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Eric Christian Olsen: 'Fired Up' actor talks about cheerleaders, keeping it light and the president

February 19, 2009|Michael Ordona

Eric Christian Olsen didn't have to do much research to play a high school Mr. Smooth in the new comedy "Fired Up."

"It's a lot of me when I was 22 years old," he says. "You think you have things figured out. You have such strong convictions and no perspective, and at the end of Act III you find out you were completely wrong. And he thinks he's better looking than he is. So, yeah, there are some great similarities there.

"As far as 'smoothability' -- that's the technical term -- I asked them what they wanted and they said, 'It's "Wedding Crashers," that story, so the Vince Vaughn character.' So I went back and watched 'Swingers' and all those movies."

But, he added firmly, "not 'Four Christmases.' "

Olsen and Nicholas D'Agosto ("Heroes") play teenage lotharios eschewing football camp for cheerleading camp -- happier hunting grounds, for sure. The film focuses on their relentless quest for girls and what comedy there is to be found in the world of high-stakes cheering. In training for their roles, the actors discovered that cheerleaders are, in fact, athletes.

"You're picking up grown women, throwing them 15 feet in the air and then catching them. Repeatedly, for eight straight hours," Olsen says. "We threw [costar] Sarah Roemer and she landed on Nick's face. We dropped somebody on her head. Brutal."

Did the pressure get to Olsen? A video of him balefully tearing into a crew member for not having regulation pompoms for rehearsal has hit the Internet.

"That was wrong, wasn't it? Completely unnecessary," he says with a smile, then laments that in his obvious parody of Christian Bale's recently released rant at a crew member, he forgot the most famous line, the one about being "done professionally" with the man. "We did it [the day the Bale story broke]; we put it up on Funny or Die on Saturday or something."

Olsen is a frequent contributor to that comedy website, since he was invited to create a male version of a certain badly behaved socialite: Co-creator Chris Henchy said, " 'We want you to do the brother of Paris Hilton. We're going to have you coming out of a car with your [genitals] hanging out.' I was like, 'OK, let's do it!' "

The video's popularity prompted later installments, including a meandering "sex tape" with a pre-"Desperate Housewives" Eva Longoria and one in which Olsen's Perry Hilton simply bothers Jeremy Piven on the street. But as much as Olsen enjoys impish improvisation, he more than met his match on "Fired Up" in John Michael Higgins, a veteran of the Christopher Guest stable of improv actors.

"He's a genius, that guy," Olsen said in his downtown L.A. apartment. In one outtake, Higgins a-g-g-r-e-s-s-i-v-e-ly admonishes a crowd of hundreds of cheerleaders. "He goes, 'Think if this was World War II and the Germans came in . . . ' and what would happen if we were all in the Army and not listening and the Nazis took over Chicago. And then he starts performing the musical 'Chicago' in German."

Olsen has been mixing it up professionally, following "Fired Up" with a stint on the ABC drama "Brothers & Sisters." Coming months will see the indie "Sunshine Cleaning" with Amy Adams and Emily Blunt, and "The Six Wives of Henry Lefay" with Elisha Cuthbert and Paz Vega. The avid reader (currently tearing through Ron Suskind's "The Way of the World," which the actor says may be "the most important book of the year") and world traveler campaigned for Barack Obama and proudly displays a framed photograph of himself shaking hands with the man who is now president..

Still, Olsen makes no apologies for the lowbrow level of some of his best-known work.

"If you can find a moment to laugh at something, no matter how juvenile, you couldn't be luckier," he says. "I totally embrace that."




Where you've seen him

Eric Christian Olsen, who grew up in Bettendorf, Iowa, made his film debut as a gunner in "Pearl Harbor" (2001) after a few turns on episodic television. In a little less than a decade, he has racked up more than 30 credits, including "Not Another Teen Movie" (2001), "Cellular" (2004), "The Last Kiss" (2006, written by Paul Haggis and costarring Zach Braff), "License to Wed" (2007, with Robin Williams), and last year's box-office hit "Eagle Eye." He has also had extended TV runs on "Get Real," "Tru Calling," "The Loop" and "Brothers & Sisters." Recently he has gained notoriety for his Perry Hilton spoof videos on the website Funny or Die.

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