BuzzineFilm: Starring in Tear-Jerker Based on the Novel of the Same Name: ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’

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Published: August 14, 2009

Emmanuel Itier: We all want to know what you’re wearing. Let’s get it out of the way.
Rachel McAdams: We don’t know how to pronounce it. The designer is Abaete. What are you wearing, Eric?

Eric Bana: The only thing you need to know is it looks a lot better on me.

RM: You should have seen us this morning.

EB: It’s a little tight.

EI: Did this movie create a little family? The way the director [Robert Schwentke] was describing it, you guys kind of formed a family to make this family feeling work. Is that the case, in terms of the atmosphere on set and all?
EB: I think it happens on every film. I think the best thing about our job is it’s always a mini-summer camp. This film was probably a little more intimate because it’s so heavily focused on the two characters. We had great kids to work with — our kids were fantastic.

RM: Great kids, yeah. All of them.

EB: And good actors. The two sisters playing Alba were just phenomenal — kind of scary-good.

RM: I wanted to pick their brains.

EI: What’s the difference between acting with an American accent and an Australian accent?
EB: I don’t really think about it. I guess I’ve been doing it long enough now that it’s not really something I think about too much anymore. Clarke ended up Australian simply because there was really no reason for him to be American. I read the script, and he doesn’t come in until an hour and a half into the film, and I would be ashamed to do this guy any other way. There’s no real reason for him not to be Australian.

EI: Did you just say that to Judd Apatow [for Funny People]?
EB: That’s what I did. I said, “Look, he’s fantastically crazy, but I think I can make him a tiny bit crazier.” So it was for all the right reasons that I wanted to make him Australian.

EI: And this guy?
EB: This guy, I had no negotiation — he was American. I didn’t put up a fight for that.

EI: Did this movie have more wardrobe changes than anything else you’d ever done?

EB: That’s interesting. I didn’t actually notice it. I noticed your wardrobe more than mine.

RM: Half the time, you weren’t in clothes. [Laughs]

EB: He’s talking about in the movie. I felt like you had a lot of changes.

EI: You had to do a lot of periods.
RM: We spanned their lifetime, basically.

EI: You were naked a lot.
RM: I’m sorry I brought that up.

EB: I was trying to avoid the question.

EI: Did that come up — the nakedness?
EB: Here’s what happened. The film is rated PG 13. I never thought you would see any of me in the film, so when I signed on, I seriously thought I would never have to drop my drawers, and I did, and that’s fine. I’ve made peace with it. [Laughs] I made sure not to turn around; I made sure to do it as little as possible.

EI: Did you feel you missed your opportunity? Here he is getting all that time…
RM: Juicy nudity time. No, I was happy to give it over.

EI: Do you have it written in your contracts when you do a movie? People tell me it’s down to the side of your breasts…

EB: I like the left cheek better than the right cheek. I’ve never read my contract that closely, to be honest.

RM: It’s always in there, even if there’s absolutely no way your clothes are coming off. It’s always dealt with in some fashion.

EI: What is the nature of true romance?

RM: I think there’s a definite choice being made between these two characters. I think they choose to be together every day. I think they could walk away, and when Clare says she doesn’t have a choice, in that moment, I think it’s out of frustration, but I think she genuinely means that this is the man she loves, and it’s chemistry and it’s alchemy, and whatever your challenges are, you make it work somehow. She really wouldn’t have it any other way. You could be with a man who doesn’t have chromosomal displacement disorder and have some kind of other problem.

EI: What are your thoughts, Eric?
EB: I love the fact that you have a mixture of the thing that usually sends people crazy, which is unrequited love, mixed in with a couple that is actually together and had real and present love. I hadn’t ever seen a story with those two elements combined, and I have no idea exactly why so many people go so crazy over the book in different ways and connect with it so deeply. It’s different for every person, but I know, for me, one of the things was that. It’s almost like a mixture of two themes, where you do have a present couple who are living and loving, and then on the other side, you have two people who can’t be together. I was really intrigued by that.

EI: What does the time travel element add to the mix for both of you? It takes a love story and makes it a fantasy story, in a sense. If you removed that, the film wouldn’t work in quite the same way.
RM: It’s something I think we both deal with as actors — it’s separation, it’s falling off the face of the Earth sometimes, to the other side of it. I think it’s this thing that tears you away from the people you love, and I think that’s something that’s fairly relatable.

EB: It’s also about synchronicity too. For anyone who’s in a relationship, if you imagine you’re with your partner today, and if your partner met another version of you today that was like the ten years previous model, that’s not quite as good and not quite as well-sorted, would you even be together? I love those moments between Henry and Clare where the tables are turned, and Clare has the upper hand because she knows so much about older Henry, and here’s a young Henry. There are a lot of really interesting things there about how much we evolve as people.

EI: Do you think it reflects your own marriage at all?

EB: I can relate to the travel and being together and apart theme clearly. I think every actor can, and I think the same for journalists. Anyone who travels a lot for work, you can relate to it. One of the weird things about the film is that it’s the first film I’ve done where being an actor is perfect preparation for the part because there’s so much we can relate to.

