It is quite clear that Woody Allen loves Paris, and even though her character in his latest film, Midnight in Paris, is quite the contrary, actress Rachel McAdams admits to loving Paris too. In this romantic comedy set in the City of Lights, Gil (Owen Wilson) is a successful Hollywood screenwriter who is following his dream of becoming a novelist, much like his idols Hemingway and Fitzgerald. When he and his fiancée Inez (Rachel McAdams) tag along on a trip to Paris with her father, his literary ambitions seems to annoy everyone and makes them question his focus. When Inez realizes that this is more than just a slight preoccupation for Gil, she begins to question whether or not they still have the same aspirations.
At the film’s press day, Rachel McAdams talked about working with Woody Allen and the type of director he is on set, how much she enjoyed working in and around Paris, working with the First Lady of France (Carla Bruni), and how the best acting advice she’s ever received is just to be as honest and present as you can be. She also talked about reprising her role as Irene Adler for a cameo in Sherlock Holmes 2, and working with director Terrence Malick on a still untitled film. Check out what she had to say after the jump:
RACHEL McADAMS: I tried to watch as many of his films again as I could, and get a sense of the rhythm of a Woody Allen film, but ultimately I realized, in the end, that it was going to be a unique experience for me and different from the other films. It was great to just get in there with him and realize that he’s incredibly funny, incredibly generous, happy to guide you, if you want guidance, and happy to leave you alone, if you felt confident in what you’re doing. He just creates these really fun, great characters, in these wild situations, and lets you just go and play. I was just happy to find out that it was going to be a great experience, and one that I’ll always really cherish.
Did he give you much direction?
McADAMS: I would ask for it. It’s a wonderful quality that he’s very, very trusting and hires people because he thinks they’re the best person for the job. That really instills a sense of confidence. I guess it’s a no news is good news type of thing. I just really appreciated how much he trusts in the people he has around him. And, the whole set had an ease to it. Everyone felt really relaxed and comfortable, and I think that makes for better work.
How was it to work in Paris and play a character who has a dislike for all things Parisian?
McADAMS: Inez and I do not have that in common. She doesn’t appreciate it as much as Gil, Owen’s character. She comes from a sunny place, and likes it that way. I, on the other hand, loved working there. I loved being there. This job did not feel like work because we were in museums. I felt like I was more on vacation. Shooting at Giverny, standing on that bridge with Owen and just a small film crew, with no tourists and no security, was just hard to wrap my head around, some days. I loved that. They did take down some of the Picassos, when we went to the museum, and put up some fakes, so I don’t think they totally trusted us, but it was extraordinary and really great.
McADAMS: I had been very briefly for Fashion Week in January, but January is very different from July in Paris. It was nice to revisit in the summer.
What was the casting process like for this?
McADAMS: I got a call that Woody wanted to meet and I was in complete shock. So, I went out to New York and we had a very brief meeting, and he said, “I’d like you to play this part. She’s definitely not the object of desire, but I think she’s a lot of fun. But, if you don’t want to do it, it’s fine.” And I said, “I definitely want to do it.” We just went from there, but it was very surreal because I never imagined he would knock on my door.
Woody Allen films always feel like everybody is ad-libbing. Did you and Owen ad-lib at all, or is Woody very precious about his dialogue?
McADAMS: I think his structure is so strong, so you really can lean on that. A lot of great things can come out of ad-libbing, but there tends to be a trend where that’s all that happens, and that’s a shame because there’s a real skill to writing a scene. It doesn’t just appear. And, he’s so good at that. He gets that. I really valued that we had that to work with, and that there is a certain cadence and rhythm to his dialogue, that everyone’s come to love so much. Why mess with that? But, on the other hand, Owen is great at ad-libbing, so it was about balancing. I think Woody just loved what Owen was doing and was happy to have him play around with the text a bit. He said, “If it feels right to you, go with it.” It’s not that strict.
What was it like to work with Carla Bruni, the First Lady of France?
