Chris O'Donnell has been one of Hollywood's go-to good guys since the early 90s. Recognizable from his roles playing Dick Grayson/Robin in Batman & Robin and Batman Forever, D'Artagnan in The Three Musketeers, and Charlie Sims in Scent of a Woman, it seemed like O'Donnell was on the path to becoming one of the next big movie stars. But towards the end of the 90s, he started slowing down and decided that he wanted to prioritize starting a family over having a big film career.
O'Donnell grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, Illinois, one of seven children. Though he catapulted to the big leagues after earning a Golden Globe nomination for his role opposite Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman, he knew he had reached a crossroads in his life.
"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 explained to Redbook Magazine.
"I knew when I got into this business I couldn't have it both ways: I could live the playboy lifestyle, which is not a bad thing to do, or have a traditional family life, which is how I grew up. And that was more important to me."
O'Donnell first met his current wife Caroline Fentress in the early 90s, when he was still appearing in small roles in films like Fried Green Tomatoes, School Ties, and Men Don't Leave. She was the younger sister of his friend Andrew and after sharing an impromptu kiss, he couldn't stop thinking about her. But it would be another three years before they saw each other again.
"One night I was out with Andrew and said, "What is that little sister of yours up to? Let's give her a call." So we did, and she was like, "Why are you calling me?" I didn't really know why, except that I had never forgotten her. And we started talking...We dated for three years and got married when I was 26."
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The actor was at the height of his fame, starring opposite Minnie Driver in Circle of Friends, Renee Zellweger in The Bachelor, Drew Barrymore in Mad Love, and Gene Hackman in The Chamber, but he knew that Caroline was the one for him. Despite being young at the time, he just couldn't imagine not being married to her.
Caroline grew up with the same family values as her famous hubby and they knew they wanted to have a big family. They have five children together -- Lily, 20, Christopher Jr., 19, Charlie, 16, Finley, 13, and Maeve, 12. While you'd think the couple might need a little help with five kids, they actually don't have a nanny. Over the years they have worked together to maintain a family life that works for them which is definitely impressive. It doesn't hurt that O'Donnell's sister and four kids live in the neighborhood either. Despite being in Los Angeles, the O'Donnells are really living the ultimate family life where they are close to their neighbors and love hosting barbecues.
These days, O'Donnell is best known for his role as G. Callen opposite LL Cool J on the popular CBS procedural NCIS: Los Angeles. His character even had a crossover appearance on an episode of Hawaii Five-0. While prioritizing his family, O'Donnell has still had a somewhat active career over the years. He was in the thriller Vertical Limit as well as Max Payne, family-friendly films like Kit Kittredge: An American Girl and Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore, as well as dramas Kinsey and In Love and War. Outside of NCIS: LA, he's had numerous memorable TV roles on shows including Two and a Half Men, Grey's Anatomy, The Company, and American Dad.
Starring on your own TV show can make you quite busy so O'Donnell has managed to make time for his family by bringing his wife and kids on NCIS from time to time. Though he wouldn't be opposed to any of his children wanting to work in the entertainment industry, he makes sure they know how much hard work it would require.
"I think it's just great exposure to what else is out there in the world," O'Donnell told Entertainment Tonight. "I don't know if any of my kids will actually end up in this industry, and if they do that's terrific, but if my children think they're just going to walk in and have their own television show, that's just not a reality."
At the end of the day, it's not his career that makes him the happiest, he explains to Redbook. O'Donnell feels fulfilled just taking in his family and the life they've built together.
"When I'm sitting in the backyard at the end of the day with a glass of wine, watching the kids having fun and clowning around, for me, that's what it's all about. I have my own worries and concerns and frustrations, but I'm doing something I love to do. My wife and kids are in good shape. What is there not to be happy about?"
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