Guff: Rachel McAdams on Southpaw and True Detective

Published: July 24, 2015

This month you can still see Rachel McAdams on season two of True Detective, playing grizzled detective Ani Bezzerides. In the equally gritty movie Southpaw, McAdams plays the softer side. Maureen Hope (McAdams) is Billy Hope’s (Jake Gyllenhaal) wife who’s ready for him to get out of the fight game. Only Billy’s hostility can’t be contained and nearly costs him everything, including their daughter.

McAdams sat with a roundtable of press to discuss Southpaw and Guff was there to ask questions and learn about her involvement with the movie. Even though Maureen was not the boxer, McAdams got more involved with the training than you might expect.

Q: Your shoes you wear to the opening fight were pretty fabulous. Did you like those?
Rachel McAdams: They were fabulous. It was hard to zip them up. If you have a calf at all, which I do, they were tight, but yeah, I was like who’s wearing these gladiator high heels? And now I see them everywhere, so I guess Maureen was ahead of the curve.

Q: Maureen is a fighter herself. Did that feel like a different sort of character for you?
RM: Yeah, she was really different. I think she really felt like she was the front line for Billy and everybody had to go through her. So it was great to always have that mantra, to just be that fierce, to be that mama bear with her child and interesting to explore where that came from.

Having not had any family, never had any protection, it was always just her and Billy against the world. It was just fun to play someone who’s that clear about their goals and intentions. And at the same time, I think she was fumbling in the dark sometimes. She had no role models, so she’s kind of figuring it out as she goes along.

I think there was real fear underneath about Billy’s longevity and not being punch drunk at the end of the day, knowing that he loves the sport so much, that they both do, and the conflict with how seductive the world is. There’s so much money involved. When you’re hot, like she says, everybody scatters like roaches.

I just felt like she had a very rich inner life and had to hide some of it. Also, learning how to deal with Billy, he’s hot headed and I think she was at one time in her life and has had to be the cool head in this relationship now.

Q: Did you have any connection to boxing before this movie?
RM: I had zero connection with boxing coming into this. I had watched a few fights at parties and I actually enjoyed watching the fight. I wasn’t in the kitchen eating hors d’oeuvres. I was into it. I think it’s a fascinating sport. Now I have much more respect for it and realize just the incredible sacrifice that goes into being a boxer at any level really. And I got to do a little bit of boxing myself for this, which was great.

Q: You don’t box in the movie. What did they have you do?
RM: Well, I figured Maureen would know a lot about the sport and I figured she probably had boxed. They’ve been together for 22 years. He’s been doing this most of their life. I think she would want to know the ins and outs. She would know every move of his, when he was out of sync, when he was on. I just wanted to understand how physically difficult it was. I really don’t think you can get a sense of it until you put yourself in those shoes and put the gloves on. So I did. I have my own gloves now.

Q: What sports were you into?
RM: Growing up I figure skated a lot, growing up in Canada. It was either hockey or figure skating. Then I played soccer in the summer and volleyball and badminton. Now these days I’m more into running, swimming and yoga. And boxing. I love the boxing. I kept doing boxing. I did it for True Detective. I rolled over into it from this.

Q: Did the True Detective role feel different for you, doing something so gritty?
RM: Yeah, I always hope to switch things up. That’s part of the fun, is trying to have as diverse of a career as you possibly can. Yeah, these parts don’t come along every day. I wish they did. There’s sort of a lack of them out there. I don’t know how I got it, but I just rejoice all the time. She was great to play and I had such a great time doing it.

Funny enough, it didn’t feel dark at the time doing it. It was so creatively satisfying that I went home feeling quite light on my feet at the end of every day. Colin [Farrell] and I talked about that. I think he felt the same way.

Q: Did you see Jake’s transformation firsthand?
RM: Well, I got to see him right when he was just starting the training and he looked more like he does now. He had long hair and a big bushy beard and didn’t look anything like a boxer. Just to think, he had three months to make that so realistic. It wasn’t just about getting in good physical shape. I can’t imagine how hard that was as well, but to make it believable.

The choreography is so intense. It’s such a dance. I think it’s really quite a graceful dance and the mental abilities you have to have, to see things coming and to play your game and not get thrown off. All these things, it’s really a lot. He did an extraordinary job, and the emotional transformation. I feel like he just became someone else. I didn’t recognize Jake in this person.

Q: When cameras were off, was he still Billy or did he go back to being Jake?
RM: I think there’s always shades. You have to maintain a little bit of it. Not a lot, but a little bit. He was really going through it physically, so it was hard for him to step away from the physical part of it. He was having to train so much. That was such a part of his daily life, and it shows. I think it shows really well.

Q: How did you respond to the theme of this violence that makes him successful in the ring isn’t really under control in his real life?
RM: I think he goes from acting out of his shadow side to coming into the light and learning how to channel. I don’t think anger is a bad thing. I think we all have it and I think it can protect you often. I think Billy was protecting himself with his anger as much as he was hurting himself, so it was a matter of finding the balance and having to lose everything to figure out what mattered to him. And I think that’s something that Maureen kept in check for a long time, but I think he was a bit of a ticking time bomb, anyway.

Southpaw is in theaters Friday and True Detective airs Sundays on HBO.

© 2015 Guff | Written by Fred Topel| No copyright infringment intended.

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