National Post: Career highlights

National Post
Published: June 18, 2004

As Canadian actress Rachel McAdams goes from a Mean Girl to lovelorn pretty girl in The Notebook, it seems her acting ability is as versatile as her hair colour

The glamour and the excitement of a movie star’s life is something to behold. And some day, perhaps, Rachel McAdams will behold it. But right now, the Toronto actress is far from the opulent crowd. She’s also between homes, and wondering how long she’ll “be taking this gypsy ride.”

It’s not exactly the lifestyle one would expect from the actress who stole the show as the nasty Queen Bee in the hit comedy Mean Girls, and who is already receiving pre-release Oscar buzz for her so-in-love rich girl in The Notebook, the bittersweet love story that opens June 25.

Both roles are as strikingly different as her looks in each of the films, which suits her just fine. As it is, fans of Mean Girls rarely recognize her in L.A. or Toronto now that she’s anything but an icy blond.

But, as McAdams suggests, she doesn’t have time to worry about her popularity or, for that matter, her personal life. In rapid succession, the 27-year-old has gone from The Notebook to Mean Girls to The Wedding Planners, which she is currently shooting in L.A.

So the apparently trivial matter of finding a place to live is a low priority right now. “I moved out of my non-heated Toronto apartment in March,” she says, referring to the place she called home for the last eight years. “It was about time.

Even my parents said, ‘What’s wrong with you? You make these big movies and then you go home, and you don’t have heat? What is your problem?’ I said, ‘I don’t have time to get the heat fixed. That’s what’s wrong.’

OK, don’t feel too bad for her. In the meantime, while she’s shooting The Wedding Planners with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson, she’s renting a house on Venice Beach. And when she does find time to return to Toronto, she will be house hunting. Yes, some things have changed for the better.

And while she never wanted to be a movie star, she always yearned to be an actress even as a shy and awkward St. Thomas, Ont., teenager engrossed in local and high school theatre. Eventually, her obsession took her to York University, where she graduated with an honours degree in theatre arts.

Small TV roles in 1997’s Earth: Final Conflict and 1998’s The Famous Jett Jackson followed and gave her a taste of what to expect while she attended university.

A Genie nomination for her performance in 2001’s Perfect Pie also gave her the courage to get a Hollywood agent. Surprising everybody, including herself, she next won the female lead in the 2002 Rob Schneider “switching” comedy, The Hot Chick.

And I think it’s funny that this question comes up now,” McAdams says. “People ask, ‘Are you worried about being typecast as the hot chick and the mean girl?’ And I think, ‘Hey, all I want to do is get a job acting’. But if I was worried, The Notebook dispels that.”

It certainly does. The buzz after advance screenings for the movie based on the Nicholas Sparks novel raised McAdams’ stock in Hollywood. But she’s either in denial or very cautious about embracing all the flattery.

She plays opposite another Canadian, Cornwall, Ont., native Ryan Gosling. In the film, they are Depression-era teenagers who fall in and out of love, then are reunited after the Second World War.

Well, yeah, the romance is a big attraction for me,” McAdams says. “It’s about this pure love, and the struggle and the passion and the drive to find that unique thing that few people truly have, but always want.”

Acting in it really brought out the sentimental, hopeless romantic in me and I went for it,” she says.

James Garner and Gena Rowlands are also featured as older versions of the couple, one coping with Alzheimer’s, but McAdams stands out.

Breakout role for me?” she says, repeating what’s been asked. “Well, I don’t know. Hollywood’s a funny place. Sometimes what you think would hit doesn’t, and other times the strangest things blow up. I guess I’m just taking it in stride.”

Just like her hair colour, which may or may not be light brown. “What is it now?” she says. “Yeah, strawberry blond, or red. And right, I was blond in Mean Girls. I do it all. But really, I’m myself, no matter what colour my hair is.”

But she doesn’t do some things. For instance, based on reports from the Mean Girls set last year in Toronto, word is she’s a party pooper.

I was such a lame little tour guide,” she confesses. “I know, I was in my hometown, and I got along with everyone really well, but they were younger, and partying is just so much work sometimes.”

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