Published: August 15, 2008
If it’s tuesday, Rachel McAdams must be blond. So what if the hollywood hottie has sociopathic tendencies?
In ‘‘The Lucky Ones,’’ which is out next month, you play a soldier home on leave from Iraq. What attracted you to this movie?
When I first read the script, I didn’t get my character and I found that interesting. She had such a mishmash of qualities — one minute she’s a hellcat and the next she’s so sensitive. I liked that sense of complication. And I was interested in what it is to belong to something like the Army and the nature of true fellowship and service. Basically, the movie is a long road trip, and that was resonant for me: we were the family that drove to Disney World and played Name That Tune all the way there and back. I didn’t go up in an airplane until I was 22, and then I was heading to Italy for my first part. It was very glamorous and completely different from anything I had known. I thought, This is making movies!
You grew up in a small town in Canada. Did you always want to act?
No. When you live in a small town in the middle of Ontario, it would have been too big of a dream to say you want to go to Hollywood. But, secretly, I think I always knew. When I was young, I was a figure skater, and every year there was an ice carnival. I lived for the carnival. That’s when the actress in me first came out. I loved the costumes and the sparkles. One year, I got to play Marilyn Monroe on ice. I danced to ‘‘Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend.’’ I wore a long blond wig and a red dress with sequins. It was heavenly.
When I was 12, I went to drama camp. I knew every Broadway score and I wanted to be in the musical, but I couldn’t carry a tune. So a wise teacher said, ‘‘Maybe you’d like to try Shakespeare.’’ Initially, it was intimidating, but our first play was ‘‘Macbeth’’ and I was cast as one of the witches. Instead of being ugly, we were beautiful and sexy witches. The director was clever to make that distinction, and I was hooked: I loved Shakespeare. It was around then that I probably hooked: I loved Shakespeare. It was around then that I probably admitted to myself that I wanted to be an actress.
But you still stayed in Canada instead of jetting off to L.A. or New York.
Yes, I lived in a little town, the type of place where the mayor also bags your groceries. I still don’t live in L.A. or New York. I had a small-town life — I worked at the local McDonald’s for three years. I’m not sure why they kept me: I am something of a daydreamer and a dawdler, so they would only let me be the ‘‘friendly voice’’ that greeted you when you entered the restaurant. I was slow — I would be organizing the sweet-and-sour packets in the customer’s takeout bag while the line snaked out the door. Even at a fast-food restaurant, I wanted everything just so.
Movie sets must remind you of small towns.
It’s true. You are very close to the cast and crew for a short amount of time. I go into withdrawal every time I finish a movie. I miss that sense of working together toward the same goal. I’ve always liked the idea of some kind of task, planning and organizing an event. In high school, I had the official title of ‘‘social convener.’’ I was a committee of one, organizing the prom. I am so not that girl, but I was bored and I wanted to make things more interesting.
What did you wear to your prom?
A chartreuse floor-length dress. It had a velvet bodice and a chiffon skirt. I had a wrist corsage and I wore my hair in tight curls.
What color was your hair? You’re always switching — from red to blond to brown to pink stripes and back again.
Back then I think it was dirty blond. It’s a compulsion: I’m always changing parts of me. Even when I was young, I wanted to change my hair color. I was so determined that I dyed my hair with Kool-Aid. You dunk your head in a bowl of red Kool-Aid for four hours, and it comes out apricot. Not that pretty, but it is still transforming. Even my handwriting changes regularly. [She laughs.] They say that only happens with sociopaths, so maybe I’m crazy.
For your first major role, ‘‘The Hot Chick,’’ you were very blond, and in the film your character’s personality was swapped with the comedian Rob Schneider’s. What was it like to be a guy?
I watched all of Rob Schneider’s movies, and I knew his mannerisms. I didn’t think they would cast me, but I liked acting like a guy. It was strangely liberating. I think it may have been harder for Rob to become female.
Do you like to audition?
I love auditioning. Since ‘‘The Notebook’’ and ‘‘Wedding Crashers,’’ I don’t have to audition anymore, and I miss it. You get to show your interpretation of the character. I get nervous when I don’t audition. What if they hate what I want to do? I also like screen tests, where they put you in a room with your male co-star. They want to see if the two of you have chemistry together. There’s something wonderfully old-fashioned about a chemistry test. During a movie, chemistry is so important, and yet they just assume actors can fake their way through it. That doesn’t always work.
In ‘‘The Notebook,’’ you and Ryan Gosling had amazing chemistry. Are love scenes difficult?
They’re strange. A kiss with anyone, on or off camera, can be intimidating. I’ve been kissing for nearly two decades now, and I’m always convinced I’m not doing it right. Chemistry is so important in a great kiss. You can act your way through anything, but it’s hard with a kiss. It’s much better if there’s an attraction.
You had a very busy year in 2005 with ‘‘Red Eye,’’ ‘‘Wedding Crashers’’ and ‘‘The Family Stone,’’ and then you kind of disappeared. I’m sure you were deluged with offers. Why not accept them?
You’d be surprised: I didn’t get many interesting offers after I finished ‘‘The Notebook.’’ And yes, I now get a lot of them. But I don’t like to work all the time. When I’m working, the rest of my life slips away. I press pause on everything, and then, when I’m done working, I get back to the world I’m trying to interpret in the movies. I have a split personality — I love being completely immersed in my nonworking life, but I am equally compelled by the lives of the characters I play. If you want to tell stories as truthfully as possible, you have to have a normal, boring existence. Otherwise, you’ll never understand the greatness of the everyday