from NY Film [New York
University's Tisch School of the Arts], and I felt like I'd sold myself
out by moving to L.A. while all my friends were living in New York
trying to get their independent movies off the ground. I really
think that sort of independent scene doesn't hack it here in Los Angeles
- it's not a town about making an independent movie. My agents
weren't really into any of the scripts I was handing them, so I thought,
I'm going to write a script that will shut these guys up. I wrote
a script called First Daughter, about the president's daughter going to
college, and the Secret Service hiring a young, rookie Secret Service
agent to protect her in school (unbeknownst to her), and she falls for
him and finds out he's been lying to her...anyway, I wrote the most
marketable script. It sold in like an hour, and that's when I gave
in to living in Los Angeles. That's when I said, "Maybe I
should get a dentist out here. Maybe I'm not about New York.
I am kind of a pretty boy, maybe I should stop thinking about taking
Sundance by storm. My script is "in Development" as they
What do you
do when you're not writing scripts?
I go to the Santa Anita Racetrack a lot. Recently I went there
with my brother (actor Charlie O'Connell), and we're at the Turf Club
and we were having a really good day, winning a lot of money, and Mickey
Rooney was there. He was by himself, and he was like, "C'mere.
what do you think of this race?" We sat with him for the rest
of the day and we did really well, won a lot of money.
We were walking out, and he said, "what do you guys do?" And I
told him I was an actor. He said, "Remember something.
There are two types of people in this world: People who are in
show business, and people who want to be in show business. don't
ever forget that."
"...I was very hyperactive and had all this energy, and
I was always being scolded for an inability to concentrate."
You've had a
movie almost every year since you were 12-years-old.
started in that movie Stand By Me, which is still an unbelievable
film. I knew it was an unbelievable film when we did it. I
was taking this film theory class in school, and had this English
professor who said one day, "Today we're going to be watching this
film called Stand By Me, done in 1986, directed by Rob Reiner."
I was like, Oh my God, I can't believe they're going to show this
movie. For an hour and a half, the entire class analyzed the
film. I wanted to raise my hand and say, You know guys, I was
there that day when the "Biblical rain scene" was filmed, and
I remember Rob Reiner screaming at the top of his lungs because he was
so pissed off it was raining, so I think you guys ought to calm down a
Do you get tired
of people remembering you as the fat kid in the movie?
can't get tired of it, you know? I know a lot of actors don't like
to talk about their earlier body of work, but it's such a great
movie. I think it's fabulous. Am I un-proud of it? No,
how could I be?
like growing up in the public eye from ages 12 to 27?
I'm a little different than a child actor. I lived in new
York, and neither of my parents worked in the industry, my mom was a
teacher, my dad was in advertising. They were very artsy, and they
were sort of '80's bohemians living in a huge loft in Chelsea, and there
was a really cool movement during the '80's there with all these wacky
performance artists and stuff, and my parents were into all that.
When Stand By Me came out, I was in JHS-17 Public Junior High in New
York, and those guys could really give a shit about whether I was in a
movie or whether I had a buzz around me in L.A. But When I
finished high school, I thought maybe I should try this acting
thing. My brother and I were always involved in performance type
stuff, but strictly extracurricular at that point. When I did
Stand By Me, it wasn't like I was a bad kid, but I was very hyperactive
and had all this energy, and was always being scolded for the inability
to concentrate. When I did the movie, I realized that my behavior
was not only allowed, it was encouraged. I realized at a very
early age that this might be the business for me. But I had to go
to college to appease, specifically, my mom.
a few episodes of your TV show. Are you interested in directing
In the final season, I got to write and produce some episodes, but I
don't like to produce or direct. After you've been spoiled as a
Hollywood actor, you really get used to things like A) Kissing
actresses, that's a big plus. You can't do that as a director, and
if you do, there's some sort of lawsuit saying you can't; B) You come
into work in the morning and someone combs your hair, someone shaves
you, they make you look pretty. You come onto the set, you get to
hang out and be funny with everybody. You do a scene and you go
back to your trailer where you have a two-hour break and you get to
sleep. A very pretty assistant wakes you up and you go back to the
set and be the funny guy again. It's literally like being paid to
be the life of the party.
happy being an actor?
I've really started to like - and I know it will be made fun of -
but I like acting since I did Tomcats. during a 15-hour work day,
you get to laugh the whole time. There was such a youthful energy
on set, all these cute girls, the director Greg Poirier is a young,
mid-30's, really funny and talented guy. I'm not really good at a
lot of things, but I am pretty good at doing comedy. It is
legitimately like hanging out, but the food is free, and you are paid an
outrageous sum of money to do it. We were shooting in Las Vegas
for two weeks, and that took a substantial chunk out of the money I made
to do this film.
It dipped a little deeper than my per diem! I definitely took
a hit. We were gambling in the movie, and the nice thing about
that is that you're using prop chips, fake chips. We would work
from four am until four p.m., the hours the casino would let us
film. At four p.m. I would swear I was going to sleep, and you
find yourself saying, "Well, I'll play a couple of hands of
blackjack, it's only four p.m. I'll go to sleep at eight
p.m." you look at your watch and now it's midnight, and a
couple of the crew come down and say, "Let's get a couple of
beers," and before you know it, it's three a.m. and you have to be
at work in an hour. You think, I have to go back to my room and
drink some coffee, or I'll have to go to work drunk.
So this movie
Yeah. It definitely was. Here I am, 27, certainly not
getting married anytime soon. I can't keep a plant alive for more
than a week, I don't know how I could last in a relationship for more
an actor help in meeting girls?
I'm not going to lie to you. I definitely love it.
People coming up to me is definitely starting to happen more and more. I
genuinely enjoy it. A lot of actors don't like it. They
think it's an invasion of privacy. Oh my God, it's so much
fun. Can you imagine having some hot woman come up and ask if you
would sign an autograph, and you say, "No, I'm sorry, I
can't." I know lots of people who would say that. I
think it's because they start to believe the people they surround
themselves with, the Colonel Parker syndrome. It's ridiculous, and
I think those people aren't having that much fun with what they
do. I'm sorry, but I'm on a little bit of a high after doing the
MTV thing this weekend. I'm a little excited about what I do
today. Talk to me in about three months of unemployment and I'll
be sitting here in my underwear saying, "Oh Jesus, what's going
on...I want to go back to New York...this is bullshit...I should have
stuck with the stage."
photographed by Trevor O'Shana