Rachel McAdams: The face that made Terrence Malick's final cut

view gallery VIEW GALLERY

As a host of stars – including her boyfriend – disappeared from the auteur's latest film, Rachel McAdams survived. So how did she win him over?

An actor almost deserves a prize simply for surviving the brutal blunt edge of much vaunted director Terrence Malick's scissors. While Rachel McAdams got to sit through To The Wonder and see that her scenes playing the romanticised ex-girlfriend of Ben Affleck's lost protagonist survived the edit, several high-profile names, including Rachel Weisz, Barry Pepper and McAdams's boyfriend, Welsh actor Michael Sheen, could only talk about how the experience of working with Malick was justification in itself for the expended energy.

McAdams is full of praise for the director, who after a six-year hiatus between The Thin Red Line and his Palme d'Or-winning Tree of Life is now, by his standards at least, churning them out. She says of the much talked-about, reclusive, director: “I think Terry is like a sculptor and the story presents itself to him. He puts a lot of clay on the table and sees what comes out of it, which I appreciate. He's not stuck to something, if you're out and something is not working then it's fine and you just move onto something else.”

Generally McAdams is more or less a fan of this unorthodox process. Ever since the days of New Hollywood Cinema in the 1970s, studios have rather boringly insisted on directors having and meeting deadlines. These restrictions could perhaps explain Malick making only three films in the last millennium. After all, it seems no coincidence that, as technology has allowed directors more leeway in what they shoot, and also editing time, Malick, who came to prominence in the early 1970s, has been more prolific.

He also expends as much energy preparing the actors as he does on the shoot: “Terry took me through my character's background, taking me around the neighbourhood where he believed my character would have grown up, saying, 'maybe you lived in that house or maybe you went to that high school',” she explains. “It was always 'maybe', it was really up to me to decide in the end, so I thought it was a really magical and liberating experience.”

There were also the down-sides. “Some days I was lost but I knew that something interesting would come out of that.

"That is the actor's nightmare, it's the gift and the curse, great things come out of being lost and that is what we rally against all the time, especially if you have a controlling side or a perfectionist side which many of us do."

She laughs at the final comment without expanding on how much being controlling or a perfectionist applied to her. McAdams seems to be in a good mood: unsurprising, perhaps, given that she's enjoying the kind of celebrated, auteur-heavy career that belies the fact that the Canadian star had her big break in Hollywood movies with titles that would warn off any self-respecting cineaste, The Hot Chick and Mean Girls. Soon after came the breakout hit that was The Notebook in 2004 and McAdams was Hollywood's No 1 starlet. She was part of a Canadian celebrity couple with her co-star to boot.

The romance that blossomed with Ryan Gosling made her a gossip columnist's dream. In a strange twist of fate, the two-year dalliance seems to have taken on an added importance now that he's become one of the biggest names in Hollywood. Their split coincided with McAdams taking a break from acting.

Yet it's proving hard to escape the past. At the Toronto premiere of her last film, The Vow, she was even asked on the red carpet if kissing Gosling on The Notebook was better than locking tongues with her co-star Channing Tatum. Everyone seems to have forgotten that between dating Gosling and the immensely talented Sheen, whom she met on the set of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris, she stepped out with actor Josh Lucas for a few months.

To The Wonder is about the impact that love and relationships can have on your life. In it Ben Affleck plays Neil, who becomes fascinated by and marries European beauty Marina, played by former Bond girl Olga Kurylenko. When the relationship sours Neil seeks out (it's very Malick that he doesn't resort to using Facebook) his childhood sweetheart Jane.

Another story strand sees Javier Bardem play a priest in one of Malick's favourite themes: losing faith in God.

It's a topic that McAdams has given some thought to: “I mean I think it's the human condition to grapple with losing faith on a daily basis, and I'm maybe trying to think of one thing that has shaken my faith to the ground. I don't know if there is one thing, I think it's a day-to-day thing.”

McAdams started acting aged 13, despite not growing up in an acting household in Ontario. Her father was a truck driver and her mother was a nurse. An award-winning figure-skater in her youth, she chose to pursue a career in acting. In her teenage years she would work at McDonald's in her school vacations, and it's hard to imagine the beautiful, well-dressed 34-year-old flipping burgers.

Next up McAdams will be seen lining up in the Brian De Palma thriller Passion, De Palma being another director with a reputation for being maverick.

McAdams plays a ruthless advertising executive who takes her seemingly meek assistant (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo's Noomi Rapace) under her wing. But when McAdams takes one of her assistant's ideas as her own, there follows a revenge tale with more twists than at a casino's blackjack table.

“I found working with Brian creatively satisfying,” says McAdams. “I felt like he had a clear vision of what that film was going to be and I felt free to interpret my character, and he was very open to Noomi and I trying whatever we wanted. He shoots very fast and we had lots of time to try things. He allowed us to find our own way and be as experimental as we wanted to be, and the weirder we were, the funnier it seemed to him.”

