CWOF Commemorative Magazine: Dream Big

Canada Walk Of Fame Commemorative Magazine
Published: 2014

Rachel McAdams discovered her passion for acting early – and it hasn’t left her since.

While some discover their passion for the arts later in life, London, Ontario’s Rachel McAdams found her spark early.

McAdams recalls: “I remember writing my parents a very long letter when I was about eight or nine and saying ‘I would really like to be an actor, so if we can all work together and figure out how to make it happen, that would be great.'”

By age 12 she was enrolled in the Original Kids Theatre Company in St. Thomas where they did Shakespeare and Greek tragedy, among other things. In her teens, she directed children’s theatre productions and by high school was already strongly drawn to the stage. It was a passion that was supported by both her parents (mother Sandra and father Lance) and her teachers, especially her high school drama teacher Linda Pereira.

McAdams credits Pereira for making a vital connection for her—helping her make the decision to turn her dream into a career path. “On the day our university applications were due, I was going to go into cultural studies,” McAdams remembers. “I didn’t even know what that meant, but it seemed vague enough that I didn’t have to make a decision about anything yet.”

But after her university paperwork was filled out, she ran into Pereira in the hall. The academic expressed surprise that McAdams had decided to go a different route, when acting was so obviously a passion.

“I guess I hadn’t allowed myself to dream that dream,” she admits. “So I walked around the school for the next hour with my wheels turning, and then went into the guidance office and said: ‘I’m going to cross out cultural studies on all three of the schools I’m applying for and replace it with acting.”

McAdams went on to enrol in York University’s four-year theatre program and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts honours degree in 2001. Not that she waited that long to get started.

“I was nervous about not having an acting job when I graduated university, so I started looking for work prior to graduation. I landed a guest spot on a TV show [for Disney] called The Famous Jett Jackson during the summer before my fourth year. I also filmed a pilot for MTV, which luckily happened to shoot on my spring break during my fourth year. It was called Shotgun Love Dolls. It didn’t get picked up.

“So, fortunately, by the time I graduated school I had a few experiences under my belt. Initially it was more out of insecurity that I would not get a job in theatre that I ended up working in film and television. I would like to get back to the stage one day as it is my first love.”

In 2002, her efforts in a film called Perfect Pie earned her a Genie Award nomination. A few months later she would play opposite Rob Schneider in LA in The Hot Chick, only to return to Canada for the TV series Slings and Arrows in 2003—for which she landed the Genie that had eluded her the year before.

But the early promise McAdams had hinted at came to full fruition in 2004. That year, she starred alongside Lindsay Lohan and Amanda Seyfried in her role as leader of The Plastics, the nasty clique in Mean Girls (a film penned by SNL star Tina Fey). That same year, McAdams starred opposite fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling in The Notebook.

McAdams recalls the audition for the latter film as a turning point in her career. “I was sort of floating through the entire audition. I didn’t know what had happened. I remember sitting down on the sidewalk after and thinking. ‘I feel like something has changed and I don’t know that it will ever be the same again.”‘

She was right. By 2005, just four years out of university, she found herself thrust into the spotlight, starring in the hilarious Wedding Crashers, the thriller Red Eye and comedy The Family Stone.

In 2008 McAdams took on roles in Married Life and The Lucky Ones. In 2009 she starred in State ofPlay (with Russell Crowe and Ben Affieck), The Time Traveler’s Wife (Eric Bana) and Sherlock Holmes (Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law). The comedy Morning Glory came next, and then a starring role in Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris in 2011. That same year she reprised her role as Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows.

“I have to be able to bring something to the table—it’s really important to connect with the characters,” she says of her chosen roles. “I love transformation and diving into a character I haven’t portrayed before. I never feel like acting is easy, it’s incredibly challenging and I think it’s important to not be quite sure I can get there but excited to try.”

McAdams racked up her largest box office success to date in 2012 with The Vow, while also starring in Brian De Palma’s Passion and Terrence Malick’s To The Wonder. The highly rated Richard Curtis time-traveling romance About Time arrived in 2013. It was followed by the acclaimed Anton Corbijn flick A Most Wanted Man (based on the novel by John le Carre) opposite Willem Dafoe, Robin Wright and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman.

Not one to stand still for very long, McAdams recently wrapped shooting on the Antoine Fuqua film Southpaw as well as the Wim Wenders feature Eve?), Thing Will Be Fine. She will also lend her voice to the animated film The Little Prince and is currently in production on the drama Spotlight at home in Toronto.

Now no longer the eight-year-old who dreamed about becoming an actor, McAdams says she’s still just as excited to go to work every day.

“I love the collaboration. I love not knowing how a project is going to turn out or how it may affect people. It’s such a wonderful thing about the medium—that it can land on people in such different ways but also bring people together.”

© 2014 Canada Walk Of Fame Commemorative Magazine | Written by Brendan Cristie | No copyright infringment intended.