Midnight in Paris finds Rachel McAdams engaged to Owen Wilson and less interested in the sights and sounds of the iconic city than in keeping her fiance from getting overly romantic. Having been to Paris, that is an impossible task, but Midnight in Paris is a Woody Allen film where romance is usually turned on its head for the sake of pointed statements about love and, of course, humor.
Rachel McAdams sat down with SheKnows to talk about Midnight in Paris, co-starring Owen Wilson and Michael Sheen, and how it was a career highlight to work for the esteemed director Woody Allen. McAdams has a special spot in her heart for the film — it’s where she met new beau Sheen, besides her complete and utter awe with her helmer.
McAdams admits to us that she never had a plan for her career and that her success has been a “blessing.” From Mean Girls, Wedding Crashers, The Notebook, Time Traveler’s Wife and Sherlock Holmes (and its upcoming sequel) to Morning Glory, McAdams is quickly becoming a go-to actress for our generation.
SheKnows: What is it about Paris that makes it so magical to you?
Rachel McAdams: People really take time to enjoy life there. You see people sitting outside, just taking it in. I think there’s this quality of enjoying life for what it is and not letting it pass you by. I think Woody Allen is acknowledging that in the film as well. Paris is a great place to do that. They appreciate beautiful things. It’s a hub of art and culture as expressed in this film. It is a place where great artists have always gone before to be inspired. For me, personally, I was really taken by — and this will sound so cheesy — but the light. It is so extraordinary. I had heard that and, I mean, how different can it be from anywhere else? But for me, it is so beautiful. I have a great memory of being on a scooter and going down the Champs Elysees as the sun is going down, the wind in my hair [laughs]. I remember thinking, “This is the closest thing I can think of that is heaven.”
SheKnows: So, how was it then playing a character that seemed completely immune to all of that?
Rachel McAdams: [Laughs] It was good, I got a bit of both worlds. She was outrageous at times. She could be extreme. I liked her practicality. She didn’t pretend to be swept away by it all. She was quite honest about it. Woody warned me at the beginning that I wouldn’t be playing the object of desire, “Hope you’re okay with that.” I was just happy to be in a Woody Allen movie. The fact that he trusted me to play the villain, so to speak, is kind of exciting.
SheKnows: In the legacy of Woody Allen’s women, there are those two types, the object and the villain. Did you see that legacy when you approached the role?
Rachel McAdams: I did, a little bit. He likes those roles to be very clear. You’re kind of helping to inform the story. If I had made her likable, it wouldn’t have worked. She was a necessary foil. I was happy to play into that. I remember touching Owen, I had this idea that I was the cat and he was the mouse, I would always have my paw on his tail. I never let him go too far away from me. Woody saw it totally different than me. “Stop fondling Owen, you’re always touching him,” he would say. It was a fun exploration.
SheKnows: There is a lot of Cole Porter music in the film, are you listening to that now? Or even reading F. Scott Fitzgerald after Owen Wilson’s character’s experience with the author?
Rachel McAdams: Woody gave us this lovely collection of books. I got Tender is the Night and a collection of music. I don’t remember what the collection is, but it’s this beautiful cover. I’m almost afraid to read it. It’s a lovely memento of the experience of the film. I will read it. I love that Woody always puts that music in his films. It inspires a sense of nostalgia and takes you to a place immediately. It gives you that wistful feeling.
Rachel McAdams on the wizardry of Woody
SheKnows: How is a Woody Allen set different than others you’ve been on?
Rachel McAdams: It’s very relaxed. It’s quite civilized, it’s not long hours. It’s almost like being on stage. He sets up the space, and it’s usually a bigger arena to play in than you normally get. He encourages you to perform over there and over here, all over! Whatever you feel your character would do, and I’ll make sure you look good. It’s very liberating.
SheKnows: Is that one of the joys of working for Woody that so many actors aspire to, because you really have the opportunity to act?
Rachel McAdams: Yeah, I think you do. He leaves a lot of room for that. He knows what the shot is and he doesn’t limit the potential in the scene. I didn’t know that going in, I just knew he was an amazing director and I’ve always loved his films. There’s always something that touched me and moved me and made me think about something in a different way.
SheKnows: What was the first Woody Allen film you saw and what was your favorite?
Rachel McAdams: The first one I saw… good question. I think it was Annie Hall. Then, my favorite was Stardust Memories, which made Midnight in Paris all that more exciting. I think there are a lot of similarities there. I like Love and Death too — I could not stop laughing.
SheKnows: Your character in Midnight in Paris is almost the anti-romantic, while in The Notebook you were the embodiment of romance. What do you make of movie romance and have any of these roles taught you anything about romance?
Rachel McAdams: I think that the roles have an impact on me. I think that I try to go into everything with a fresh view. That’s what is so great about being an actor, you get to explore the world and people and relationships in each film, hopefully, or I get very bored. I allow that to influence me. This was a totally new take on love [laughs] that I had not experienced before. It is just as valid for many different reasons. I was ready to take a new journey in terms of romance.
Rachel McAdams: On her career
SheKnows: As far as your career goes, you are just getting started. Was there any plan at the beginning?
Rachel McAdams: I feel so blessed it’s worked out. I could not have imagined that when I started out, I would be in a Woody Allen film. There have been numerous surprises, and this was a very big one for me. It’s taken on many different directions that I didn’t expect. But, they’ve all been wonderful.
SheKnows: If you could go back in time and attend a cocktail party like Owen Wilson’s character did with F. Scott Fitzgerald, etc., when would you go back to and who would you want to talk to?
Rachel McAdams: There are so many [laughs]! Katharine Hepburn, I would love to have a chat with her. Also, Judy Holliday, her comedy was just incredible. I’d put those two on the top of my list.