Published: August 14, 2009
Today is the day that The Time Traveler’s Wife opens against District 9, and if you are a fanboy, geek, sci-fi, comic book nerd, you’re probably going to see District 9.
But, let me at least try to clear something up for you: this film is being marketed a certain way, and that way is only half-accurate. They have cut loose any chance at getting a male audience into the theater, hoping that women will drag a guy to the theater to see it. But the movie isn’t a Notebook clone like the trailers and TV spots make it appear. Yes, there is romance, but always balanced with elements of time travel and the mystery inherent in discovering about Henry’s condition. The film was a long time coming, with production spaced out, re-shoots shot and New Line, who originally had the film, getting demolished. Yet, still it got released one week after another woman’s film about a blogger and a famous cook is still competing for female eyes.
Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana have a distinct kind of chemistry in this movie. Even when their characters are happy or fighting, there is a single thread of melancholy resignation in their portrayals of Claire and Henry. They sat down to talk to us about Time Travel, Eric’s hair and Rachel’s DVD screeners.
If you could time travel where would you want to travel to?
Bana: I think the ’50’s. I think you always want to go somewhere that sounds more magical before you were born. So I’d have to go back to the ’50’s.
McAdams: Yeah, that’s true, going back to the quote unquote good old days. I’d like to see my parents fall in love. I think that would be fun.
Had you read the book prior to seeing the script?
McAdams: I had read the book a while before the film was made. I read just sort of as a plan B. I went to Plan B and they said, ‘This is a great book. Have a read.’ I just fell head over heels in love with it.
How different is the script from the book? I was curious to know why it’s called ‘The Time Traveler’s Wife’ when it’s really more about the Time Traveler’s story.
Bana: Well, it’s kind of about both of them. I think the core of the book is most definitely there in our screenplay and in the film. I think all the major players involved identify the key element which is this impossible love between two people that get wrenched apart by this time traveling device. So I think the core of the book is there. I think it’s as close as it can be as a PG-13 film really. The film does start to take on it’s own life as well. I think we all acknowledge that and embraced that and didn’t fight that. There’s a point at which you kind of have to let the two things live on their own.
McAdams: In terms of the wife thing, I think Robert [Schwentke] had a theory that his wife is actually time. I don’t know if Audrey [Niffenegger], if that was her intention or not. I’m not sure if she’s spoken on that, but I think that’s one of Robert’s theories.
Bana: We can steal his theories.
McAdams: Yeah, it’s his movie.
You two have a great chemistry. How much of that is natural and how much of that is an acting ability?
Bana: Well, you can’t really take ownership of it, really. I don’t think you can even attempt it. I think you’re really limited by your material. It almost becomes irrelevant. It’s great for us that we really like each other and we get along, but in reality you can have amazing chemistry in real life and it not work on the screen and vice versa. I know for me I just tried not to worry about it. I really like Rachel and I think she’s a great actress and she’s very easy to get along with. I don’t know that there’s that much you can do about it. In the end it’s not really even up to us. It’s up to the audience to decide if it works or not. It worked for us when the cameras weren’t rolling. So you kind of hope.
McAdams: But like you said, that’s kind of a bonus and sometimes it can work it’s not working.
It’s taken a while to get this film released. Can you talk about waiting for this to finally come out?
Bana: Actually, it’s not that big of a deal for me really because I think it’s just becoming more normal for anything that’s not a tent pole. I think tent poles get release dates that are announced in advance. This film never had another release date announced. It was as case where you have to be so careful with a film like this, that it’s released at the right time. It’s not a film where you can just kind of whack anywhere in the year. Then there was the New Line/Warner Brothers merger which was a huge factor as well. The film turned out exactly how it was always meant to. The film was never troubled. The film was never in repair. The film was finished on time. So it was really a case of Warner Brothers taking the right amount of care to make sure it was released at a time where it’d have it’s best chance.
Wasn’t there some delay because of your [Bana] hair?
McAdams: [laughs] I retract. I retract. We had to wait for the meadow to grow, too, not just your hair.
Bana: That’s true. You should’ve used that one.
What did happen?
Bana: It’s not that anything happened, but we had some stuff that we had to shoot that was not time sensitive. I was bald and I said, ‘Does it matter if we wait until my hair grows so that I don’t have to wear a wig.’ They said, ‘Yeah, that’s not a problem.’ We didn’t have to wait that long. Luckily, this stuff grows really fast. We flew back to Toronto and did what we had to do and that was it.
And the meadow?
McAdams: Well, it was a different time of year when we went back to it. I remember going over to the flowers and saying, ‘Oh, these flowers are gorgeous.’ I went over to them and was like, ‘And they’re silk.’ We were in the middle of nowhere with silk flowers.
Bana: Yeah, and we shot in that actual meadow at different times of the year which was really kind of interesting as well. So that sort of helped the film and was always the plan, to come back at different times of the year. It was a pretty amazing place. I don’t know if you heard Rachel tell the story but it’s a real meadow that this guy built for his wife. So he kind of raised the bar of romantic expectations when it comes to the weekend project.
