Published: September 5, 2013
She first found fame as the meanest girl in Mean Girls but it’s hard to believe Rachel McAdams has said a bitchy word since. ‘Would you like tea? A cookie?’ she offers.
Thumbelina tiny with adorable dimples and an eternal summer’s day smile, it’s easy to see why she’s often called America’s sweetheart. ‘Even though I’m Canadian!’ she laughs.
Does that kind of label bug her? ‘No, I mean that is lovely,’ she smiles. ‘I feel like I have been so blessed.’ Few women would argue with that, given McAdams’s exes include Hollywood hearthrob Ryan Gosling. They met on the set of 2004 weepie The Notebook, in which she played a rich Southern Belle and he her brooding bit of rough. They may have split quietly after two years but Gosling has still called the petite 34-year-old ‘one of the great loves of my life’.
Since then, she’s rarely been out of love – on screen, at least. She’s turned her hand to everything from action-adventure (Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows) to political thriller (State Of Play), yet it’s the slushy movies such as The Vow and The Time Traveller’s Wife that we love her for best. ‘It’s funny, I probably watch less [romantic movies] than I’m in – but I do enjoy making them,’ she concedes.
The latest is About Time, a British romcom where, appropriately for an actress once called ‘the new Julia Roberts’, she plays the American love interest in the new film from Richard ‘Notting Hill’ Curtis.
‘My character, Mary, is quite contrary,’ she singsongs. ‘She is quite shy and, at the same time, not at all. I can relate to that.’ Perhaps that’s why McAdams is seemingly the only female Hollywood star who isn’t the ‘spokesperson’ for a cosmetics brand. ‘I have sort of shied away from that,’ she says. ‘If I were to sell a product, I would have to use it myself. I think endorsement comes with a lot of responsibility.’
Integrity is more than a pretty word to McAdams, a committed environmentalist, who co-ran eco lifestyle website GreenIsSexy.org for five years. She cycles everywhere she can and tells me she dreams of staying in one place long enough to grow her own cabbages. I start to realise all the sunshine-and-dimples stuff is screening a private homebody.
In 2006, McAdams walked out of a cover shoot for the annual Vanity Fair Hollywood issue when she realised it demanded nudity (leaving a naked Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley to drape themselves over a fully clothed Tom Ford).
Some time after, she withdrew from public life. ‘It wasn’t really a purposeful break,’ she explains carefully, wary of being quoted for anything she might ‘reveal’. ‘I think things were moving so fast and I still felt quite young to be navigating the world of Hollywood and what comes along with it. There are lots of voices involved and lots of people who want to send you in certain directions… rightfully,’ she adds quickly, as if placating some hidden CCTV camera. ‘I was just trying to find my own voice within all of that noise.’
So, just as her star was going stratospheric, McAdams turned down lead roles in the likes of The Devil Wears Prada and retreated home to Canada. She’s the eldest sibling of three, was born in London, Ontario, to a nurse and a truck driver, and remains passionately close to her family.
There are no wedding bells about to ring for her, unless there’s something she’s not telling us – which is more than possible. All we know is that earlier this year she split from British actor Michael Sheen, whom she co-starred with in the Oscar-winning Woody Allen comedy Midnight In Paris. Is she currently single? ‘We will keep that off the table,’ she says, her smile unwavering.
A wise practitioner of the ‘if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything’ school, McAdams is not the sort to mouth off about anything, even the lack of juicy female roles in Hollywood.
‘Yes, it is tough out there,’ is as much as she’ll say before half filling the glass with ‘but there is always something to be found in each role – and that is my job: to make it creatively satisfying for myself and compelling for people watching.
‘I am just grateful people want to watch me – and that I’ve been able to find some diversification. I’ll keep trying different genres – except horror. I’m terrified of horror films. Though that might be a different experience.’ Perhaps then McAdams will finally unleash her dark side.
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