McAdams withdrew from the public eye for one year from 2006 to 2007. She made a low-key return to work in 2008, starring in two limited release films: the film noir Married Life and the road trip comedy-drama The Lucky Ones. She returned to prominence in 2009 and co-starred in the political thriller State of Play, the science-fiction romantic drama The Time Traveler's Wife, and the action-adventure film Sherlock Holmes. In 2010, McAdams co-starred in the comedy Morning Glory that was billed as her first star vehicle. In 2011, she co-starred in the fantasy romantic comedy Midnight in Paris and reprised her role in the mystery and action-adventure sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. In 2012, she co-starred in the romantic drama The Vow. In 2013, McAdams co-starred in the romantic drama To the Wonder, the erotic thriller Passion and the romantic comedy About Time. 2014 brought the release of the espionage thriller A Most Wanted Man, and still awaiting release are Wim Wenders's drama Every Thing Will Be Fine and Cameron Crowe's untitled Hawaii romantic comedy project.
McAdams was born in London, Ontario, and grew up in nearby St. Thomas. Her mother, Sandra Kay (née Gale), is a nurse, and her father, Lance Frederick McAdams, is a retired truck driver and furniture mover. She has English, Irish, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry; McAdams' maternal fifth great-grandfather, James Gray, was a Loyalist ranger during the American Revolution and fled to Canada after the Battles of Saratoga. McAdams is the eldest of three children with a sister, Kayleen, a celebrity make-up artist, and a brother, Daniel. When she was four years old, she began figure skating, but turned down an opportunity to move to Toronto when she was nine years old for pair skating training. Skating then became merely "a hobby". She competed in skating until the age of eighteen, winning regional awards. She has since said that skating prepared her for physical acting, because it trained her to be "in tune" with her body. McAdams was educated at Myrtle Street Public School, and later Central Elgin Collegiate Institute. She did not enjoy academic work and often would pretend to be sick to avoid going to school. Nonetheless, she played an active role in student life. In addition to playing sports (including volleyball, badminton, and soccer), McAdams served on the student council, participated in the Crimestoppers program, and was a member of the Peer Helping Team. She worked at a McDonald's restaurant during the summer holidays for three years.
McAdams first developed an interest in performing when she was seven years old, and while her parents did not discourage her, they did not "go out and find [her] an agent". She attended both Disney and Shakespeare summer camps as a child. From the age of twelve, McAdams participated in Original Kids Theatre Company, London productions. In her late teens, she directed children's theatre productions. She also was involved in school stage productions, most notably winning a performance award at the Sears Ontario Drama Festival. She was inspired by her teachers, who taught her English and drama, respectively, in the eleventh and twelfth grades. Her English teacher introduced her to the works of Leonard Cohen and Joni Mitchell. McAdams intended to take Cultural studies at the University of Western Ontario before being persuaded by her drama teacher that a professional acting career was a viable option. She enrolled in York University's four-year theatre program and graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts honours degree in 2001. While at university, McAdams worked with the Toronto-based Necessary Angel Theatre Company.
Early Life: 2001-05Edit
In 2001, McAdams made her debut television appearance in the MTV pilot Shotgun Love Dolls that was filmed during spring break from York University. McAdams also made her Canadian film debut that year in My Name is Tanino. The Italian-Canadian co-production was filmed in Sicily and it marked McAdams' first time on an airplane when she was 22-years old. McAdams later earned a Genie Award nomination in her native Canada for her role as a teenage version of Wendy Crewson's character in Perfect Pie. In 2002, McAdams made her Hollywood film debut in the comedy The Hot Chick opposite Anna Faris, which McAdams has described as a "huge milestone" in her career. She played a catty high school student who swaps bodies with a small-time criminal. The Los Angeles Times felt she "emerges as a young actress of much promise" while the Daily Mail described McAdams and Faris as "talents to watch, but they are let down by everything around them". The film grossed $54 million worldwide. Afterwards, McAdams returned to Canada to star in the mini-series Slings and Arrows about backstage theatre life. She was written out of the second season of the program following her success in the United States. She received two Gemini Award nominations for her work on the program, with one win.
