Published: August 4, 2009
Since her performance in The Notebook, (arguably the chick flick of the decade), actress Rachel McAdams has been crowned the new queen of romance. Up until now, Australian actor Eric Bana has been better known for his macho Alpha-male portrayals in movies like Hulk, Munich and Star Trek. The two seem an unlikely combo to bring a beloved romance from page to screen. But that’s exactly what they’ve done.
The duo will grace screens nationwide on August 14 in the film adaptation of Audrey Niffenger’s bestseller (written by Ghost scribe Bruce Joel Rubin), The Time Traveler’s Wife. Bana is Henry, a man born with a unique genetic mutation that allows (or rather forces him) to time travel back and forth to the most important moments of his life. On many of his trips, Henry is drawn to Claire (McAdams), a beautiful child who develops into a stunning young woman before Henry’s eyes. Claire and Henry are a couple drawn together by a force greater than themselves. But can their love withstand the pressure of a “disease” that is designed to constantly keep them from one another?
CinemaSpy recently sat down with both actors to discuss the mind-bending implications of a love story that has no time-line (and we may have worked in a question or two in about Bana’s numerous nude scenes).
CinemaSpy: Director Robert Schwentke said that you created a family environment on set to help portray the family in the film. Do you really feel like a family now?
Eric Bana: I think that happens on every film. It’s always a mini-summer camp. This one was probably a little more intimate because it’s so heavily focused on the two characters of Henry and Claire. But we also had two great kids to work with and they were fantastic. Good actors. The two girls playing Alba (real-life sisters Tatum and Hailey McCann) were just phenomenal.
CinemaSpy: Did this movie have more wardrobe changes than anything else you’ve ever done?
Eric Bana: It’s interesting. I didn’t really notice it. [To Rachel McAdams…] I actually noticed your wardrobe more than mine.
Rachel McAdams: Cause half the time you were naked. I did have a lot of changes. We span their entire lifetime.
CinemaSpy: We were actually trying to get to the fact that you spend a good portion of this film naked. Did you know about all the nudity going in?
Eric Bana: I was trying to avoid that question. I never thought you’d see any of me in the film. When I signed on, I never thought I’d have to drop my drawers. But I’ve made peace with it. I made sure not to turn around and to display as little as possible.
Rachel McAdams: And I was happy to hand over the nude time.
CinemaSpy: Do you have it written into your contracts exactly how much you can show?
Eric Bana: Yeah, like I like the left cheek better than the right cheek.
Rachel McAdams: It’s always in the contract, even if there’s absolutely no way your clothes are coming off.
CinemaSpy: Do you think that Henry and Claire have a true and lasting love? Does the movie give the audience any clues on how to make even the toughest relationship last?
Rachel McAdams: I think there’s a definite choice being made between these two characters. They choose to be together every day. They could walk away. When Claire says in the middle of the movie that she doesn’t have a choice, I think she says it out of frustration. But I think she genuinely means that this is the man she loves. It’s chemistry. Whatever your challenges are, you make it work. If she wasn’t with a man that had chromosomal displacement disorder, he might have some other kind of problem.
Eric Bana: I love the fact that this story is a mixture of the things that usually makes people crazy—unrequited love mixed in with a couple that’s actually has a real and present love. I’d never seen a story that brought those two aspects together.
CinemaSpy: The chemistry between the two of you in the film is incredibly strong. Did you realize before filming started that you were going to be such a good pair?
Eric Bana: I knew straight away that Rach and I would get along. But that doesn’t mean anything. It makes our day-to-day job easier, but there are plenty of examples of people who get along great in real life who have terrible chemistry onscreen. And people with no chemistry in real life make people say, “Wow, look at the smoke between those two.” So, it was a bonus that we got along off set, but 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.
Rachel McAdams: It’s also the story that lends the chemistry or doesn’t. You can’t express that you’re madly in love with the person over a single lunch. It has to develop story-wise. You have to have the support from the script that accentuates that.
Eric Bana: Our characters had a lot of meat to play with. There wasn’t this pressure that we needed to convince everyone that we’d fallen in love in a single scene. We had time and great tools. I think as an audience member, this looked like a real couple that had trials and tribulations and fights.
CinemaSpy: Eric, do you think it reflects anything about your own marriage?
Eric Bana: I can relate to the concept of constantly being forced apart. Anyone who travels a lot for work can relate to it. One of the neat things about the film is that it’s one of the first times that being an actor was good preparation for the part.
CinemaSpy: Rachel, how did you enjoy the scene you filmed as a teenager?
Rachel McAdams: It was fun to be 16 again. We spent a lot of time talking about the hair and the clothes and the makeup. We worked with such talented people. My makeup artist would change my face with just a brush stroke. I looked at myself in the mirror one day and I didn’t realize that we were filming the older Claire and I said, “I look a little haggard.” And they said, “Don’t worry, it’s paint.”
CinemaSpy: What does the time travel element of the story add to the mix?
Rachel McAdams: It adds an element of separation. It’s this thing that tears you away from the people you love. It’s something that’s very relatable.
Eric Bana: It’s also about synchronicity. If you were with your partner today and they met a ten-years previous version of yourself that wasn’t as good and wasn’t as settled, would you still be together? I love those moments between Henry and Claire when the tables are turned and she has the upper hand because she’s met Henry before he knows her. She knows so much about the young Henry that he doesn’t. There are a lot of interesting thoughts in this movie about how we evolve as people.
CinemaSpy: Are there any points in time that you’d like to travel back to?
Eric Bana: I have no interest in going back to points in my own life. I’d rather go back to times before I was born. The ’50s and ’60s. Maybe see some bands just before they’re about to break. Just to be able to see The Beatles or U2 playing in their hometowns before anyone knew them.
Rachel McAdams: Working on this film made me think about going back and seeing the people closest to you. Like going back and seeing my parents fall in love or seeing them as children and how much fun that would be.