Los Angeles Daily News
Published: August 28, 2005
Rachel McAdams has the lead in airborne thriller Red Eye, but her fellow passengers still don’t recognise her – even when she’s on the in-flight movie. By Evan Henerson.
There was a time, not so long ago, when Rachel McAdams might have built herself a career playing girls you love to see get run over by buses.
As Regina, the ringleader of the “plastics” and the meanest of the Mean Girls menacing Lindsay Lohan, McAdams was nothing short of demonic. And this, after playing a not-so-nice cheerleader who inadvertently switches bodies with Rob Schneider in her first major Hollywood film, The Hot Chick.
Warts, disreputable behaviour? Bring it on, says McAdams, as long as the role has weight.
“What is it like to play a teenage psychopath? Where does that come from, and why does that happen?” she asks.
“Everybody has a dark side and we shy away from it so much. I think if we had a better understanding of human behaviour, things would be a little bit different. “I just want a good female character,” she continues.
“I don’t care if she’s an unattractive person or if she has issues. The more issues, the better.”
But before McAdams could get in touch with her inner bitch, fate – and release scheduling – dealt her a different card.
Out came Nick Cassavetes’ The Notebook in which McAdams burned up the screen as a privileged southern belle in love with lumber-mill worker Ryan Gosling.
The 2004 film, which grossed a respectable $US80 million ($A106 million) in America, transformed McAdams into a favourite of the under-20 set and showered her with a raft of MTV movie and teen choice awards.
On-screen meanness gave way to high-spiritedness and faster than you could say “instant ingenue” the Canadian actor, who turns 29 in October, became heroine of the month.
She is currently the sweet and principled elder daughter (as well as the least funny character) in the comedy Wedding Crashers and is the hotel manager sucked into a hit man’s terrorist plot in Wes Craven’s airborne thriller, Red Eye, which opens in Australia on Thursday.
“I guess I don’t always need to play the character who is the hero,” says McAdams.
“I just want to play unique people you haven’t seen before. Someone who you just want to get inside their head and understand what makes them tick.”
Hollywood may like to carve out a niche for its leading ladies, but Wedding Crashers director David Dobkin figures McAdams will quickly be able to chart her own course.
“She hates being compared, but I often said to her, ‘You can be Meryl Streep. You can be Sigourney Weaver or Julia Roberts‘,” says Dobkin.
“I believe she can make almost anything that you ask her to do.”
Craven calls her an actor of “enormous range and great charisma, not to mention a fantastic beauty“.
A brunette in Crashers (as she is in Red Eye), McAdams’ Claire Cleary leaves most of the film’s comic heavy lifting to her co-stars Vincent Vaughn, Owen Wilson, Jane Seymour and Isla Fisher. But the actor’s naughty streak still shines through, according to her director.
“She’s so wholesome, but she’s also got some fun, truly girlish streaks,” says Dobkin.
“When she’s giggling in church (at the corny vows uttered by her sister) and not being someone you hate – that’s a hard scene to pull off.”
There are not quite so many laughs in Red Eye, in which McAdams’ character, Lisa Reisert, spends the bulk of the film trying to outwit the bad guy (Cillian Murphy of Batman Begins), a hired gun blackmailing her into switching the room occupied by the deputy secretary of Homeland Security, exposing him to an assassination plot.
Filmed almost exclusively in airports and aboard a specially constructed plane set (complete with hydraulics to simulate turbulence), Red Eye skirts the border of the type of movies McAdams – who is not a horror fan – would go to see. Playing the material, on the other hand, was a different matter.
“It was a real page-turner, obviously an actor’s piece,” says McAdams. “The character had an arc that terrified me. It’s always good when you read a script, and you’re terrified of taking on a role, but you can’t put it down.”
“Spending all that time on the plane in that confined space, not having a lot of dialogue, having to have a lot of the work done behind your eyes and hoping that it comes across,” she replies. “The subtleties were so significant.”
In the tight, 85-minute thriller, McAdams flirts with and shares a drink with Murphy in the terminal before finding herself – surprise – seated next to him on the plane. The romantic fantasy turns sour as he reveals his intentions and matters quickly get menacing.
McAdams, who still lives in Toronto, spends a fair amount of time in the air. But even with her celebrity stock steadily on the rise, her real-life plane rides are generally uneventful, she says.
“I have to say I like the isolation of being on a plane,” she says. “You’re not on a phone, you’re not on a computer. Nobody really has access to you, or you to them. You can just sort of cosy up with a book and check out for a couple of hours.”
Other people leave you alone on a plane, she says, even when there might be a compelling reason they might not want to.
“I was on this plane once and they were playing The Notebook and I was sitting beside this guy who was watching the film,” she recalls.
“I drank a lot of water on the plane, so I was getting up constantly. He had his legs in the aisle, and we were sort of falling all over each other, and he was staring at the screen the whole time. I was saying, ‘excuse me’. No recognition.”
The rest of the passengers were equally oblivious. As she was standing at the front of the plane waiting for a lavatory to become vacant, McAdams’ head was between two Notebook-playing screens.
“No one noticed. Not one person had any recognition, which is great,” she says.
“I’m glad they were really into the film.”