From Mean Girls to Morning Glory, there’s very little fat on Rachel McAdams’ CV. Nonetheless, Paul Byrne gets, eh, jiggly with her.
When it first arrived on our screens back in 2004, the very fine, very funny Mean Girls launched its leading lady, Lindsay Lohan, into the limelight. Where, as we all know, she has managed to burn herself on quite a few lightbulbs.
It was just over Lohan’s shoulder where the real talent lay though. And I’m not just talking about the film’s writer, Tina Fey, who also played nerdish teacher Ms. Norbury and who went on to create and star in the towering 30 Rock, and help make the likes of Megamind and Date Night enjoyable multiplex fodder.
I’m talking about the no.1 mean girl of the piece, the girl who was merrily making Lohan’s newbie suffer – prom queen Regina George. Played by Rachel McAdams. Who hasn’t got any lightbulb scars that I can see. And I’m sitting pretty close.
“That was a fun role to play,” smiles the 32-year old actress. “And it was a great movie to be in, because, you know, it worked. And people still come up to me about it, which is always a good sign.
“All the good intentions in the world, from the most talented, passionate people you can meet, can’t really predict how people will connect to a film. I’ve been lucky in that I’ve had a few movies just connect deeply.
“If I knew exactly why certain movies have that kind of effect, I’d be making that kind of movie every time.”
As it is, McAdams has to accept the simple reality of having both hits and misses, both commercially and artistically. Luckily, her scoring rate is well above average, thanks to the likes of Mean Girls, Wedding Crashers and every teenage girl’s favourite heartbreaker, The Notebook.
McAdams’ latest offering, Morning Glory, is something of a winner too. Set amongst the cheery, cutthroat world of morning television, Daybreak is on the appropriately named IBS network – and it’s about to go belly-up when McAdams’ quirky but bright young producer is drafted in. The problem being very few male co-presenters can stick being the morning sparring partner of Diane Keaton’s Colleen Peck. Enter Harrison Ford’s veteran hard newsman.
PAUL BYRNE: The sparks fly between your character and Harrison Ford’s here, giving Morning Glory many of its finest comic moments. Hard work, or a lot of fun?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Harrison Ford has an incredible understanding of what’s funny and what’s not. And his timing is impeccable. So, yeah, a lot of fun. Partly because it upped my game. I knew I was facing a guy who’d made a movie or two, and knew exactly what he was doing, so, I was always ready to react to the smallest detail, and, hopefully, push it that little bit forward.
Let’s not forget the great Diane Keaton here too – a woman who has more than her fair share of perfectly-formed comedies down through the years, with the likes of Annie Hall, Manhattan and, eh, Father Of The Bride.
Diane Keaton is an inspiration, partly through the great work she has given us, but also just as a person who always seems to be moving forward. There’s this great sense of someone constantly exploring, always looking for new challenges. That’s pretty inspiring to be around. And it took me more than a few days to get used to being around Diane when we made The Family Stone a few years ago. It wasn’t quite as bad this time, but I’m still in awe of the woman. Everyone dreams of a career like that, where the work just keeps on surprising you…
And what of your early inspirations? Born in London, Ontario to a truck driver dad and a mum who was a nurse, you took up competitive figure skating aged only four, and then the acting bug bit when you were twelve. Dreams of fame and fortune, or just something to do rather than make another snowman?
Yeah, the main reason I got into acting was I became jaded with snowmen [laughs]. I think it’s the same for most kids, where you’re just searching for something that allows you to express yourself. It’s about that imagination you have as a kid, and not wanting to let it go. It’s incredible, watching kids create entire worlds for themselves as they sit down with some toys, or make a fort out in the garden. I think it was that feeling that just took a hold, and hasn’t let go ever since.
After making something of a splash in your native Canada – some award-winnning work onstage and a handful of on-screen outings (including 2001 debut Shotgun Love Dolls) – you made your big Hollywood debut in 2002’s The Hot Chick. Where your mean girl Jessica suddenly finds herself in the body of Rob Schneider. Talk about your baptism of fire…
It was an interesting film to start with, yeah [laughs]. I was just delighted to get my foot in the door, and to experience the Hollywood movie from the inside for a change. I wasn’t in that movie all that much – Rob Schneider got most of Jessica’s screen time. But it set me up for Mean Girls really, so, I have that to be thankful for.
There was a two-year gap between The Hot Chick and Mean Girls – was that you struggling for work, or being choosy?
A bit of both [laughs]. I didn’t want to say yes to every piece of work that was offered to me, because I knew from early on that it was the work that would dictate your career more than anything else. You can be the sweetest person in the world, and talk a good talk, but, if your movies mean nothing to people, you’ll only last so long. And you won’t feel so great about yourself in the morning either. So, yeah, I wanted to try and find the work that would last. So I might just last too.
One of those movies that has definitely lasted is The Notebook, the tragic romance between your Allie and Ryan Gosling’s Noah inducing mass wailing and flailing of arms amongst teenage girls…
That really caught us by surprise. Ryan is such an incredible actor, and we were both determined to throw ourselves into those roles, but you never dare hope that people will be so moved by what you’ve done. I’ve met people who practically cry as they talk about The Notebook to me. That’s pretty mindblowing.
Of course, the fact that you and Ryan began dating off-screen just added to that hysteria. And when you guys didn’t stick together, well, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth amongst teenage girls…
There was that sense that we had let everyone down [laughs]. It was as though we hadn’t fulfilled our destiny somehow, but, again, that’s flattering, because you’ve hit an emotional nerve with a two-hour movie. I love that these things can go out there and affect people so deeply…
You’re currently shooting the Sherlock Holmes sequel in London, and you’ve also got three films in post-production – Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, Terrence Malick’s latest, and The Vow, with Channing Tatum. Money’s too tight to mention, so, which one would you recommend?
Hey, I would recommend all of them, but, if you could only go and see one, I think because Terrence Malick makes so few films, and they’re always something special, something out of the ordinary, I would go and check that one out. Then, while you’re in there, go see Woody Allen’s movie, and The Vow, and the Sherlock Holmes sequel. That way, you’ll save a ton of money…
Words – Paul Byrne Morning Glory hits Irish screens Jan 21st