Breakthrough Acting: 2004-05Edit
McAdams' breakout role came in 2004, when she co-starred in the comedy film Mean Girls opposite Lindsay Lohan, directed by Mark Waters and was based on the book Queen Bees and Wannabes by Rosalind Wiseman. McAdams was 25-years old at the time she was cast as Regina George, the frenemy of Lohan's character Cady Heron and the mean and popular queen bee in the school, and she studied Alec Baldwin's performance in Glengarry Glen Ross for character inspiration. USA Today praised her "comic flair" while The Daily Telegraph found her "delightfully hateful". The San Francisco Chronicle felt that "McAdams brings glamour and magnetism to Regina, but also the right hint of comic distance. The film grossed $129 million worldwide and earned McAdams two MTV Movie Awards. Mean Girls later reached number 12 in an Entertainment Weekly list of the Greatest Ever High School Movies. Tina Fey, who co‑starred in the film and wrote the screenplay, has credited McAdams with teaching her to act for a camera rather than an audience: "She's a film actor. She's not pushing. And so I kind of learned that lesson from watching her."
Afterwards in 2004, McAdams co-starred opposite fellow Canadian Ryan Gosling in the romantic drama The Notebook directed by Nick Cassavetes and based on Nicholas Sparks's novel of the same name. She played Allie Hamilton, a wealthy southern belle who has a forbidden love affair with Gosling's character Noah Calhoun, a poor laborer. McAdams spent time in Charleston, South Carolina prior to filming to familiarize herself with the southern accent she used, and took ballet and etiquette classes. Filming took place from late 2002 to early 2003. Although McAdams and Gosling became romantically involved in 2005, they had a combative relationship on set. "We inspired the worst in each other," Gosling has said. "It was a strange experience, making a love story and not getting along with your co-star in any way." At one point, Gosling asked Cassavetes to "bring somebody else in for my off-camera shot" because he felt McAdams was being uncooperative.
The New York Times praised the "spontaneous and combustible" performances of the two leads while Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times was won over by the "beauty and clarity" of McAdams's performance. The Chicago Tribune declared her "a real discovery" who "infuses young Allie with that radiant, breathlessly winning ingenue grace and charm that breaks hearts". The film grossed over $115 million worldwide. McAdams won an MTV Movie Award and four Teen Choice Awards. Entertainment Weekly has said that the movie contains the All-Time Best Movie Kiss while the Los Angeles Times has included a scene from the film in a list of the 50 Classic Movie Kisses. The Notebook has appeared on many Most Romantic Movies lists. "I'm so grateful to have a film that people respond to in that way," McAdams told Elle in 2011. "It was a big deal".
In 2005, McAdams co-starred in the comedy film Wedding Crashers opposite Owen Wilson, Vince Vaughn and Bradley Cooper. McAdams played Claire Cleary, daughter of an influential politician, and caught in a love triangle with Wilson and Cooper's characters.McAdams listened repeatedly to the song "Landslide" by Fleetwood Mac to prepare for emotional scenes and Wilson has said the song made her cry immediately: "It was like turning on a faucet". She trained for a sailing certification for a boating sequence because her character was said to be an accomplished sailor. Manohla Dargis of The New York Times felt McAdams "makes the most of her underdeveloped character" and "grows more appealing with every new role". Variety found her "a beguiling presence" who "actually creates a real character – a rarity for females in one of these lad-mag escapades". From a production budget of $40 million, the film grossed over $285 million worldwide. Afterwards, McAdams co-starred opposite Cillian Murphy in Wes Craven's thriller Red Eye about a young hotel manager (McAdams) held captive aboard a red-eye flight.
Craven has said McAdams was the only actress he considered for the part. She was drawn to the relatable qualities of her character: "She was not some sweaty, tank-top-wearing, Uzi-carrying super woman". Variety found her "increasingly impressive" while Roger Ebert asserted that "she brings more presence and credibility to her role than is really expected; she acts without betraying the slightest awareness that she’s inside a genre. Her performance qualifies her for heavy-duty roles." Upon release, the film, which was made on a budget of $26 million, earned over $95 million at the worldwide box office. In late-2005, McAdams co-starred in the seasonal family drama The Family Stone. The film had an ensemble cast consisting of Diane Keaton, Sarah Jessica Parker, Luke Wilson, and Claire Danes, and gave McAdams an opportunity to play a disheveled, sardonic sister, rather than the usual "obvious" girlfriend or wife roles. She was eager to work with Keaton and remarked, "It’s never about line counts for me. It’s about the people I get to work with." Variety noted that "a deglammed but still radiant McAdams proves once again that she's the real deal, delivering a deliciously feisty performance". The New York Times felt that her "engaging screen presence holds your attention and sympathy despite the handicap presented by her character's personality." The film was a commercial success: it cost $18 million to make and grossed over $92 million worldwide.
