York University: Rachel’s all the rage

The Courier Mail
Published: June 15, 2005

Despite her low-key Canadian existence, Rachel McAdams (BFA ’01), who was raised in St. Thomas, Ont., is primed to be the most-watched actress of 2005, predicted Maclean’s magazine in its July 18 cover story of the 2001 York theatre grad, starting with Wedding Crashers (July 15), in which she plays the daughter of the US treasury secretary (Christopher Walken) and love interest of a playboy. She’s the lead in Red Eye (Aug. 19), a Wes Craven-directed hostage thriller, and portrays Keaton’s daughter in the ensemble Thanksgiving holiday film The Family Stone (Nov. 4).

McAdams is Canada’s only A-List big-screen actress, and she’s just begun to bring home the Hollywood hardware – even if for now it’s only MTV Movie Awards. This year, she and fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling recreated their passionate make-out session from The Notebook while accepting the award for best kiss. And when she picked up the trophy for best breakthrough performance by a female, for her turn as a villainous ringleader in Mean Girls, she slyly told the audience, “I guess this dispels the myth that Canadian girls are nice.”

While McAdams loved acting in high school, she didn’t think you could seriously study it – let alone be hired to do it. “Mrs. Maskell Pereira is the reason I’m doing what I’m doing,” said McAdams. “She literally grabbed me the day before university applications were due and said, ‘Why aren’t you going into theatre?’ It just ignited something that had been there and that I hadn’t been brave enough to follow through with.” McAdams immediately changed her application from cultural studies to the theatre program. When she arrived at York University’s theatre department, Professor David Rotenberg’s first impression was that, “She was shy, but sort of had a twinkle. By the time she got to me in the fourth year, she was landed, she had feet.” That final year, he gave her a lead in Frank Wedekind’s Lulu. “It was fascinating to watch the agents watch her, their eyes rolling back into their heads. They came chasing me after the first act.”

Rotenberg, founder of Toronto’s Professional Actors Lab, continues to be McAdams’ personal coach. “She and I worked extensively on the new Wes Craven film,” said Rotenberg, who also coaches Scott Speedman (known for his roles in Underworld (2003) and “Felicity”, a 1998 television series). “She found it difficult. There’s an old actors’ saw that the actor’s job is to protect the chaos of the character and the director’s job is to make stories – and this is in direct conflict with each other.” Off-screen, McAdams has to protect herself from the chaos of a Hollywood life. “She’s learning to fight and defend herself,” said Rotenberg. “She’s grounded. We teach up at York that you’ve got to know where you come from – it’s a big part of the training.”

© 2005 York University | Written by York University | No copyright infringment intended.