Published: March 6, 2008
Staring with “Mean Girls” in 2004, Rachel McAdams worked non-stop on a number of projects like “Wedding Crashers,” “The Notebook,” “Red Eye,” and “The Family Stone.” In fact, when I interviewed her for “Red Eye,” she spoke about needing to take a break and how she was about to begin a nice long vacation.
Well, since that interview she’ll barely been seen as she took a long break from acting and only last year returned to working again. And the first project that brought her back was “Married Life,” the film she promoted here in Los Angeles the other day.
The movie opens tomorrow in New York and Los Angeles and it’s the new film from Ira Sachs. Here’s the synopsis: Harry (Chris Cooper) decides he must kill his wife Pat (Patricia Clarkson) because he loves her too much to let her suffer when he leaves her. Harry and his much-younger girlfriend Kay (Rachel McAdams) are head over heels in love, but his best friend Richard (Pierce Brosnan) wants to win Kay for himself. As Harry implements his awkward plans for murdering his wife, the other characters are occupied with their own deceptions. Like Harry, they are overwhelmed by their passions, but still struggle to avoid hurting others.
Anyway, while she talked a lot about “Married Life” during the roundtable interview I took part in and we also got some updates on her upcoming projects like “Time Travelers Wife” and “State of Play” – the project she’s filming right now with Russell Crowe.
Question: Welcome back to the junket scene.
Rachel: It’s good to be back. I missed you guys.
Q: What did that platinum hair dye job do to your hair?
Rachel: [laughs]. Maybe we shouldn’t talk about that. It’s intense. It was a really fun color. It was fun to be platinum. I think we forget, because so many photographs are in black and white, that women were very risqué and, at the time, it was very usual to be that blonde.
Q: Did you use some pale make-up too?
Rachel: Yeah, very, very light. I don’t go out in the sun that much but that was definitely even light for me. But, I liked the idea that she was on the verge of slipping away, of letting herself just disappear, a little bit ghostly and then Pierce sort of brings the color back for her and her world gets revved up again.
Ira Sachs: When we cast the part of Kay, it was pretty easy to say, ‘we need a woman who could walk into a room and within the first instant of the movie, we understood why two men fall desperately in love with her, ruin their lives and also, why the audience does the same. There’s a lot of beautiful women but not a lot of people who can carry that scene.
Rachel: I felt very strange and he’s like ‘you look beautiful’. ‘I feel weird’. ‘Just trust me, go with it’. I’m glad I did [laughs].
Q: Did you base the character on anyone; an actress from the ‘40’s?
Rachel: I didn’t. I just watched as much as I could and tried to get the flavor down and hope that it would go in by osmosis and then I’d reinterpret it in my own way. The emotional life was what I was most excited about and I hoped that the physical life would stand up and would be there but I didn’t base it on anyone.
Q: After Mean Girls, you went to The Notebook. Did you make a conscious decision not to take more teen or young college girl roles?
Rachel: Nobody believes me as a 16-year-old anymore. I was 25 playing 16 and they’re like ‘forget it, honey. It’s over’ [laughs]. I think that Mean Girls stood out to me to be a very smart satire on teenage life which I was excited to be a part of because it’s what is happening in that world and there’s some real growth. I would not be opposed to going back there, not to 16 but back to that genre. I think it’s a really smart way of telling those stories.
Q: You took a long break from projects now you have a lot coming up. What’s that experience been like for you; movies back to back to back?
Rachel: Right. It’s been really good, actually. I’ve had a little bit of time off to sort of regroup but, after having taken a year off, I found that I was so ready and I have to say I was very inspired after I did Married Life. Working with Ira, I had such a great experience. I was inspired to keep going. It was so positive and it gave me energy rather than depleting me. Some films can be very depleting, which is also good. It means you’re giving a lot of yourself but this one really filled me up and prepared me for more.
Q: Why was taking a break so important when there was such momentum in your career? That can be a risky time to take a break.
Rachel: Yeah, it can be. I guess I just had to trust that it would all work out? It was the right thing for me to do at the time. There was just no other way to go about it so I hoped for the best and just take my time.
Q: Why was it the right time?
Rachel: Well, I had just been working quite literally, back to back without any breaks in between and just wanted to just relax and have a life. You really don’t have a life when you’re working. I always think ‘oh, I’m gonna see everybody on my days off. I’m gonna read so many books and see so many films’ and then three months go by and all you did was…
Q: Can you talk about the romance with the character?
Rachel: I think, in terms of the romance, Kay has already loved and lost the love of her life so she’s really in love for the second time around. I think, I haven’t had that experience personally, but it’s very different from her first love so that was kind of interesting to me; what kind of love is she looking for? Was it more like Harry or more like Richard? And also focusing…we talked about what her desires are; her desires as an individual separate from love. You’re right, this isn’t all about who loves who and how.
Q: What’s your take on The Time Traveler’s Wife character?
Rachel: She’s really a lady in wait often. It was frustrating in that way. She knows what she wants but she can’t have it. She has it but it’s so fleeting. It’s always just slipping out of her fingers. To have that kind of confidence in love from such a young age, yet it’s always slipping through the cracks.. for me, as an actor, it was a really frustrating dilemma.
Q: How much do you actually get to work with Eric Bana if he’s disappearing all the time?
Rachel: [laughs] Right. Quite a bit. A lot of the effects, I think, will be done in post. So we were working on the relationship.
Q: The book was hard to keep track of so I can imagine, as an actor, you were going ‘now when is this and where’?
Rachel: But what’s interesting is almost all films are like that. They jump around out of order and you’re constantly wondering ‘what’s happened? What year is it? Who am I now? What’s the moment before? What’s the moment ahead?’ So, I’d had a lot of practice, actually, before going into it.
Q: State of Play has a hell of a cast. Brad Pitt dropped out, and then you land Russell Crowe.
Rachel: I know. I know. It was a good scenario either way for me, anyway. It’s been great. I was sad that I don’t get to work with Brad Pitt but I’m having a hell of a time working with Russell Crowe. He’s great. He’s awesome.
Q: Can you talk about your character in State of Play?
Rachel: Yeah. I play a political reporter of the younger generation. She’s a star blogger and then Russell plays the more old-school, get out on the street and find the story yourself and make sure it’s the truth and he’s kind of mentoring me. But, that’s sort of the peripheral story around a murder. More murder involved in that one.
Q: Rachel, are you wearing any particular designer today or is it just your own stuff?
Rachel: You know, I had a little fashion hitch so I’m wearing my own sweater over the dress I will not reveal to you.
Q: Still playing ultimate Frisbee?
Rachel: No. I missed out last year. I wasn’t home but I’ll get back to it.
Q: Are you going to take another break after State of Play?
Rachel: Yeah. I’m consistent.