Published: January 3, 2012
She’s smart and gorgeous, yet manages to be the most un-celeblike celeb we’ve ever met. What’s Rachel McAdams’ secret? Good friends, a “normal” life, an ex who adores her…and one really big knife. Plus, check out Rachel’s romantic cover-shoot gallery for Glamour’s February 2012 issue.
Rachel McAdams is just so cool. When I meet the 33-year-old actress for tea at a London hotel, she’s wearing a loose sweatshirt, and her hair, in a dozen tiny buns, makes her look kind of adorably crazy. “Oh, this is just how I dry my hair!” she says, laughing, without the least bit of self-consciousness. And that easy charm is trademark low-key McAdams: She does not frequent parties sponsored by giant fashion houses. She has no perfume deal. She still lives in Toronto in the same house she bought after a hilarious turn in Mean Girls years ago. Yes, she’s dated high-profile actors like Josh Lucas, Ryan Gosling and, currently, her Midnight in Paris costar Michael Sheen (also known as Aro in The Twilight Saga). But the only extracurricular scene McAdams has made recently was on the first day of Occupy Toronto, where she showed up to check the protests out and “educate myself.” Today we’re here to discuss McAdams’ newest movie, The Vow, in which she plays an amnesiac whose husband (Channing Tatum) tries to woo her back. It’s her most serious love story since The Notebook with Gosling, and she plays the role with the same likability that won us over the first time around. Listen in!
GLAMOUR: OK, wait, how many buns do you have there? It looks like 12.
RACHEL MCADAMS: This is not meant for public viewing! This is just how I dry my hair. All my friends make fun of me and call me Helga or Heidi.
GLAMOUR: You’ve had some other fancy hairdos, like those pink streaks years before Nicki Minaj.
RACHEL MCADAMS: I always wanted pink hair. I wanted to do my whole head, but my hairstylist, Robert, was like, “How about we start small?” I absolutely loved it. I still think about doing blue at some point, but I don’t like to change my hair before I’m about to do [a film]—you never know what that character’s going to be.
GLAMOUR: Do you get very involved in creating your characters’ looks?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Yeah, I love those preliminary conversations about who a character is. You try on wigs, shoes and clothes. It’s preferable when it’s not about looking pretty. It can get a little dull to just be cute. We talk about things like, maybe my character can’t afford these Christian Louboutins. [The stylist] will say, “No one will notice.” And I’m like, “Everyone knows that red-bottom shoe!”
GLAMOUR: You were a competitive figure skater. Was this before skating got all classy?
RACHEL MCADAMS: I definitely was in the sequined, bedazzled era. We would put blue eyeshadow up our eyebrows, and glitter all over our faces. I probably put more effort into my skating outfits than my clothes.
GLAMOUR: What’s harder for you, playing serious or playing silly?
RACHEL MCADAMS: I think playing silly. I’m very silly as a person, but quality silliness on-screen has more of an art to it. Harrison Ford, whom I was in Morning Glory with, has mastered that dry funny better than anyone.
GLAMOUR: Have you had mentors among your costars?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Diane Keaton, whom I’ve done two movies with. She’s a very caring and loving person. I love to listen to her stories.
GLAMOUR: So how about you tell me a story—is your Wikipedia page right? Did you work at McDonald’s?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Yeah, for a good three years. My sister and brother worked there. My sister was my manager!
GLAMOUR: Is that how you got the job? Nepotism?
RACHEL MCADAMS: [Laughs.] No, no. I was 16 and directing kids’ theater, which didn’t totally pay the bills.
GLAMOUR: What was working there like?
RACHEL MCADAMS: It was a great place to work, but I had a little bit of an OCD thing with hand washing and just didn’t have time. They were like, “Hey, the drive-through’s backing up. Stop washing your hands!” I was not a great employee; I broke the orange juice machine one day.
GLAMOUR: I hope your sister didn’t fire you! With that type of work experience, do you find it strange to be followed by paparazzi now?
RACHEL MCADAMS: It does happen, especially around the time a movie’s coming out. But I really like having a life outside work. I sometimes wish I did more career stuff and was in that Hollywood scene a bit more. But Toronto’s my home.
GLAMOUR: So is your brother really your roommate?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Yes, but we each have our own kitchen and bathroom. It’s how married people should live!
