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The Sapphires - Chris O'Dowd interview

The Sapphires

Interview by Rob Carnevale

CHRIS O’Dowd talks about what appealed to him about starring in The Sapphires, an Aboriginal tale of four female singers who found fame singing for the troops in Vietnam, and what it was like to shoot in Saigon.

He also talks about bonding with his co-stars and learning to play the piano. He was speaking at a press conference held during the London Film Festival.

Q. This is based on a true story, so how aware were you of the true story before you did this film?
Chris O’Dowd: I didn’t know a sausage! I barely knew of Australia at that stage [laughs]. But then I looked into it a little bit, found out about the stage play that Deb [Mailman] and Wayne [Blair, the film’s director] were in and that was it, and then more about the real women themselves.

Q. So, you hit Google pretty hard?
Chris O’Dowd: I Googled hard, yes!

Q. How much research did you do into your character?
Chris O’Dowd: The impression I get is that he’s kind of an accumulation of different people. I know that there was an Irish uncle as well. I don’t think he’s necessarily drawn from anyone specific.

Q. When the script arrived, why did it speak to you?
Chris O’Dowd: Well, there were a few different factors. I loved the world and I felt like I didn’t know anything about it. We’re very privileged in the acting business where we get to learn about things through work, and not having to span through our old Encyclopaedia Britannica, which I still do, although it’s more of a toilet occupation now! So, I wanted to educate myself a little bit and I felt like I loved the music so much and was listening to it, just coincidentally, a lot at the time. And it felt like, for me, something very different. So, a combination of those things really.

Q. How did you go about bonding with this sisterhood?
Chris O’Dowd: I came in probably a little bit later than everybody else, but I met them in Aubrey and I presumed that they had known each other for years because there was so much bickering even at that early stage. I grew up in a house full of women, so I felt very comfortable in that surrounding and knowing that you could be loved and humiliated within a heartbeat of each other. So, that’s what it’s like hanging out with these wonderful women.

Q. How did you pick up the piano? Is that authentic playing?
Chris O’Dowd: A little bit! I only came on board about three weeks before the film started so I didn’t really have much time to learn how to play the piano. So, I learned how to play two or three songs and it was OK. It was kind of playing piano by numbers really – I know that it sounds right but I have no idea why.

Q. What was it like filming in Vietnam?
Chris O’Dowd: I did kind of feel when we were being driven through in one of the American army trucks as if I wanted to say: “We’re back!” But I stifled that urge [laughs]!

Read our review of The Sapphires