McADAMS: I thought it was such a great choice. I didn’t know Carla before, but she’s a really lovely human being. I think this was her first acting job, and she did amazing. I think she did a really beautiful job with it. She’s a performer. I would have been scared to death. I was, and I’ve done it before, so I can’t imagine how she was feeling, but she was grace under pressure.
McADAMS: I think she thinks he’s being foolish. I think she values how hard he’s worked and where he’s gotten to, and she thinks being a successful screenwriter is quite a feat. He is dismissing that and thinks being a novelist is true art, and Inez is arguing against that. I think she’s quite frustrated with him. I think she feels like he’s throwing their life away and changing the rules and the game plan. She’s a planner. She’s got her sights set on the horizon. She knows what she wants and how to get it. She’s very practical and he’s got his head in the clouds. They’re so not right for each other. He’s changing the rules, and that’s not working for her.
What does Inez see in Paul (Michael Sheen)?
McADAMS: I think she just sees him as much more grounded and reliable. She’s swept away by his intelligence. They have this great guide to take them through Paris, but not really the real Paris – the front side of Paris, but not the back side. I think she’s just swept away by his success.
What is the best advice you’ve ever received?
McADAMS: I’ve been given lots of great advice, in my life. As an actor, just being as honest and as present as you can be. One of the things I just loved so much about this film is that it’s about being present and embracing the world that you find yourself in. I think it’s fair to spend time in the past and to romanticize things. That’s a fun pastime. But, when it becomes that you’d rather have that then what you have now, that’s when it’s a little bit dangerous.
McADAMS: Yes, I am.
Did you go back to England for that?
McADAMS: We do, yes. Can I say that? Am I going to get a phone call now? Yes.
Was it fun to get to play Irene Adler again? Were there things about her that you wanted to explore a little more?
McADAMS: Yeah. I just have a small cameo in this one, but it was nice to revisit. It’s why I’ve always thought I would like to do television. You get really intimate with your character. Often with film, I find that you’re just really getting to know a person. They’re just starting to sink in, and then you wrap the film. So, it was nice to get to bring her back and have time to meditate on her a bit more. I liked that exercise.
What character that you’ve played would you like to revisit, if you had the opportunity?
McADAMS: That’s a good question. I did this movie with Tim Robbins, called The Lucky Ones. We’re soldiers who are on leave from Iraq and, at the end of the movie, we wind up going back. It was very open-ended and sad. You don’t know what will happen to these people. So, it would be interesting to carry that story on and see where that went. That character was really fun to play – probably one of my favorite characters that I’ve ever played – so I’d love to revisit her.
Is The Vow your next film?
McADAMS: We finished The Vow after Midnight in Paris, and then I went and did a Terrence Malick film after that.
McADAMS: It’s still untitled, yeah.
What kind of role do you have in that film?
McADAMS: I don’t know. I’ll find out when I see the film. But, it’s a romance, as far as I can tell. It’s a bit of a triangle between Ben Affleck, Olga Kurylenko and myself.
Did you get to work with Javier Bardem on the film?
McADAMS: I didn’t. Our characters never meet up. He plays a priest. And, he was gone by the time I got there, so we didn’t even meet.
What was Terrence Malick like to work with?
McADAMS: He was wonderful and so inspiring. He has a very different way of working and I think it really services a real honesty and beauty in his films. It was a great experience, as an actor. You have to be very honest and very vulnerable, and take a leap and just hope someone will catch you, and he does. It’s the same thing with Woody Allen. You can just let yourself go and let them take you where they’re going to take you, and trust that it will be interesting and compelling. You don’t have to do a lot, in a weird way. They were both great experiences.
Since Terrence Malick hasn’t been interviewed or photographed in years, what was your expectation, going into that film? How do you know anything about him, other than just watching his movies? Did you have any preconceived notions?
McADAMS: You never really know anyone until you get in there and work with them. I find that with any film I do. But, he’s a very open, warm person. We spent a fair amount of time together before we got started. I got to know the town we were shooting in, as though I had lived there. There’s great preparation involved with him.