National Post: Rachel McAdams relearned romance as an amnesiac spouse in The Vow

National Post
Published: February 5, 2012

In her stylish beige-and-black Valentino blouse and black Roxanna skirt, Rachel McAdams looks like she’s dressed for a hipster tea party.

Instead, the Toronto-based actress is biding her time in a Four Seasons hotel suite in Los Angeles, preparing for the first of a series of interviews to promote the romantic drama The Vow, which opens Feb. 10.

McAdams says “hello” politely, as she begins her first chat, poised and low-key, saving her energy for what’s ahead.

Indeed, the 33-year-old is pacing herself today, and has been over the past few years, in a career that’s been steady, but hardly intense.

Last year, she had a cameo as shyster Irene Adler in Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and won praise for her performance in Woody Allen’s Oscar-nominated Midnight in Paris, opposite her Wedding Crashers co-star Owen Wilson. In 2010, McAdams also earned raves for her TV-producer role in the Harrison Ford-Diane Keaton comedy Morning Glory.

And she has a co-starring part with Ben Affleck in an untitled Terrence Malick project, which might be ready for viewing at the Cannes Film Festival in May.

Still, McAdams is committed to staying in Toronto, where she lives, and bicycles, rejecting the car-crazed glamour of Hollywood in the process.

It’s still home,” she says of Toronto, where, coincidentally, The Vow was filmed. “Movies shoot all over the place now. I’m amazed. I can still live at home, which is great, and still get to work wherever.”

In The Vow, directed by Michael Sucsy, McAdams plays Paige, a sculptor who ends up in a coma after a car accident. When she regains consciousness, she has severe memory loss, and her husband Leo (Channing Tatum) is in a predicament. Paige doesn’t recognize him or the lifestyle they lead, so she starts reverting to her former upper-class ways, which is a cue for her rich father (Sam Neill) and controlling mother (Jessica Lange) to win their estranged daughter back.

Soon, she’s torn between her past and her current life with her husband, who attempts a courtship all over again.

Inspired by a book about Kim and Krickitt Carpenter’s real-life experiences, the film seems to suit McAdams — and that’s not just because she could go sleep in her own bed after 14-hour work days.

As fans know, one of her breakout hits arrived with the 2004 romantic melodrama The Notebook, which paired her with former boyfriend Ryan Gosling. (She’s currently dating Midnight in Paris co-star Michael Sheen.)

While The Vow is less weepy and more modern than The Notebook, the romance theme seems familiar (and timely, since it opens just before Valentine’s Day).

However, McAdams says she doesn’t choose roles based on what moviegoers might want from her.

It was never that intentional for me,” she says of The Vow. “I think I was excited to work with Channing. I really liked Michael’s vision, because he seemed to have a new take on the classic love story. And I liked the challenge of not making it so predictable, and working against that a little bit.”

She also believes The Vow provides some twists and turns. “Certainly, it’s a character I hadn’t played before,” she says, “and we’re really seeing things through the guy’s eyes, which is different, as well.”

As for her performance, McAdams had to play post-coma regression to her spoiled ways without alienating the audience — a difficult task she didn’t take lightly.

Paige becomes so disconnected from Leo, it was a challenge to keep things hopeful,” she explains.

Helping The Vow’s cause was the undeniable connection, on set and off, between Tatum and McAdams, who had never met, but always wanted to work with each other. “You can manufacture things to make it seem like they have chemistry, but they have the real thing, so it’s always easier to add the details,” director Sucsy says.

Tatum, who has the 2010 film romance Dear John on his résumé, agreed there was an undeniable bond between them. And he learned to appreciate McAdams’ strengths.

To play Paige honestly is a tightrope to walk,” Tatum says. “Then I realized, after I got to know [McAdams], that so much of her loveliness comes out in whatever character she does.”

Tatum says McAdams was also a gracious Toronto tour guide when they filmed there in the fall or 2010.

It was really nice for me,” says McAdams, who recommended restaurants, museums and art galleries. “And it’s always great to know your own city through other people’s eyes.”

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