Cinema: Morning Glory – Rachel McAdams Interview

Published: January, 2011

Q: Hi Rachel, how are you?
A: I’m great thanks.

Q: In Morning Glory your character Becky Fuller is very driven and quirky. What was your take on her?
A: I instantly liked her when I read the script. Becky was just this very scattered, goofy, kind of nutty character who is in charge of everything. She’s trying to keep this whole big fiasco together and she wants to stop it from completely coming apart at the seams, yet she is completely coming apart at the seams. I liked that juxtaposition. I also liked the fact she was very expressive about how she felt. You know, normally, it’s the on-air talent that is so communicative about their feelings, but she’s this behind the scenes person who really had a lot of personality.

Q: Becky has ambition to burn. Could you identify with that in terms of your own career?
A: Definitely. Certainly the feeling of getting your first shot at something you really want and knowing you have to make it work. Or feeling like you have to make it work or you’re never going to get another shot. I think so many people start their careers that way. First of all, it’s about getting your foot in the door and then once you have it there, it’s how do maintain it? We put a lot of pressure on ourselves to get it right, but you can’t possibly do that all the time. There’s no room to fail anymore.

Q: What do you regard as your first big break, the time where you thought everything was on the line?
A: I felt that way from the very first job I had on television in a kids TV series (The Famous Jett Jackson). It was a guest role and it was about three days work, but I thought ‘This is it. This is my moment.’ I was 21 or 22 at the time.

Q: Becky’s mother in Morning Glory is not encouraging in terms of her daughter’s career plans. Were your parents always supportive of your goal to become an actress?
A: Yes, they were always very supportive and I was very lucky. I certainly remember though when I was at school, because I went to theatre school, with a lot of kids whose parents weren’t supportive. I always thought it was so brave of them to be there on their own dime without the support of their family. The thing with acting as a profession, it isn’t a sure thing and yet it’s what you love and you’re going for it. It is tough when you get to that point and think, when do you stop if things aren’t going your way? When do you give up something you love and should you ever do that? The answer is different for everyone.

Q: Do you think you would have ever given up?
A: That’s a good question. I really don’t know. I did face rejection and I still do, but it doesn’t make me want to run away. It stings (laughs). It’s not a pleasant feeling, but you just pick yourself up, dust yourself off and try it again.

Q: Are you like Becky where you have a very definite idea of where you want your career to go?
A: No, I’m not really like her that way. I don’t really have a plan, I guess. It’s a crap shoot. I just do things which speak to me and I can’t really explain why some things jump off the page and some things don’t. Sometimes you’re at a certain point in your life and it just makes sense, but if you’d read that same script a year before it wouldn’t have even crossed your mind. A good story, a great role, a great director and good people rank highly for me.

Q: Speaking of which, did you know Harrison Ford and Diane Keaton were going to be your co-stars when you signed on for Morning Glory?
A: I knew Harrison was on board and that was another huge draw. I just knew he was going to kill this part. We haven’t seen him like this in a while and he’s so funny. He’s so good at it. I think people forget how funny he is and he does it in such an unexpected way. He doesn’t play for laughs at all. He has a really dry, still sense of humour and it’s really perfect for this character. He was very vulnerable too which I didn’t know going in and I found myself in scenes with him where he was completely exposed emotionally and very honest.

Q: Harrison said you seemed very at ease in doing the scenes with him.
A: No, that’s just my coping mechanism – I seem very calm on the outside, but on the inside, I’m screaming! It’s funny because I always get so nervous, especially when I do awards shows.

Q: Really?
A: Yes and people say ‘You seemed so calm on stage’ but the minute I’m done, I’m shaking like a leaf. I’m always asking ‘Did I just make a completely fool of myself?’ and people say ‘You’d never know you were nervous’ but on the inside, it’s a whole other story. I guess I just conceal it well because I was very nervous to work with Harrison. He’s one of my childhood heroes. I wanted to impress him when we did those scenes. I wanted to be a good team partner for him and I wanted to bring my A-game because I respect him so much.

Q: What was it like working with Diane?
A: Another amazing person to get the opportunity to work with. She’s so funny and talented and she always looks like a million bucks. She gave me some great personal advice too. I said to her one day ‘You always look so fabulous in the mornings’ while I would come to work dressed in sweatpants. She would always be in high heels and dresses and look so fantastic. I said ‘I always want to save my good stuff’ but Diane told me ‘There’s no time like the present to break out all your best things. There’s no point in saving it. It’s there to be used and you need to treat every day that way.’ I thought that was great because it’s so true. Before that I’d save all my good stuff, but for when? (laughs) Now, thanks to Diane, I’m breaking out the good stuff!

Q: New York is almost like another character in this film. What was it like shooting here?

A: New York is very important in this film. You put a camera on any corner in New York and you’re going to get something amazing, but Roger (Michell) had some very specific ideas of things he wanted to shoot. You know, the statues, the monuments, the things you pass by every day and don’t take note of. He incorporated those in a really beautiful way. I loved his approach to it all.

Q: What was it like working with Roger and how was he as a director?
A: I had met Roger a few times to talk about Morning Glory. I’ve long been an admirer of his films and how diverse they are. He insisted on rehearsals which I think is great. He has a theatre background so he gets the benefit of that. One of the things I like most about Roger is that he has a great way of weaving in these seemingly very peripheral characters and making them important and making them matter. I mean, the greatest pool of unemployed actors are in New York City and he brought in such amazing talent, such as John Pankow (who plays Lenny Bergman) and Matt Molloy (Ernie Appleby). All of the producers in that newsroom where Becky feels bombarded, they were all exceptional. I think that was one of my favourite scenes in the movie. Each and every actor in that scene brought so much to the table.

Q: What was one of the more unusual aspects of shooting Morning Glory?
A: Well, that would have to be the pigeon wrangling. There are billions of pigeons all over New York so you’d think it wouldn’t be difficult to find a pile of them to run through, but let me assure you, I had to coax those pigeons with bread to be in that scene. It was very relaxing actually (laughs). But running wasn’t the easiest in those heels.

Q: I can imagine.

A: Yes, we had to have a shoe test in my trailer to see which ones were going to work. Anything with a platform? Not so good. You need a little grip.

Q: This film deals a lot with drive and ambition. Do you think too much ambition can ever be a bad thing?
A: I do actually. I think being very ambitious can serve you well up to a point, but Becky is one the verge. I think she does tip over at a certain point (laughs) and she has to pull back a bit. Maybe this is a little more internalised for me regarding Becky, but I think she comes to realise that sometimes you don’t have to do it all by yourself. I think women have a tendency to think we have to do it all, but that can be very hard. I think when you foster relationships, as well as having your career, it means we also can learn to let go a little bit. I believe balance in life is key.

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