Canoe: Taking Note of young star

Published: June 20, 2004

Rachel McAdams is being just slightly coy, especially for a modest Canadian.

During a Los Angeles interview, the London, Ont.-born, St. Thomas-raised, Toronto-trained actress has just heard the suggestion that she is one of the new “It!” girls in Hollywood. The label comes because of her sudden leap to prominence in the comedies The Hot Chick and Mean Girls and her leading role opposite Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Christopher Walken in The Wedding Crashers, a romantic comedy now in production for release in 2005.

Am I labelled that?” McAdams asks rhetorically before flashing the mega-watt smile of a happy camper who, just two years ago, was still holed up in a Toronto apartment with her theatre arts friends from York University. Her early claim to fame was a Genie Award nomination for the little-seen Canadian film Perfect Pie — which is a cool thing at home in Ontario but meaningless to the Americans.

But now she is being noticed in the States — big time.

It’s exciting and daunting all at the same time,” McAdams finally concedes. “And I’m hesitant and overwhelmed and overjoyed. It’s quite a flux of emotion.”

I would say, in terms of clicking, everything feels about clicked right now, except that it doesn’t get any easier. But I’m starting to have more of a hunger for that challenge of wading through the press and the publicity and the scripts. I mean, I have an appetite for it right now, which is nice.”

McAdams will now be seen in Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook, which was actually filmed between The Hot Chick and Mean Girls. The release was delayed and the film is now in the summer mix as alternative programming.

McAdams is on screen with fellow London native Ryan Gosling as young lovers in a flashback story set in the U.S. South in the 1940s. Her character is a spoiled little rich girl who slowly steps out of her suffocating debutante world to find true love with a working class lad played by Gosling. They ended up in an explosive relationship that careens from their intellectual battles to passionate sexcapades.

McAdams admits that Cassavetes pushed her to exhaustion. “It was very intense and I was very tired. But Nick and I both knew that I needed to get to that point where I was out of my head and totally in my body and totally in this life of this wild child. It took those extremes. It took being pushed and not knowing what I was doing all the time — but trusting him and vice versa. It was just quite an experience and I would do it all over again.”

For her audition, McAdams, unlike others before her, did not bother to ask questions and showed no doubt or angst about how to play the character. “It just flew,” McAdams remembers. “It just sort of took on a life of its own. I walked out of that room and I knew that my life had changed.”

Nevertheless, it took some time to work out her on-set relationship with Gosling, especially because they were both to be so naked emotionally and physically.

There are so many trust issues and you’re working all that stuff out in the beginning,” McAdams says. “It takes a lot of time. It’s like getting to know a partner. You sort of do a dance for a while and maybe the dance actually turns into some kind of a partnership. But it did take some time.”

I think we sort of took on the personality of our characters, as well. Ryan was quiet and settled and very intellectual and sort of became that man of the earth. And I was sort of flying over here and there and bouncing off the walls. So we were total opposites.”

Yet they grew up within a few kilometres of one another, McAdams in St. Thomas, Gosling in London. “It’s so funny,” McAdams says. “It’s such a fluke. I think we were even born in the same hospital.”

Being Canadian is an asset in Hollywood, especially in playing the she-bitches she portrayed in The Hot Chick and Mean Girls.

Some of the best villains in Hollywood are coming from Canada,” McAdams says. “It’s such a strange idea but, in a way, I guess it makes sense. I guess there’s something about (the fact) that Canadians are never pegged as the villains, but we love to play them and do that sort of surprise attack thing. You don’t think we can be tough. You don’t think we can be bad? Well, watch this!

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