Career break and low-profile return: 2006–08Edit
At this point in her career, McAdams was hailed as "the next Julia Roberts" and the new "Hollywood it girl". Vanity Fair invited McAdams, along with Scarlett Johansson and Keira Knightley, to appear on its March 2006 cover, the annual Hollywood issue. Upon arrival on the photo set, McAdams discovered it was a nude session and left. She later parted ways with her publicist, who had not informed her in advance. Knightley later recounted, "Quite early on Rachel just said, 'No, I'm not into that.' She's a lovely girl, and I really respect her for doing that." When asked about the incident in 2008, McAdams had "no regrets”.
McAdams took a break from her film career from 2006 to 2007. "There were a lot of cooks in the kitchen, a lot of voices around me, and I wanted to step away so I could hear my own voice again," McAdams said in 2013. "Truthfully, I never really wanted to be a big movie star. I never even wanted to work outside of Canada, or outside of the theatre." During that period, McAdams turned down roles in the films The Devil Wears Prada, Casino Royale, Mission: Impossible III and Get Smart. In February 2006, she made a one-off stage appearance in The Vagina Monologues at St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts, Toronto to raise funds for V-Day. That same year, McAdams received a Rising Star Award nomination from the British Academy of Film and Television Arts and hosted the Academy Awards for Technical Achievement.
McAdams returned to her film career in 2008 and co-starred in two limited release films. The first was the 1940s film noir Married Life opposite Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper where she played Kay, a young widow who wins the affections of two older men, played by Brosnan and Cooper. In preparation for the role, McAdams studied old films, particularly those of Kim Novak. She has said the film shoot reenergized and re-inspired her and made her eager to work more often. Entertainment Weekly found McAdams "a particularly delightful vision after her two-year intermission". Variety bemoaned her break from the big screen but felt that, despite a performance of "tender feeling", "her natural vivaciousness and spontaneity are straightjacketed" by the film noir format. The film was a box-office failure. It grossed just over $2 million worldwide, failing to recoup its production budget of $12 million. The second was the road trip comedy-drama The Lucky Ones opposite Tim Robbins and Michael Pena, a story about three Iraq War soldiers on a brief road trip back in the United States.
She trained at a real boot camp, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, prior to filming. McAdams, speaking in 2011, said that the character of Colee was "probably one of my favorite characters I've ever played." The New York Times found her "luminous as always" while Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times hailed the performance as "her coming of age as an actress". "Previously she has been seen mostly as a hot chick or an idealized sweetheart", he wrote. "Here she is feisty, vulnerable, plucky, warm, funny ... Watch the poignance of the scene when she meets her boyfriend's family." Entertainment Weekly found her "feisty, gorgeous, and as mercurial as a mood ring". The Lucky Ones is the least commercially successful film of McAdams's career as of 2012, having grossed just $266,967 worldwide.
Return to mainstream studio films: 2009-12Edit
In 2009, McAdams co-starred in State of Play, a political thriller based on a BBC television series of the same name, opposite Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, and Ben Affleck. McAdams played Della, an online reporter who investigates a possible conspiracy with a veteran print journalist, played by Crowe. As part of her research, McAdams visited The Washington Post's offices and met with politicians on Capitol Hill. Entertainment Weekly felt she was "perfectly cast as an ambitious wonkette" while The Daily Telegraph noted that "McAdams, with her lively eyes and large, expressive forehead, holds her own against Crowe. Mercifully, she avoids any temptation to play girly and demure to his grizzled alpha male." The film grossed over $87 million worldwide. Also in 2009, McAdams co-starred opposite Eric Bana in the science fiction romantic drama The Time Traveler's Wife, an adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's bestselling novel of the same name. McAdams fell "madly in love" with the book but was initially slightly hesitant to accept the film role because Clare, the long-suffering wife, is a "character that people have already cast in their heads".
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone said, "I'd watch the vibrant Rachel McAdams and Eric Bana in anything, but The Time Traveler's Wife is pushing it." The Los Angeles Times found her "luminous [yet], sadly, her facility as an actress is mostly wasted." Writing in The Chicago Tribune, Michael Phillips, in an otherwise tepid review, said of her performance: “Every scene she’s in, even the silly ones, becomes better—truer, often against long odds—because she’s in it. Her work feels emotionally spontaneous yet technically precise. She has an unusually easy touch with both comedy and drama, and she never holds a melodramatic moment hostage.” The film was a commercial success, earning over $101 million worldwide. In late 2009, McAdams co-starred in the mystery and action-adventure film Sherlock Holmes opposite Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law. She played Irene Adler, an antagonist and love interest to Downey's title character Sherlock Holmes, and welcomed the opportunity to play a character who is "her own boss and a real free spirit".
