The Time Traveler's Wife opens August 14. McAdams and Bana portray a husband and wife, Clare and Henry, who fall in love over a lifetime mired with supernatural challenges.
Bana and McAdams have come together on this rainy New York City weekend at the Waldorf Astoria to discuss the immense task of putting a beloved best-selling book adored by millions of women on screen.
She may have broken big with The Notebook, but McAdams' acting resume has been a steady flow of powerful performances and box office smashes. From Wedding Crashers to Mean Girls, McAdams effortlessly morphs into characters throughout many genres. When McAdams was cast to portray Clare, the summer's best romance had its ideal romantic muse.
With Star Trek still leading as the summer's biggest box office hit thus far, Bana now has a third film set to make 2009 a summer to remember for the Australian actor. As much as he disappeared into his villainous role in Star Trek, he was equally as compelling opposite Adam Sandler in the number-one film, Funny People.
Both may say they have nothing to do with their magical chemistry. But the performances of these two actors at their collective career crescendo that will allow passionate readers of The Time Traveler's Wife to bask in the bliss of a page-to-screen adaptation that compliments and cherishes its source.
SheKnows: Impeccable chemistry between you two. Nothing's a given in movie-making, but were there moments when you realized you clicked onscreen?
Eric Bana: You can't take ownership of it, really. I don't think you can even attempt it. I think you're limited by your material. It almost becomes irrelevant. It's great for us that we really like each other and that we get along, but in reality, you can have amazing chemistry in real life and have it not work on the screen and vice versa. So I try not to worry about it.
Rachel McAdams: Like Eric said, it's kind of a bonus. Sometimes it can work when it's not working [laughs].
SheKnows: Now I know you said that chemistry is what the audience makes of it. I'm just curious: What first appealed to you about the other actor?
Eric Bana: Similar taste in music helped.
Rachel McAdams: Yeah…
Eric Bana: We bonded about music a bit. Our food tastes are similar…
Rachel McAdams: Some of the music we were bonding over actually wound up in the film. So it was pretty serendipitous.
Eric Bana: The only person who can take credit if you end up having chemistry is the director. He's the one who puts you together. I felt like I would get along with Rachel right off the bat. I knew she would be great to work with, but you know, it's a director who puts people together.
Rachel McAdams: I was really excited when I heard it was you [to Eric]. A light bulb just went off. I thought you were perfect.
SheKnows: How attached were each of you to the book?
Rachel McAdams: I had read the book…a while before the film was made. I went to Plan B (Brad Pitt's production company), and they gave it to me. 'Hey, this is a great book. Just have a read.' I just fell head over heels in love with it.
Eric Bana: I think the core of the book is most definitely there in the screenplay and in the film. All the major players involved identified the key element: This impossible love between two people who get wrenched apart by this time-traveling device. It's as close as it can be as a PG-13 film, really. The film does start to take on its own life, as well. We acknowledge and embrace that. We didn't fight that. There's a point at which you have to let the two things live on their own.
SheKnows: You both have no control, but do you have any thoughts on the film finding a release date? What about releasing a romance in the middle of the popcorn-movie summer?
Eric Bana: You have to be careful with this film. It's not just the type of film that you can whack anywhere. The film turned out exactly how it was meant to. It was never troubled, never in repair and was finished on time. Really, it was a case of Warner Brothers taking the right amount of care to make sure it was released at a time when it had its best chance. That's the honest truth.
SheKnows: Wasn't there a delay in filming for horticultural reasons?
Rachel McAdams: We had to wait for the meadow to grow. We did!
Eric Bana: Well, we had some things to shoot that were not time sensitive. I mean, I was bald (for Star Trek), so I said, 'Does it matter if we could wait until my hair grew back so I don't have to wear a wig?' And they said it was not a problem. We didn't have to wait very long. This stuff grows really fast [laughs].
SheKnows: So did you really have to wait for the meadow to grow? It is an integral aspect of the story.
Rachel McAdams: It was a different time of year when we went back to it, so yeah. I remember going over to someone and saying that these flowers are gorgeous. And they're silk.
Eric Bana: We shot in that actual meadow in different times of the year, which really was kind of interesting. That was always the plan -- to come back and hit it in different times of the year. It's a pretty amazing place. I've heard Rachel tell the story. That's a real meadow that this guy built for his wife. He kind of raised the bar of romantic expectations.
SheKnows: As actors, was it difficult to keep track of where you were in the story?
Rachel McAdams: It was strangely easy because we had practice at keeping track of your arc and where you are in the story. It wasn't that odd -- although we did look at each other and wonder if our costumes match our demeanor. Robert [director Robert Schwentke] was on top of it. We just keep checking in and reminding ourselves what the moment before this was.
Eric Bana: I relied on hair and makeup to check and double-check before each scene. It's true, actually: Being an actor is perfect preparation for a character like this because there are similarities in our lives. Like Rachel said, it involves a lot of travel, playing in and out of your life, so it carries the characters.
SheKnows: Timeless love is such a central part of The Time Traveler's Wife. Was it easier to ground your characters in their emotions rather than when they were interacting?
Rachel McAdams: It was really important to root it in something that we and the audience could relate to and not this intangible thing with this fantastical concept. That's something we spent a lot of time talking about in rehearsal. Talking about longing and waiting and separation and how that obstacle is there in so many relationships. So many people are overcoming that every day. We tried to step away from the time travel of it all. Flying on an airplane's the closest we have to time travel -- Eric could probably attest to that, being from Australia.
SheKnows: Choosing parts for you, Rachel, they have run the gamut with such ease...
Rachel McAdams: I'm quite grateful my career has gone the way it has, so far, because I'm still employed [laughs]. That's a good thing. I've gotten to do a wide variety of things and different roles. I've met different kinds of challenges on each and every film. I never get bored. That's been success to me -- that I've been able to stay afloat and get to do things that are fun.
SheKnows: What was the biggest challenge for you on The Time Traveler's Wife?
Rachel McAdams: I knew the adaptation was going to be a challenge, and I knew I'd be playing someone who people have cast in their heads in a certain way. Melding their ideal with yours and the author's and the screenwriter's and the director's [laughs] -- at a certain point, you just have to give it over and fall into it.
SheKnows: Destiny's role in the film: Do you believe in it?
Rachel McAdams: I like Eric's answer on this one…
Eric Bana: [Laughing] I forgot my answer!
Rachel McAdams: You believe in destiny and free will.
Eric Bana: It doesn't sound good so far.
Rachel McAdams: I thought that was a great answer: That things do happen for a reason, and at the same time, you just can't sit back and wait for it.
Eric Bana: Yeah, I think you have to be proactive about your destiny -- then, realize there's another half that's completely out of your control. I think it's fascinating. I do believe in reading signs. There really are signs. Someone will say something to you today… and later that day, someone will mention the same thing. The next day, someone will mention it again. Whether it's a book or something – there's a reason three people are talking about the same thing within 24 hours. I've acted on that, but I do believe it is a bit of both.
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