From writer/director Richard Curtis (Love Actually), About Time is charming, endearing, heart-warming and, at times, a real tear-jerker. The story follows Tim Lake (Domhnall Gleeson), whose father (Bill Nighy) tells him, at the age of 21, that the men in their family have always had the ability to travel through time. He can’t change history, but he can make his world, and the life that he shares with his beautiful girlfriend Mary (Rachel McAdams), a better place.
At the film’s press day, actress Rachel McAdams spoke during a roundtable about having done three time travel films now (the others being The Time Traveler’s Wife and Midnight in Paris), whether she has any time travel envy, which moments she’d like to relive in her own life, what a special experience it was to make this film, and what it was like to shoot a scene in the dark. She also talked about how she’s currently shooting with director Cameron Crowe, why she loves stories with love in them, how The Notebook will always hold a special place in her heart, and her favorite holiday movies. Check out what she had to say after the jump.
RACHEL McADAMS: I actually didn’t really think about it because I just read the script and loved it. I loved the sentiment behind it. And because I’ve actually never played a time traveler, for all the time traveling I’ve done, I took myself out of the equation again. I’ll have to make amends on the next time traveling film I do. But, I just fell in love with the story and where these characters wound up. I was swept away on Richard’s journey. It really wasn’t until I was doing press when people said, “You know, this is your third time travel film.” I wasn’t counting Midnight in Paris. I hadn’t thought about that.
It seems that the men in your life like to jump in time. Do you have any time travel envy?
McADAMS: Yeah, I would love to be a time traveler, next time. It’s a fun construct, isn’t it? It’s an enticing thing to indulge and fantasize about. It’s like winning the lottery and thinking about what you would go back and do again. And I love the sentiment that maybe we should just embrace what happens. There’s that whole idea that your mistakes make you stronger and better, and it’s the messiness of life that ultimately leads you to the most interesting things. Everyone asks, “What would you do over?,” and I don’t know because then I wouldn’t have a story to tell. If you did everything over and made it perfect, what would you talk about?
Is there something you’d like to relive?
McADAMS: I guess time with family and my grandparents. My mother’s parents died when I was quite young, so I would like to be able to go back and know those people, as an adult.
Are there moments with this film that you’re hoping are going to have an emotional punch?
McADAMS: I guess I leave that in the hands of each audience member. What I love about film is that everybody often connects to something so different, and things you couldn’t anticipate when you were making the film, so you just make it as honest as possible. But, a lot of people have mentioned the scene on the beach with Richard’s actual son, the very, very cute Charlie, who dyed his hair red for the part. He was like, “Dad, I think we should go the whole way. Let’s be real about this and method.” So, he was a little redhead for awhile. It really suited him, too. A lot of people pointed out that. I’ve heard people are very emotional, by the end, and that it’s got a nice balance of humor. It’s got that Richard Curtis stamp on it. Reading it, I felt quite taken away. I wanted to reach out and call my mom when I put the script down. I love films that make you feel a little differently when you come out of them, as opposed to when you first go in, and I feel like this one does that.
McADAMS: Yeah, I was. I had heard that nasty rumor, and it’s one of the reasons I did the film. I’m such a fan of his, and I thought, “Well, this might be my only chance.” So, I reached out to him for that reason, too. I hope it’s not. It’s tough because he’s taking time away from film to save the world. He’s so altruistic and raises so much money to fight poverty. It’s hard to ask him to take time away from that. It feels selfish. So, I can’t fault him for why he’s making the switch. He’s an incredible person. He’s one of the greatest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing, and he brings that to the film. I felt like we were living the film we were making.
Was this a particularly special experience, ensemble wise, that was different from other movies you’ve made?
McADAMS: It really was. It really did feel like we were enjoying the process so much because that’s what the movie was about. That idea was always present. And Richard just sets the tone for that, too. He mines out the greatest moments in life, and he calls special attention to them. He undercuts them with humor, but he really takes measure of the good stuff. I think that’s such a talent, and a really admirable way to live. His family is a big part of the filmmaking process. His partner, Emma, who is a collaborator of his, would bring baked goods, every day, and lottery tickets on Friday. We were just totally spoiled, and it was a really lovely experience.
How was it to shoot the scene in the dark, not worrying about lighting, or was it more technical than that?
McADAMS: It was very strange. We did a test run at the actual restaurant, Dans le Noir, in London to get a feel for it because we shot it in very dim light, but you could still see our faces. We had to pretend that we couldn’t see, and we were all miserable at it. It was so hard not to just want to look at your fork. It’s weird to hit your face with food. So, it was an interesting experiment for all of us, as actors. We tried it many different ways, in broad daylight and in the dark. We just recorded the sessions in ADR, and I think Richard mashed a bunch of that together. I love it, as an idea. It’s definitely unique. But, the experience at the actual restaurant was intense. It was really weird. They could really pull one over on you. Everything is called surprise, too. It’s veggie surprise, seafood surprise, meat surprise or surprise surprise. I went with veggie because that seemed safest, but it was the hardest to guess because it was Polenta. It’s just not an obvious food group. But, it was an interesting, good experience.