How hard was it to keep track of where you were in the movie and your lives when you’re making a movie with a time travel element?
McAdams: Well, it was strangely easy because we had practice at it, keeping track of your arc and where you are in the story. So it wasn’t that odd. But we just kind of looked at each other and at our costumes, the way we looked and our demeanor a little bit and just leaned on each other. Also, Robert was on top of it when it came to the timeline. We just keep checking in and reminding ourselves of what the moment just before was.
Bana: I relied on her and Robert, just to double check before each scene. It’s true and weird that being an actor is actually perfect preparation for a character like this because there are a lot of similarities with our lives, a lot of travel and sort of plugging in and out of life based around your work. So it really echoes the characters.
Did either of you work with the idea that the time travel device was a metaphor for something in the relationship or did you let it be what it was?
McAdams: I think it was really important to root it into something that we could relate it to and that the audience could relate to and not this sort of intangible thing or this fantastical concept. So that’s something that we spent a lot of time talking about in the rehearsal process, talking about longing and waiting and separation and how that obstacle is so relevant to so many relationships and that so many people are overcoming that everyday. We tried to sort of step away from the time travel of it all because I think flying on an airplane is the closest that we have. Eric can attest to a little bit of time travel in being from Australia, but that’s about all we have.
You talked about chemistry before, but how much of that is just getting along as people or how much your acting styles compliment each other on film?
McAdams: That’s interesting.
Bana: A similar taste in music helped. We kind of bonded over music a bit and food tastes were kind of similar.
McAdams: And some of the music that we were bonding over was actually from Broken Social Scene who wound up playing our wedding song. So it was pretty serendipitous actually.
Bana: I think the only person that can end up taking credit if you end up having chemistry is the director because he’s the one that puts you together. Like I said, I felt like I would get along with Rachel. I felt like I knew enough about her from what I’d gathered that she would be great to work with, but it’s the director who puts that person with that person, to a degree. You were on first and so you probably had a say in whether or not it was me.
McAdams: [laughs] I didn’t but I was pretty excited when I heard it was you. It made perfect sense to me. I think the light bulb just went off having known the book so well and spent a little bit of time with the fictional Henry I just thought that you were perfect.
Rachel, in choosing your material are you trying to avoid becoming a hugely commercial movie star?
McAdams: I don’t know. I don’t think I’ve wanted to be one thing or the other. I think it’s sort of landed the way that it has. I feel very grateful that it’s gone the way it has so far because I’m still employed and that’s a good thing. I’ve gotten to do a wide variety of things and different roles. I’ve met different kinds of challenges on each and every film and I never get bored. So that’s been success to me, that I’ve been able to stay afloat and also get to do things that are fun. I don’t know where that puts me in the grand scheme of things but I’ve really enjoyed the journey and the course it’s taken so far.
What were the specific challenges in this film?
McAdams: Well, the adaptation was obviously a challenge and you know that you’re going to be playing someone that people have cast in their head a certain way and how do you meld their idea with yours and the authors and the screenwriters and the director’s. But at a certain point you just have to give over and fall into it. That was a challenge.
A lot of the movie seems to be about love and destiny. Your character says she’s been waiting for him all her life. Is that something that you personally believe in?
McAdams: I like your answer on this one.
Bana: I forgot my answer. Give the best version of it.
McAdams: Half and half, that you believe it’s destiny and free will or am I wrong? Am I misquoting you?
Bana: No. It sounds good so far. Keep going.
McAdams: I thought that was a great answer, that you believe things do happen for a reason and at the same time you can’t just sit back and let it all wash over you.
Bana: Yeah. I guess you have to be proactive about your destiny and then realize that the other half of it is completely out of your control. I think it’s fascinating. I do believe in reading signs if they’re really obvious to you. Things happen. Someone will say something to you today in the morning and then later on that day someone will mention the same thing and then the next day someone will mention it again, whether it be a book or something or someone. There’s a reason why three people have said something within twenty four hours. So I will sometimes act on that. But I believe it’s a bit of both.
Could you both relate to this sort of lifestyle Henry lived where he was rarely in one place for very long?
McAdams: Definitely. We’re gypsies. I could relate to Henry more than Clare in that respect, actually.
Bana: I could definitely relate to Henry in that sense. I think as actors your plug and unplug your own life. I believe that’s what Henry and Clare must feel like. So I think there are parallels there for sure.
Did either of your cry while watching the movie?
Bana: I probably need to see it properly. I’m not good the first time I watch a movie. I usually watch it once with an audience and then I don’t see it again. This was a hard one for me to watch for the first time because there was so much that I was looking for. So I’ll probably watch it as a proper audience member the next time around but I was definitely moved.
McAdams: Well, my copy said, copyright Warner Brothers, said you will be seriously persecuted and thrown in jail forever if anyone gets a hold of this. Rachel McAdams. [laughs] So I didn’t get completely carried away.