Chris O’Donnell: Why Batman And Robin May Have Been His Best Year

Chris O'Donnell has done a lot of great work, but people tend to focus on some of those failures.

By Rick Gonzales | Published

Chris O’Donnell

When you think about actor Chris O’Donnell, what comes to mind first? His wonderful turn playing Charlie Simms opposite Al Pacino in Scent of a Woman? Or the crap-filled role as D’Artagnan in Disney’s horrible attempt at the remake of The Three Musketeers? Or worse, maybe you think of him as the Boy Wonder, Dick Grayson/Robin in two mostly hated Batman movies: Batman Forever and Batman & Robin.

Chris O’Donnell has done a lot of great work, but people tend to focus on some of those failures, failures that really weren’t his fault. And that may explain where he’s ended up. But the NCIS: Los Angeles star has one of the longest, and really most successful careers around.


Chris O’Donnell

Chris O’Donnell started out as a movie actor. Feature films. For the most part. His very first role was on the TV series Jack and Mike when he then made his jump to features. Men Don’t Leave, Fried Green Tomatoes, and School Ties were just a few examples of his early on screen work.

While he got recognition for those early releases, it was Scent of a Woman that put Chris O’Donnell on the map. He was becoming the big-screen heartthrob many expected him to be and while The Three Musketeers didn’t derail him, it could have. Thankfully for Chris, he was able to move past that and on to bigger and better things. He was in Circle of Friends, then starred in the 1995 hit Mad Love with Drew Barrymore.


Batman and Robin

Batman Forever actually was promising. Chris O’Donnell introduction as Dick Grayson was not entirely hated, in fact it added what many fans at the time wanted. A Robin to Val Kilmer’s Batman. It worked so well, they went back to it one more time with the George Clooney Batman-led dud, 1997’s Batman & Robin.

Perhaps “dud” is an understatement. George Clooney may have said it best when he admitted, “I think we might have killed the franchise.” He was almost right. After B&R, it was a decade before we saw Batman on the big screen again.

Chris O’Donnell as Robin
Chris O’Donnell as Robin

Surprisingly, before Batman & Robin came out, there were big plans to have Chris O’Donnell in a Robin spinoff. He told Access Hollywood Live’s Billy Bush and Kit Hoover in a live interview, “They were going to do one back in the day,” O’Donnell said. “And then [‘Batman & Robin’] was such a bomb, they were like, ‘Scrap that!’ That was the end of that.”

Chris O’Donnell has also spoken about his decision to pass on the lead in Men in Black, the role that eventually went to Will Smith. “You know what, there’s always stuff like that that comes up and it’s different reasons at the time and I don’t know, you just keep moving on,” O’Donnell revealed to Bush and Hoover. “But you can’t look back and say, ‘It would’ve been the same film if I had done it.’ Things work out for a reason. There are lots of films that I passed on, that thank God I passed on because other things wouldn’t have happened,” he added.



Even with the disaster called Batman & Robin, Chris O’Donnell remained relevant. He attempted to continue on with feature films starring in The Bachelor, Vertical Limit, and 29 Palms, but it just wasn’t working anymore. So, he did what many actors have done in the past: move to television.

Suddenly Chris O’Donnell’s face was seen on series such as The Practice, Two and a Half Men, Head Cases, Grey’s Anatomy, and The Company.

He would eventually find a permanent home when he grabbed a role on the long-running hit series NCIS: Los Angeles. The show ran for 14 seasons, covering 323 episodes, of which Chris O’Donnell was a part of each and every one.

It finally concluded its run in 2023 which was a shame for fans. But it’s very underrated that Chris O’Donnell was part of this franchise for such a long time.

Chris O’Donnell
Chris O’Donnell on NCIS

During the 12-season run, Chris O’Donnell has continued to dabble in other projects, but the most part, he seems to finally have found his niche. And that’s a good thing because all in all, Chris is a good actor.

Now Chris O’Donnell is in his 50s and still happily married to Caroline Fentress, his wife for more than two decades. The couple married the year Batman & Robin was released and now they have five children together. So maybe 1997 was the worst year for Chris’s career, but it was also one of the best years for the O’Donnells.

Maybe Chris O’Donnell would have ended up a huge movie star if not for Batman & Robin. Maybe not. Either way, it probably wasn’t his fault. There were many cooks in that kitchen. It’s good to know that in the end, Chris has landed on his feet.