Beautiful star-on-the-rise Rachel McAdams says she has barely enough time for an off-screen love life, ironic, since we’re sitting down chatting about her starring role in the old-fashioned romantic drama The Notebook. Here, in this 1940s-set film, she and Ryan Gosling play a couple who are separated by World War II, then passionately reunited 7 years later, after they have taken different paths. As classic a romantic tale this is, that sense of romanticism is yet to translate into McAdams’ own life, laughingly conceding that she hasn’t found love of late, “because he didn’t come when I sent out the letter.”
The Canadian-born McAdams, 27, admits that it’s tough to find romance in this crazy business of Hollywood. “I have hardly enough time for ME these days it seems, so I don’t think it is fair. It takes a lot of time, commitment and a choice. I’ve chosen this path, but it’s not to say I’m not open to love or whatever comes my way. But it’s a hard time right now, especially with everything being the way it is.” Not that she is dead against being asked out, of course. “I mean, you never close doors.” While her love life is stagnant, the same cannot be said for McAdams’ Hollywood career, which is destined to be fully cemented following the release of The Notebook.
Despite the added presence of veterans James Garner and Gena Rowlands, it is essentially McAdams, who first appeared on the scene in the regrettable comic fiasco The Hot Chick, who is required to literally carry this film. Her character is the film’s emotional centrepiece, a task the actress was made too aware of once she landed the part. “I was told if I wasn’t good in this movie, it would be screwed,” she says, laughingly. “That’s how I started the movie.” In order to avoid that sense of pressure, McAdams said at first, she merely avoided thinking about it. “At first I put way too much pressure on myself and realised that it wasn’t getting me anywhere. I was just a ball of stress and eventually, the character kicked in where she’s sort of free-spirited, doesn’t care what people think and chases down those things she wants. I think I had to get to that point where my survival instincts kicked in and so I just decided: OK, let’s take a ride.”
The Notebook is a film that chronicles the intense love and passion that exists between these two characters, in the tradition of classic Hollywood romances. McAdams says that it was not difficult being able to relate to what her character goes through in the course of the film, admitting that there have been times in her life when she felt the same degree of love or passion for somebody. “I mean, you try to be as sort of clinical, or as practical as you can, but my heart always wins the battle with my head. I think she’s the same way which is why people end up finding each other again.” Asked what head over heels material she drew upon in her real life, McAdams says it is “just trying to reconnect to those first love experiences. Also, when you’re working with someone for the first time, that’s interesting and almost a parallel,” she says, referring to her co-star Ryan Gosling. “Ryan and I didn’t know each other too well, so you get to have that little piece of newness, getting to know each other and all those other ‘newnesses’ come along with it, so as strange as movie making is, doing love scenes for the first time with someone you’ve never even said hello to, does work in terms of having a fresh quality to a relationship.”
Talking about love scenes, McAdams has some hot and sweaty moments with Gosling, and despite the intensity of those scenes, McAdams was unconcerned, “because we had lengthy conversations, from the very beginning. You know, Nick [Cassavetes, the director], Ryan and I started working on this two months in advance of shooting. We were in Charleston for two months prepping, so there was also this open discourse about how things would go and Ryan is a real gentleman. He’s got a lot of respect and we had a lot of communication and beyond that, you have to trust each other and play it out and see how it works.”
Despite the plethora of special effects blockbusters coming along, Rachel feels that there is very much a place for a movie like The Notebook. “This is the opposite of those large action thrillers that constantly keep you on the edge of your seat. What I love about this film is that it rejects that, as you kinda sit in that slow burn of love in the South. Also, I think that the tone and pace of the film reflect the time period, and those things complement each other so well. I think that it’s time for another sweeping romance because I think there hasn’t been one for a while.”
As one of the dominant themes in The Notebook is the everlasting power of love, one wonders what it is, in fact, that makes love last, according to this actress. “First I think it comes down to making a choice that you believe and once you’ve made that decision, then you don’t hold back; It’s everything and the kitchen sink. I don’t know anything about love but my parents are still very much in love and I think it’s a lot of work. However, I think you have to have passion and a little bit of spit and fire.”
There is no doubt that the buzz around this town, is that McAdams is definitely a star on the rise, and with this film even generating some early Oscar talk, McAdams says that the doors in Hollywood are beginning to open just a tad wider. “I mean, opportunities are definitely coming up and they’re very interesting. Being in a position to be able to choose is very stressful but also very amazing, wonderful and such a gift.” She says that position is beginning to take shape, but “it feels like sometimes you’ve gotta hit Hollywood over the head with a hammer. If Mean Girls hadn’t come out at the same time, I don’t know where I would be, but I’m going to hold out and see what happens.”
With growing success, the inevitably of fame also rears its ugly head, which remains a by-product of that success. The actress says that she hopes to deal with such impending fame by “hoping to go back to Canada, do a lot of travelling, which I find very grounding. But I think you have to decide: I’m going to be strong, and maintain who I am”.