After working with two of America's more inimitable auteurs, her next move is to work with a rather less forbidding name: Richard Curtis, on the time-travel romp About Time. It's a title that could also refer to the fact that, across the spectrum, the world's top directors are asking McAdams to perform in front of their cameras.

'To The Wonder' is released on 22 February

This article appears in tomorrow's print edition of Radar magazine

Arts and Entertainment
Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey

film Sex scene trailer sees a shirtless Jamie Dornan turn up the heat

Arts and Entertainment
A sketch of Van Gogh has been discovered in the archives of Kunsthalle Bremen in Germany
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Eleanor Catton has hit back after being accused of 'treachery' for criticising the government.
books
Arts and Entertainment
Fake Banksy stencil given to artist Alex Jakob-Whitworth

art

Arts and Entertainment
'The Archers' has an audience of about five million
radioA growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift is heading to Norwich for Radio 1's Big Weekend

music
Arts and Entertainment
Beer as folk: Vincent Franklin and Cyril Nri (centre) in ‘Cucumber’
tvReview: This slice of gay life in Manchester has universal appeal
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
‘A Day at the Races’ still stands up well today
film
Arts and Entertainment
‘The Royals’ – a ‘twisted, soapy take on England’s first family’
tvAnd its producers have already announced a second season...
Arts and Entertainment
Kraftwerk performing at the Neue Nationalgalerie (New National Gallery) museum in Berlin earlier this month
musicWhy a bunch of academics consider German electropoppers Kraftwerk worthy of their own symposium
Arts and Entertainment
Icelandic singer Bjork has been forced to release her album early after an online leak

music
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth as Harry Hart in Kingsman: The Secret Service

film
Arts and Entertainment
Brian Blessed as King Lear in the Guildford Shakespeare Company's performance of the play

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
In the picture: Anthony LaPaglia and Martin Freeman in 'The Eichmann Show'

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Anne Kirkbride and Bill Roache as Deirdre and Ken Barlow in Coronation Street

tvThe actress has died aged 60
Arts and Entertainment
Marianne Jean-Baptiste defends Joe Miller in Broadchurch series two

tv
Arts and Entertainment
The frill of it all: Hattie Morahan in 'The Changeling'

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny may reunite for The X Files

tv
Arts and Entertainment
Jeremy Clarkson, left, and Richard Hammond upset the locals in South America
TV
News
A young woman punched a police officer after attending a gig by US rapper Snoop Dogg
people
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Isis hostage crisis: The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power

    Isis hostage crisis

    The prisoner swap has only one purpose for the militants - recognition its Islamic State exists and that foreign nations acknowledge its power, says Robert Fisk
    Missing salvage expert who found $50m of sunken treasure before disappearing, tracked down at last

    The runaway buccaneers and the ship full of gold

    Salvage expert Tommy Thompson found sunken treasure worth millions. Then he vanished... until now
    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Homeless Veterans appeal: ‘If you’re hard on the world you are hard on yourself’

    Maverick artist Grayson Perry backs our campaign
    Assisted Dying Bill: I want to be able to decide about my own death - I want to have control of my life

    Assisted Dying Bill: 'I want control of my life'

    This week the Assisted Dying Bill is debated in the Lords. Virginia Ironside, who has already made plans for her own self-deliverance, argues that it's time we allowed people a humane, compassionate death
    Move over, kale - cabbage is the new rising star

    Cabbage is king again

    Sophie Morris banishes thoughts of soggy school dinners and turns over a new leaf
    11 best winter skin treats

    Give your moisturiser a helping hand: 11 best winter skin treats

    Get an extra boost of nourishment from one of these hard-working products
    Paul Scholes column: The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him

    Paul Scholes column

    The more Jose Mourinho attempts to influence match officials, the more they are likely to ignore him
    Frank Warren column: No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans

    Frank Warren's Ringside

    No cigar, but pots of money: here come the Cubans
    Isis hostage crisis: Militant group stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    Isis stands strong as its numerous enemies fail to find a common plan to defeat it

    The jihadis are being squeezed militarily and economically, but there is no sign of an implosion, says Patrick Cockburn
    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action

    Virtual reality: Seeing is believing

    Virtual reality thrusts viewers into the frontline of global events - and puts film-goers at the heart of the action
    Homeless Veterans appeal: MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    MP says Coalition ‘not doing enough’ to help
    Larry David, Steve Coogan and other comedians share stories of depression in new documentary

    Comedians share stories of depression

    The director of the new documentary, Kevin Pollak, tells Jessica Barrett how he got them to talk
    Has The Archers lost the plot with it's spicy storylines?

    Has The Archers lost the plot?

    A growing number of listeners are voicing their discontent over the rural soap's spicy storylines; so loudly that even the BBC's director-general seems worried, says Simon Kelner
    English Heritage adds 14 post-war office buildings to its protected lists

    14 office buildings added to protected lists

    Christopher Beanland explores the underrated appeal of these palaces of pen-pushing
    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Human skull discovery in Israel proves humans lived side-by-side with Neanderthals

    Scientists unearthed the cranial fragments from Manot Cave in West Galilee