Published: March 1, 2018
Best known for her roles in the likes of Mean Girls and True Detective, Rachel McAdams discusses her new comedy thriller Game Night, her admiration for co-star Sharon Horgan, and the impact of the Me Too movement.
There’s a story that always comes up when talking about Rachel McAdams. A decade ago, riding high after starring in Mean Girls, The Wedding Crashers and The Notebook, McAdams was asked to appear on the cover of Vanity Fair alongside the decade’s other two unstoppable starlets, Keira Knightley and Scarlett Johansson. But when McAdams arrived on set and discovered the other actresses had agreed to pose nude, she left, preferring to pass up the opportunity. She also turned down roles in Casino Royale, The Devil Wears Prada and Mission Impossible III, making the conscious decision to be a working actress – though not a movie star. She was going to do fame on her own terms.
In fact, to avoid the mania and violent thrust into fame that accompanied the release of 2004’s wildly successful comedy Mean Girls – McAdams’ breakout film, in which she played Queen Bee bully Regina George – the actress quite literally disappeared into the rainforest.
“I just decided to take off,” she remembers. “It was really stupid, actually, more than brave or interesting! I just picked Costa Rica because I heard it was a safer place for a young woman travelling alone. I didn’t speak any Spanish and I didn’t book any hotels; I did literally all my research on the plane on the way there. So I ended up in a $5 a night hotel with a Swiss Army Knife in my hand, as scary unsavoury people banged on my door.
“I thought, ‘This is it, I’m going to go hop on a plane and go back home to Canada’ – but things always look better in the morning. So each day, I just got up and carried on further into the rainforest. I love travelling, I love being in places where I don’t know what I’m doing – which is also what I look for in acting. I like being out of my comfort zone, and not being sure if I can pull it off.”
Maybe that’s why she plays being out of her comfort zone so well in the new comedy, Game Night. A high-concept affair about a murder mystery party gone awry, McAdams plays Annie, the hyper-competitive wife of Jason Bateman’s Max. A nice suburban woman, Annie is suddenly thrust into the uber-violent world of mobsters, and has to quickly learn how to handle a gun, drive a getaway car and plan sneak-attacks on deadly criminals.
“I genuinely found the script so funny,” says McAdams. “Listening to the directors’ vision for it – how they wanted to emphasise the thriller aspects and play the danger for real – it sounded great. Also, I hadn’t worked with Jason Bateman for almost a decade. We did something ages ago that was very different in tone, a very serious dramatic piece, and I only got to work with him for one day. But I’ve always loved him so much as an actor and comedian, so I jumped at the chance. This movie also had a lot of physical, screwball comedy, which is my favourite comedy to do. That was a big draw.”
McAdams is adorable and downright hilarious in Game Night – but Bateman himself revealed to me why watching her get down and dirty is so funny.
“She’s so perfect for the character,” he said, “because the most dangerous thing you can ever imagine Rachel doing is trying to look over another student’s shoulder in high-school – and even then, she’s so nice she’d probably turn herself in.”
When I recount Bateman’s analysis back to McAdams, she roars with laughter.
“I have never thought about myself that way, but I’m glad I’ve pulled the wool over his eyes!” she chuckles. “But I feel like Annie is so super competitive, she’s quite willing to put her scruples aside to win. I didn’t see her as innocent, though there’s a kind of suburban innocence that definitely lends itself to comedy. She’s certainly a fish out of water in this dark, seedy underworld.”
It’s a delight seeing McAdams’ comedic skills on display again, as the past few years have seen her taking smaller dramatic roles in interesting projects. She worked with Terrence Malick and Brian De Palma; wowed audiences with her role as a hard-edged investigator in True Detective; and earned an Oscar nomination as tenacious journalist Sacha Pfeiffer in Spotlight. However, she’s now ready to dive back into lighter fare.
On Game Night, McAdams notably met Irish actress Sharon Horgan, of whom she is a big fan.
“Sharon is so hilarious, she’s such an exciting person to watch!” McAdams gushes. “I hadn’t seen Catastrophe until I heard she was cast, and then I just binge-watched. I was in awe of her. When I finally met her, I just fangirled. I was so nervous going up to her and whispering, ‘Hi, sorry to bother you, but I love your show!’ I lost all my cool and turned into a total geek, asking her a million questions about it and just worshipping her style. I now feel much more sympathy for fans who get tongue-tied, because that was me around Sharon!”
Away from the screen, McAdams is an avid activist, working with environmentalist groups, volunteering after Hurricane Katrina, and supporting the Day Without Immigrants campaign to promote diversity. She also contributed to the #MeToo movement by sharing her own experience with predatory director James Toback, who has been accused of sexual misconduct and assault by over 200 women, including actress Selma Blair.
Aged 21, McAdams was told she had an audition with Toback. She described a meeting at a hotel where the director said he had masturbated thinking about her, and tried to get her to remove her clothes. Recounting her experience, McAdams said she extricated herself from the hotel room and told her agent about the experience, only to hear that this had happened to another of the agent’s clients.
“That is when I got mad,” said McAdams, “because I felt like I was kind of thrown into the lion’s den, and given no warning that he was a predator. This was something that he was known for doing already.”
It is important to note that McAdams has not made a public statement about working with Woody Allen on Midnight In Paris in 2011. Dylan Farrow, Woody Allen’s adoptive daughter, has alleged for over 20 years that the director molested her when she was a child, though he has never been found guilty. Dylan Farrow has called out actresses who have chosen to work with him, writing in an open letter published in The New York Times, “What if it had been your child, Cate Blanchett? Louis CK? Alec Baldwin? What if it had been you, Emma Stone? Or Scarlet Johansson? You knew me when I was a little girl, Diane Keaton. Have you forgotten about me?”
Stone and Johansson have been vocal supporters of the Me Too movement, while some of Woody Allen’s other leading ladies, such as Ellen Page and Greta Gerwig, have expressed remorse for working with him. This does indicate that the tide is turning, and despite her silence about Woody Allen so far, McAdams is in favour of that. She explains how she remains hopeful about her activism when the cultural moment feels so dark.
“I think I’m an inherently positive person,” she reflects. “I feel like with the #MeToo movement this year, we’ve seen how things really can change. Things can be a certain way for so long and then the needle moves, finally. Young people really are going to grow up in a different world – hopefully, anyway, but it does seem that way. It’s just about caring every day, about treating each other a little better, and treating the planet better.
“There’s more conversation about the planet now than ever, which is fantastic. So it can be hard, and discouraging, but I think it’s about keeping your eye on the progress, no matter how small. Because small steps turn into big leaps real quick.”
© 2018 Hot Press | Written by Roe McDermott | No copyright infringment intended.