McADAMS: You know, I was always really curious about it. I’d heard about those restaurants and I was really excited about it, up until the moment where I had to plunge into darkness. It was a real test for me to not freak out, at any moment, and try to get out of there, but it was interesting. It must be what it really feels like to be blind. There’s not a shred of light. Your eyes are just straining for anything.
How do the waiters deliver food?
McADAMS: They’re all actually blind. I’m sure all kinds of crazy stuff happens.
Were the bangs your idea?
McADAMS: We just played around with it. It was also trying to go from younger to older, and bangs just automatically scream young. It’s so funny because it was actually a hairpiece, so we could go quickly from young to older. We forgot to put it on one day, and my hairstylist was like, “Wait, the fringe!,” and she was running after me with this little piece of hair. It was slightly embarrassing. I probably would not do that again, but it just seemed like her.
Did you guys do anything fun together, as a cast, while you were shooting this?
McADAMS: Well, the first night that Domhnall and I ever met was on the street where we have our first kiss, and Richard orchestrated it that way. So, we literally met each other, for the first time, on that corner. And then, we went and had dinner with Richard and his partner, and they walked us around the neighborhood. We got a feel for where these people come from. That was lovely, and really nice.
McADAMS: Great! I’m glad it was pointed out in the film that I was American, so people didn’t think I just had a bad British accent, but it was great. They’re so funny, and the timing is impeccable. There are so many actors in this film, in particular, who have such a wealth of theater in their background, so the level of professionalism was incredible. Being able to work together, as an ensemble, is really seamless, and it happens really quickly. There’s no messing about with that, and yet they have such a great sense of humor about everything. I always forgot Domhnall wasn’t English because he would stay in his English accent, all day. Even when he came in for make-up, he was in his English accent. It wasn’t until we got our make-up taken off, at the end of the day, that he would suddenly go back into being Irish. I was like, “Why are you talking like that? Are you doing a bit right now?” He was like, “This is how I talk.” It was impeccable. He was really good at it. It was an inspiring group to be around.
So, are you working on the Cameron Crowe movie now?
McADAMS: We’re in the throes of it now, yeah.
He’s another director that uses a lot of music to great effect in his film, as does Richard Curtis. Do both of them play music on set, to get you in a certain mood, or do you have your own playlist that you listen to?
McADAMS: Yeah. Music can be such a great tool. Richard uses it in such a beautiful way. He was very communicative about what he wanted, musically, and how that could inform the scenes. I’m always so grateful to have that, when directors share that with you, because it just takes away so much of the mystery. I find that really helpful. Richard would play music. When you’re playing music through the streets of London at 2 o’clock in the morning, there’s something so cool and magical about that. It takes you to a special place, very quickly. And Cameron is the same way. He’ll play songs in the middle of a take, and then you stop and wait and let it wash over you. It’s really fun.
You’ve done a lot of romantic films. Is there something that attracts you to that genre, in particular?
McADAMS: I love stories with love in them. I just prefer those films. Every so often, I come across a film where there’s no love story. It doesn’t have to be romantic, but there’s a lack of love, and I don’t get that. I’m like, “Something’s missing.” It’s just personal taste, I guess. It doesn’t always have to be a sweeping romance. I just feel like love and passion are synonymous with each other, whether it’s for a person or a thing, and I just want to see movies that are infused with passion.
What’s your relationship to The Notebook, at this point? Would you like to move on from it, or will it always hold a special place in your heart?
McADAMS: Oh, I think it will always hold a special place in my heart, yeah. I’m very grateful for that film, and I feel very lucky to have been a part of it. Anything that seems to reach people is a real privilege to be a part of. And the amount of men that come up and confess that they secretly like the movie just delights me, to no end. I never get enough of that. Or the women who rat out their husbands.
McADAMS: I love Love Actually. That’s probably one of my favorite Richard Curtis films. I also love this little movie called One Magic Christmas with Harry Dean Stanton, who played Gideon, the angel who lived in the tree, and Mary Steenburgen’s character hates Christmas. It’s actually really emotional. It really goes there. It gets a little bit dark. Harry Dean Stanton is like the voice of Christmas past. I don’t know. I’ve always loved it. My mom and my sister and I watch it, every year. It’s a good one.
You also have a birthday coming up soon.
McADAMS: Aw, somebody remembered!
Do you have any plans, having your birthday so close to the holidays?
McADAMS: I’m 35, this year. In terms of Christmas traditions, we finally ditched the stockings last year, which was very hard for my mother. Every year, she says, “We’re not doing stockings next year. I’m sick of it. I’m sick of buying you all these little things that you never use.” She’s so sweet. She really takes the time to find the most special little things for our stockings. But last year, we said, “We’re not doing it this year.” She was like, “What do you mean?! Just one more year. Your brother will be very upset.” My brother was like, “It’s fine.” So, the stockings are gone, which is sad, but we’ll bring them back when we all have kids.
Does turning 35 mean anything special, at this point?
McADAMS: No. It’s just another year, isn’t it?
About Time is in theaters on November 1st.