EI: Tell us about the scene as a teenager.
RM: It was fun to be 16 again. We spent a lot of time talking about the hair, the clothes, the makeup…and I worked with such amazingly talented people and, with just a brush stroke, they would change my face a little bit. Same with the older Clare as well. I looked at myself in the mirror one day and I didn’t really realize we were doing the older Clare that day, and I said, “Oh, I’m looking a little haggard.” [Laughs] They said, “Oh, don’t worry. It’s paint.”

EI: Rachel, you didn’t have to travel to make this movie. How was it being able to go home at night after the shooting?
RM: That’s a really nice gift — to just roll from work right to bed — but at the same time, you’re almost responsible for more because you’re living two lives — you have your work life and you have your regular life, and you have to come home and clean the toilet and go buy groceries, and when you’re on location, it’s a little bit more — you’re just sort of immersed in your work and it’s different.

EI: Did you show Eric around Toronto?
EB: You gave us a little list for me and the family to check out a few things. We did see the tower in end. We went to Niagara Falls…we crossed a few things off the list.

EI: You’ve been to Niagara Falls as well?
RM: Oh sure, yeah, hundreds of times.

EB: Canada’s wonderland.

EI: It’s hard to imagine this film with any other actors besides the two of you — such great chemistry. Did you realize that when you got together and started rehearsing? Is chemistry something you can actually tell?
EB: Here’s a weird thing. I knew straight away that Rachel and I would get along, and that became apparent very quickly, but it doesn’t really mean anything. It’s great for us and it’s a bonus for us, and it makes our day-to-day job easier, but there are plenty of examples of people who have had fantastic chemistry or people who have actually been together in real life as a couple who have had terrible chemistry on screen, or had no chemistry in real life and had this “Wow, there’s something going on between those two,” so in the end, it was a bonus for us that we enjoyed each other’s company, but I think we’re also aware that it’s not really up to us — it’s up to the audience to either accept what’s there or not.

RM: Like you said before, the story lends to chemistry or it doesn’t, because you can’t express that you’re madly in love with a person over a lunch. It has to develop story-wise. You have to have the support and backbone from the script that accentuates that.

EB: Our characters, and us as actors, had a lot of meat to play with. There wasn’t this pressure that, “Wow, we need to convince everyone that we’re in love from one scene.” Like, “By the end of dinner, if they don’t really believe that we’re a couple, we’re screwed.” We had time and great tools. I felt that, as an audience member, this was a far more realistic couple that had trials and tribulations and fights, that says as much about love as an amazing first date.

EI: Rachel, does Sherlock Holmes feel like the biggest blockbuster you’ve ever been a part of?

RM: Oh yes, definitely. I think it is.

EI: What’s that like, to be on a set like that?
RM: Oh it’s so fun, because everything is so realistic, and we’re shooting in the real dungeons of London. I had the most beautiful costumes, and everything’s fairly authentic. It was great.

EI: Are you supposed to have chemistry with Sherlock Holmes?
RM: We do have a certain kind of chemistry — more like an experiment-gone-wrong. We tangle in an interesting way.

EI: I take it you do an accent.
RM: I do.

EB: Australian? [Laughs]

EI: Did you teach her?
EB: Why don’t you try that?

RM: I will, one day.

EI: We’ll have to hear your version.

RM: I’m actually from New Jersey, so there’s a certain lilt to the late 1800s…

EI: Victorian New Jersey?

RM: Exactly. Not a lot of experts on Victorian New Jersey, by the way.

EI: Did you two do a lot of conversation about time travel? Did you ever think about the ideas or work anything out about it?
EB: I don’t remember any time traveling conversations.

RM: No, we’re having them all now.

EB: I have no interest in going back in parts of my life. I’d rather go before I was born — ’50s, 60′s… Maybe go and see some bands just before they’re about to break.

EI: Like?
EB: Any great band — even bands I’m not into, but just to see The Beatles or U2 in their hometown before anyone discovered them — those moments.

EI: Rachel?
RM: This film made me think about going back and seeing the people you love in a different time, like seeing my parents fall in love or seeing them as children, and how fun that would be.

EI: Eric, what about Star Trek with the villain? That was a blockbuster. Where does that fit into your life?
EB: No idea. Where do they all fit in? That was an unbelievable experience, and it’s such a great group of actors on that movie. I didn’t get to work with all of them individually. I got to know them on this massive junket that we were on, which was a lot of fun. There’s nothing about that film that wasn’t an amazing amount of fun and a great experience.

EI: Would you do another one if they found a way to sneak you back in?
EB: It’s just the one time for me.

EI: Anything cut from the finished film that’s going to be on the DVD?
EB: Oh I’m sure, yeah.

EI: I happened to have read the comic book that actually explains in far more detail about Nero.
EB: There were a few scenes — it wasn’t a heap. There is some detail, but nothing really that I think leaves you with any less clue of who Nero is. There was a sequence in jail and him escaping from jail. You’re kind of bummed when your fight sequences go because you worked on them and stuff, but could totally understand the editor’s pain. I can see why they dropped things.

EI: Rachel, what’s after Sherlock Holmes?
RM: I’m just finishing up Morning Glory with Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton.

EI: That’s a comedy?
RM: It is a comedrama, I like to call it.

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