Published: February 21, 2018
Rachel McAdams is sitting in the parking lot of Martins Millwork, a purveyor of fine home building materials, in rural Georgia where she’s visiting some friends just before Christmas.
“I was coming back from Target. I was just getting suction cups for our Christmas wreaths and I’m now pulled over in the middle of, I don’t really know where,” she says with a laugh, apologizing for being 10 minutes late for our call. Halfway through our interview she has to placate a curious Martins employee who wants her to move on. She gives him a little wave and tells him sorry, that she’ll be gone soon. So Canadian.
Since her breakout role in 2004’s Mean Girls the native of St. Thomas, Ontario — who until recently owned a house in Toronto — has been one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood, starring in romances (The Notebook), comedies (Midnight in Paris), indies (Every Thing Will Be Fine, the upcoming Disobedience), franchise films (Sherlock Holmes, Doctor Strange) and even the Best Picture Oscar-winning drama Spotlight, for which she earned a Best Supporting Actress nomination.
This month McAdams tests her comedic chops in what could be one of the funniest movies of her career, Game Night. She plays Annie, who along with her husband Max (Jason Bateman) and their group of friends embarks on a more robust form of game night than they’re used to when Max’s brother Brooks (Kyle Chandler) devises a murder-mystery where, as Brooks explains, “You’re not going to know what’s real and what’s fake.”
So things get confusing when an actual, violent crime takes place.
We talked to McAdams about surrounding herself with funny people, her love for Jason Bateman and remaining connected to home.
How much time do you spend in Canada these days?
I kind of do about half and half, or I’m probably in the States a little bit more now, but I make 10 or 12 trips to Canada [per year]. All my family’s there still, but my sister’s in Los Angeles so I started spending more time out there to be with her. I just kind of go where my family is.
Is your sister in the movie biz?
Yeah, she is, we actually work together quite a bit. She’s an amazing makeup artist and there was just more work for her to do out in L.A. and she met a wonderful man out there who she married. We do mostly press together, we used to do films together but she prefers more like red carpet, stuff like that, so we do photo shoots, red carpets.
What’s life like for you when you’re back in Toronto?
It’s a really nice juxtaposition to L.A. because you can get out of your car and get on the street and you’re amongst people and you can get a lot done in a very concentrated area. And I just love the people, I love the food scene, I love the music scene, I love going to movies. It’s such a great city to watch movies in. I always love when I’m lucky enough to have something in TIFF and I know I’ll get to see all my friends and family and we can go to screenings and, you know, really do it right. It’s one of my most favourite cities.
You’re one of the more eclectic actors working today. Is that by design or do you just have eclectic tastes?
I’d love to say all of it’s by design but probably none of it is [laughing]. I guess I love variety, I love diversity of roles, I kind of get bored easily so it’s fun to take on something I haven’t done before, a genre I haven’t dabbled in yet. I feel like I do better work when I’m a little out of my comfort zone, I haven’t walked that walk before, something about the struggle and the friction in that, so yeah, I try to just not repeat myself too much.
Which brings us to Game Night. Why this movie and why now?
I’ve always got an eye out for comedy, it’s hard to find ones that have a good role and are smart and unique, and this one sort of ticked all those boxes. I’m endlessly fascinated with comedians and comedic timing and it’s kind of an elusive art form to me so I always feel like it’s good to surround myself with funny people and maybe I’ll pick something up. So the fact that Jason Bateman was involved was such an attractive piece of it. We had worked together years and years ago but on something very serious.
Right, I was curious what it was like to work with him again after State of Play, a dark thriller where you were a journalist and he was a sleazy fixer. You could not be playing more different characters.
No, and we were sort of antagonistic in that movie and this one we’re a husband and wife and actually like each other. So it was such a totally different experience. But also on State of Play we really had, I think, one day together and he was just so extraordinary. I just admire him so much as an actor. He’s obviously one of the funniest people on the planet; that goes without saying.
Tell me about your character.
I play Annie and Jason plays Max, my husband, and we are hardcore game-night gamers, our whole social existence revolves around game nights with our friends. We’re kind of homebodies that way and we’ll go to other people’s houses, but that’s how we spend our spare time together and it kind of bleeds over into our lives in different avenues. And our personalities are both highly competitive.
At what point do they realize what’s going on isn’t part of the game?
For a while they think this is all a game and they’re going to win the big prize at the end, and then I accidentally shoot my husband, and we realize.
You have dual directors here — John Francis Daley and Jonathan Goldstein. Daley is also the actor who played Sam, the central freak, on TV’s Freaks and Geeks. What’s he like to work for and what’s it like to work for two directors at the same time?
Well I was wondering that myself going into it, I’d never done that before so I was so curious, and they’re really such a great collaborative team. You know, John is a great actor so you get this actor’s director who is happy to talk character and Jonathan Goldstein is as well but John kind of heads up that department a bit more. And then they are both great writers and they’ve teamed up on so many scripts before together, so it always is just better when the writer is on set and especially with a comedy where there’s some improvisation.
What does it mean to you to be a Canadian working in the States?
I guess I feel really lucky to have come up at this time when we live in such a global village that you can jump on Skype with a director and have a meeting that way, where you can be in two places at once almost. So I feel like I haven’t had to give up the place that I loved the most and maybe that just makes me happy and that leads to being more satisfied in what I do. Also just getting away from the business, just being able to step away from Hollywood. It’s an inspiring place because everybody’s chasing a dream and working really hard to be creative, it’s a very creative place, I’ve grown to love that about it. But it is easy to just live, eat, breathe, sleep the job there. I definitely find that I have more scope and room and fresh air in Canada and back with my family who make sure I remember that I’m just a little Southern Ontario girl, small town girl, you know?
© 2018 New York Times | Written by Dave Itzkoff | No copyright infringment intended.