Star Tribune: No by-the-book career ; Rachel McAdams slips easily from modern mean girl to 1940s heroine.

Star Tribune
Published: June 27, 2004

When we last saw Rachel McAdams this spring, the casually cruel queen bee of “Mean Girls” was getting run over by a bus – for laughs. The time before that, she was a bitchy teen princess whose personality slipped into Rob Schneider’s body in “The Hot Chick.”

Despite her success in comedies, the 27-year-old Canadian actress says her heart really has always been in drama, and with her work in “The Notebook” she proves it.

How does a fledgling performer move from a slob comedy to a leading role in a high-toned period romance in two years?

A little bit of faith and some hard work sprinkled in,” McAdams said. “Nick [Cassavetes, the film’s director] and Ryan [Gosling, her co-star] are the sort of people who believed that whatever girl won the role in auditions deserved to play the part. Otherwise, I think I wouldn’t have had that opportunity because I didn’t have a name and had no box-office credit.”

McAdams, who slung burgers at McDonald’s for three years, is still a little uncomfortable in the role of rising starlet. She chats breezily away, often traveling down conversational byways that end with her admitting in embarrassment that she has forgotten what the question was.

Gosling said he and Cassavetes were impressed by McAdams’ intuitive grasp of what a high-spirited Southern debutante would feel in the throes of her first love.

We met a lot of actresses,” Gosling said, “and they were good, but the main difference between Rachel and them is that they were asking us what we thought in the audition. I don’t know anything about women, and Nick doesn’t know anything about women. We needed somebody who was going to step in and say, ‘I’m a girl. I know. Shut up and roll the camera.’ We needed that because the character was such a strong character. The truth is I don’t think we would have done the movie without Rachel. This is Rachel’s movie. She’s driving it.”

Cassavetes “dragged me kicking and screaming” to reach the emotional heights the character needed, McAdams said. “It was very intense. I was out of my head and totally in the life of this wild child. It’s best to be almost unstable,” like a cat falling off a roof, she said. “The look in that cat’s eye is interesting!”

Now, with “Mean Girls”‘ a No. 1 hit and solid reviews for her work in “The Notebook” piling up, McAdams is getting the chance to consider some very high-visibility roles, including one involving invisibility.

I’ve read the ‘Fantastic Four’ script,” she said. Asked how she would approach the character of Sue Storm, the Invisible Girl, McAdams ventured, “I’ll shut my eyes really tight. When my sister would play hide-and-seek, she would hide in the most obvious places but just close her eyes.”

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