Variety felt her character was "not very well integrated into the rest of the story, a shortcoming the normally resourceful McAdams is unable to do much about". The New York Times stated, "Ms. McAdams is a perfectly charming actress and performs gamely as the third wheel of this action-bromance tricycle. But Irene feels in this movie more like a somewhat cynical commercial contrivance. She offers a little something for the ladies and also something for the lads, who, much as they may dig fights and explosions and guns and chases, also like girls." The film was a major commercial success, earning over $524 million at the worldwide box office.
In 2010, McAdams co-starred opposite Diane Keaton for the second time in the comedy Morning Glory, where she played a television producer attempting to improve the poor ratings of a morning television program, was billed as a starring vehicle for McAdams. She initially felt she was unsuited to the role because "I'm not funny. So I said, 'if you need me to be funny, you might want to look somewhere else'". Roger Michell, the film's director, had a number of dinners with McAdams and persuaded her to join the cast. Since working with Keaton, McAdams has described her as a mentor figure. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times said McAdams "gives the kind of performance we go to the movies for" while Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times felt she played "as lovable a lead as anyone since Amy Adams in Junebug" in an otherwise "routine" movie. The New York Post was impressed by "her gift for physical comedy", as was Variety. While the New York Times felt she "plays her role exceptionally well" and is "effortlessly likable", it called on Hollywood to give her parts "worthy" of her talent. "Ms. McAdams has to rely on her dimples to get by. She does, but she could do better." The film was a modest commercial success, grossing $58 million worldwide from a production budget of $40 million. McAdams was disappointed that the film failed to find a larger audience, remarking that "I only hear these businesspeople: 'Well, no one was sure who it was for.'"
In 2011, McAdams co-starred in Woody Allen's fantasy romantic comedy Midnight in Paris opposite her Wedding Crashers co-star Owen Wilson, the film opened the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. Allen wrote the part of the shrewish Inez for McAdams, after hearing "glowing reports" from his friend and her former co-star Diane Keaton. He said that he was "crazy about Rachel" and wanted to give her the opportunity to play something other than "beautiful girls". The film was shot on location in Paris and McAdams has said that the experience "will always have a great place in my heart." The Guardian bemoaned that she "has morphed from the sweet thing in Wedding Crashers to the dream-crushing bitch that, according to American comedies, women become once they ensnare their man". Richard Corliss of Time "felt sorry for McAdams, whose usually winning presence is ground into hostile cliché". However, the Los Angeles Times felt she "deftly handles a part that is less amiable than usual for her" and The New York Times found her "superbly speeded-up." It has become Allen's highest grossing picture ever in North American and was the most commercially successful independent film of 2011. With a production budget of $17 million, the film has grossed over $151 million worldwide. McAdams, along with six other members of the cast, received a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture nomination.
Allen won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay and the film itself was nominated for three other Academy Awards, including Best Picture. McAdams reprised her role as Irene Adler in the mystery and action-adventure sequel Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, but the female lead role was played by Noomi Rapace. Joel Silver, the film's producer, has said that "we always intended to have a different kind of girl for each movie" in the vein of Bond girls. He found it "complicated" to persuade McAdams to return in a smaller role: "She loved being with us, but she hoped to have a bigger role." The Wall Street Journal felt "she vanishes all too soon in this overproduced, self-enchanted sequel, and so does the spirit of bright invention that made the previous film such a pleasant surprise." The Huffington Post remarked that she "exhibits far more personality and roguish charm in her few moments here than she did in all of the previous film. Freed from the constraints of being the de-facto love interest, McAdams relishes the chance to go full-villain." The film has grossed over $543 million worldwide.
In 2012, McAdams co-starred opposite Channing Tatum in the romantic drama The Vow, based on a true story. McAdams and Tatum played a newlywed couple who try to rebuild their relationship after a car crash leaves the wife with no recollections of their marriage. McAdams was drawn to the "roller coaster" faced by her character and found it interesting that the story was told "through the guy's eyes". The New York Times stated that "the dimply and adorable Rachel McAdams" brings "enough physical charm and emotional warmth to distract from the threadbare setting and the paper-thin plot". Newsday felt that McAdams, "exuding her usual uncanny warmth on-screen", "is the real draw". However, the Los Angeles Times felt she was "wasted" in the role: "She is such an appealing actress that it's hard not to wish someone could make better use" of her. Time found the film an example of McAdams "coasting" in "unabashedly romantic" movies and asserted that "she’s a much more versatile and clever actress" than such projects would suggest. The film, financed for $30 million, was a major commercial success and became her biggest box-office hit in a leading role. It topped the US box office and has grossed over $196 million worldwide.