GLAMOUR: Smart ones, anyway.
RACHEL MCADAMS: But the house is a lemon, so there are endless things to do there. It keeps me on my toes. The strongest community I have is in Toronto. I like being able to go to the same places and see the same people. My family’s close by. I get along with my neighbors. It’s really nice.
GLAMOUR: People seem to love gushing about you in interviews. Your costars, your ex-boyfriends. What’s your secret?
RACHEL MCADAMS: I’m paying them. But, no, that’s lovely to hear.
GLAMOUR: It’s not a secret that you’ve had relationships with costars. Is there something romantic about a movie set to you?
RACHEL MCADAMS: No. A set may seem like a good place for romance, but I don’t think it’s very conducive; it’s too distracting. Every relationship I’ve had with a coworker has come after the fact, because you wind up actually spending a lot of time with those people promoting the movie.
GLAMOUR: When you did The Notebook, did you have any idea it would become such a huge thing?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Well, I bawled my eyes out when I got the script. It was a great story and had so much heart. But it was one of the first big things I had done, and I was just focused on getting through it. It was like, great, a job, I’ll take it.
GLAMOUR: As the star of a movie like that, do you get asked for a lot of love advice?
RACHEL MCADAMS: I try not to give advice on love. That’s a slippery slope.
GLAMOUR: What’s your all-time favorite romantic movie?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Just one?! In the Mood for Love, Giant, Days of Heaven and the Russian film Burnt by the Sun. I can’t choose just one.
GLAMOUR: When you saw the script for your new movie The Vow [in which her character has amnesia], did you think about The Notebook at all?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Not at all. I really try to do things I haven’t done before, and this character goes on such a roller coaster. Just when she’s beginning to really come into her own, everything is erased.
GLAMOUR: You have such wonderful chemistry with Channing Tatum.
RACHEL MCADAMS: I was worried we might not, because we were more like brother and sister, like buds. Channing is very outgoing, very kind and a lot of fun to work with.
GLAMOUR: Who’s been your dream costar?
RACHEL MCADAMS: It’s an embarrassment of riches. I love Owen [Wilson] in Midnight in Paris. He’s so endearing, and it was a completely different kind of relationship from the one we had in Wedding Crashers.
GLAMOUR: Have you ever had a crush on any actors?
RACHEL MCADAMS: I loved soap operas when I was young, so Antonio Sabato Jr. and Maurice Benard from General Hospital. And who could forget Josh Brolin in The Goonies?
GLAMOUR: I’ve heard you don’t read your press. Do you read about other people?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Not really, no.
GLAMOUR: So you’re not aware that Ryan Gosling has become a huge feminist icon?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Feminist icon? Wow! Is that real?
GLAMOUR: There are blogs upon blogs!
RACHEL MCADAMS: Oh my God, that’s great.
GLAMOUR: What attracted you about the Occupy movement? We saw a picture of you on the first day in Toronto.
RACHEL MCADAMS: I wanted to educate myself. People have said it’s unfocused, but I appreciate that there are so many different groups coming together peacefully, saying there are things that are broken in the system, and we need to put our heads together.
GLAMOUR: How much research do you do for roles?
RACHEL MCADAMS: Well, I took French lessons before Midnight in Paris.
GLAMOUR: But your character speaks English!
RACHEL MCADAMS: I use filming as an excuse to take classes. I got my certification in sailing for Wedding Crashers, and now I can handle a 26-foot boat. I played a seamstress once, so I took sewing classes. I love dipping into these other lives.
GLAMOUR: What would you do if you weren’t acting?
RACHEL MCADAMS: I wouldn’t mind running a restaurant. I’m not an amazing cook, but I can follow a recipe.
GLAMOUR: Are you a vegetarian?
RACHEL MCADAMS: I was one once, but it made me very tired. I just ate pasta—I was the most unhealthy vegetarian ever! I’d like to try it again now that I know about quinoa and bulgur. I think I’d be better the second time around.
GLAMOUR: I read somewhere that you said you wanted to take a knife skills class.
RACHEL MCADAMS: Yeah, I took one! I really wanted to learn the proper way to julienne a carrot. And now I can, and I love it.
GLAMOUR: What’s your favorite knife to use?
RACHEL MCADAMS: The big one.