Film Ink: Rachel McAdams – Returning to Comedy in Game Night

Published: February 16, 2018

The actress whose first major break was in the classic Mean Girls, returns to comedy opposite Jason Bateman and an ensemble cast of funny people in Game Night.

What tempted you back into doing a comedy?
It feels like it’s been a long time. I always love doing comedy, so whenever I get a chance… It was hard to pass this one up, I’ve been a long-time fan of Jason Bateman’s, we worked together about ten years ago [State of Play], in something very serious, so I was very excited to get to work with him in a much more comedic way.

You’ve done Mean Girls, and obviously Wedding Crashers, was there a little bit more pressure playing a role in another comedy, when they were all such classic comedies?
Because it’s such an ensemble, that takes a little bit of the pressure off. And like I said, I’m just going to ride Jason’s coattails the entire time, so… No, I think it’s, it’s a big ensemble, so there’s a lot of different energy to play off of, and you’re not carrying the whole thing on your back yourself, so that was something appealing about it as well.

Can you talk about the dynamic between you and Jason in the film?
Well, our characters meet at a trivia night, and we’re the two most competitive people in the room, we don’t think that games are about fun, they’re about winning, and we’ll win at any cost, so it’s a match made in heaven, we kind of spot each other across the room, we fall in love instantly over our love of games and healthy competition. So that’s kind of what we connect on.

But you’re married in the movie.

We are married, it kind of goes through our dating life, a fun little montage that goes through meeting, falling in love, all our different game nights and the friends we lose along the way because of our intense gaming, but yeah, when we pick up in the present we’re married.

Do you do improvisation when you do comedy?
I think there’s always a little bit, to keep it fresh, because you do it so many times you just want to keep it alive, but you try to do what’s on the page first, there’s people who’ve put a lot more thought into it than I have. So, we always do what’s on the page first, and then, with the directors, we collaborate, and see if there’s room to push the envelope a little bit.

You’ve also quoted before ‘the physical part of comedy is as hard as a lot of action movies, it scares me in a way that I like’, is that something that still resonates with you after filming this film?
Yeah, we were just talking about how, being chased, how scary that is, it’s all pretend, but when you get your heart pumping, and do all that physical comedy, it is terrifying, and thrilling, and exciting at the same time. I just love that, when you engage your body, you feel like you’re so much more free, and a lot of things come spilling out of you that you didn’t know were percolating in there, so I like what tapping into your body brings out of you, comedy wise.

And what attracted you to this role?
I like that she was kind of unapologetically competitive. I feel like game nights have kind of come back in style, they’re in vogue a little bit, people I know are back to parlour games, and board games, spending more time, quality time, with people. I find it really bonding, and I love to do it myself, so there was something personal about it for me.

You did Spotlight, and then Doctor Strange, and then this, they’re all very different. Did you pick these styles of films on purpose, or just coincidence?
I’d like to say I have a master plan – I don’t. But I’m not a creature of habit, I like variety in life, I like challenging myself in different genres and roles, so I try to diversify and keep things interesting for myself. I feel like I do better work if I’m challenged and haven’t done it before. And in stretching different muscles, comedy is such a different muscle than crying on set every day. So I find it exciting to switch it up.

Are you competitive at all, and do you have a favourite game that you play?

Well, I suppose it depends on the game, but I play running charades with my friends and family, that’s a new one we’ve gotten into. And then a game called Code Names is a big recent favourite… I like the camaraderie that comes with it, I have a little bit of social anxiety, so going to a party and talking to a bunch of strangers makes me want to stay at home forever, so to be able to go and do something active, that everyone’s in it together, you wind up having a lot more to talk about at the end of the night, or, you can kind of dive in with strangers in games that you can’t just sitting around, five glasses of wine later, trying to come up with something to say. I like the community that it inspires.

What’s the type of comedy that you like to watch?

One of my favourite films is The Princess Bride, it’s one of the all-time best comedies. Other than that, I don’t know if I have one in particular, or one style in particular, again, very physical comedy as well, when it’s done great, it’s hard to pull off, but very fun to watch.

It seems that comedies like this can run the risk of having the female characters be in service of the male characters, I was wondering if there’s something about the character, other than the competitiveness, that made her his equal, and if there’s something that you do when you come into a project to make sure that your character is as substantive as the male counterpart, or co-star?
Right. Um, well, sometimes it’s not set up that, not all people get equal screen-time, but, I feel like Jason’s a very giving actor, and very interested in everyone getting their moments, so I knew that he would have everybody’s back. And I think the fact that this is a very couple-heavy film, every couple has their storyline, rather than the individual as much, so it’s kind of unique in that way. So yeah, it’s more about the couple than the group, than the individual characters themselves.

Do you feel like, through the course of your career, the landscape for women has changed? That there’s many more opportunities that you would have had? Especially with the television that you’ve done as well.

Yeah, I think it definitely seems to go in waves, you look back, it seems to go in cycles. But it definitely seems to be on an upswing, where there’s a lot more interesting female characters out there, that are complex, and flawed, and deep, and vehicles that are much more female driven. I think that that’s definitely coming along, and there’s a lot more conversation around it, I think that opens up the doors as well.

Would you like to direct?
I directed children’s theatre when I was younger, and I think I got it out of my system. I find acting endlessly challenging, and I’m not a great decision maker, and I think that’s what 90% of directing is, making decisions and people asking me to do it really quickly, so I wouldn’t really excel at that.

Are you more of a procrastinator?
I just like to overthink, and maybe that’s why I should direct, you just have to make these snap decisions. For now I, I just love my job as it is. Maybe producing I can see, but I’m not sure if I could direct.

Is this the first time you’ve worked for two directors? How’s that experience been for you?
It’s been so great, they complement each other well, and they get along really well, there’s never been any kind of issue with it, it’s been a breath of fresh air. I thought that maybe one would specialise in talking to the actors, and one would be more technical, but they’re both really well balanced, and they’ve got it figured out.

Game Night is in cinemas February 22, 2018

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