About Time and upcoming projects: 2013–presentEdit
In 2013, McAdams co-starred opposite her State of Play co-star Ben Affleck in Terrence Malick's romantic drama To the Wonder. McAdams played a horse ranch worker in Oklahoma and the love interest of Affleck's character. She found Malick to be an "incredibly helpful" director; they discussed her character in detail and he took her on a tour of the local town, pointing out which house she would have grown up in and where she would have attended school. IndieWire noted that "McAdams has the least to do of the principals, but is wonderfully haunted and sad in her brief appearances". The Telegraph felt she was "never better" but Variety described her character's storyline as "a brief narrative digression in which Malick seems at least as interested in the horses on Jane's ranch as he is in the woman herself".
The film received a limited US release, grossing $587,615. McAdams co-starred in Brian De Palma's erotic thriller Passion, opposite Noomi Rapace, which was also released in 2013, about a power struggle between two business executives. Entertainment Weekly noted that McAdams "uses her sexy billboard smile and emphatic delivery to nail a certain type of troublemaker boss who embeds her aggression in pert 'sincerity.'" Variety asserted that "even in the absence of stellar material, the leads remain compulsively watchable." However, The New York Times found her unable to "settle on the right measure of meanness" while the Los Angeles Times remarked: "McAdams and Rapace are gesturally awkward and wildly miscast — more sorority sisters in a spat than cross-generational power antagonists." She was honoured a plaque dedicated to her on the St. Thomas Wall of Fame in her hometown of St. Thomas, Ontario.
In late 2013, McAdams co-starred in Richard Curtis' romantic comedy About Time opposite Domhnall Gleeson. The film follows the romance of McAdams and Gleeson's characters; the story's time-travel element illustrates the importance of living in the moment. Zooey Deschanel was originally slated to play McAdams's role but dropped out shortly before filming began. Variety praised Gleeson and McAdams for their "radiant, believable chemistry" which "keeps the film aloft." The Telegraph remarked: "McAdams is a joy, matching Gleeson’s comic timing beat for beat." The Daily Mail noted that the "unfailingly cute" McAdams had starred in two other films involving time travel but conceded that, "Fortunately, she’s different enough here, in a role winningly influenced by Audrey Tautou’s Amélie, not to create a sense of déjà vu."
She co-starred opposite Philip Seymour Hoffman in an adaption of John le Carré's espionage thriller A Most Wanted Man, directed by Anton Corbijn. The film opened at the Sundance Film Festival on January 19, 2014.
McAdams is involved with a number of upcoming projects. In 2013, McAdams began voicing for an animated version of The Little Prince; other actors involved include Marion Cotillard, Jeff Bridges and James Franco. McAdams has filmed Wim Wenders's drama Every Thing Will Be Fine opposite James Franco. She plays the girlfriend of Franco's character, helping him deal with his guilt after he accidentally kills a child in a car accident. The project began filming in August 2013. McAdams has also filmed Cameron Crowe's untitled romantic comedy, that was initially titled Deep Tiki, opposite her Wedding Crashers co-star Bradley Cooper, Emma Stone and John Krasinski. In mid-2014, she filmed the boxing drama Southpaw alongside Jake Gyllenhaal and Forest Whitaker.
On September 16, 2014, it was announced that McAdams will receive a star on Canada's Walk of Fame on October 18, 2014 for her "transformative performances [that] have established her as one of Hollywood's most sought-after and respected actors".
McAdams is an environmentalist. She is a former vegetarian, and gave up on the diet due to exhaustion. She commented, "it made me very tired. I just ate pasta—I was the most unhealthy vegetarian ever! I'd like to try it again now that I know about quinoa and bulgur." She ran an eco-friendly lifestyle website GreenIsSexy.org with two friends for five years, from 2007 to 2011. Her house is powered by Bullfrog renewable energy. She travels around Toronto by bicycle and does not own a car, but drives when in Los Angeles because it is "a harder town to cycle in". She volunteered in Biloxi, Mississippi and Louisiana in fall of 2005, as part of the clean-up effort following Hurricane Katrina. McAdams sat on a TreeHugger/Live Earth judging panel in 2007. She appealed for donations during the Canada for Haiti telethon in 2010. She was involved in Matter of Trust's "hair boom" efforts following the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill. In 2011, McAdams supported Foodstock, a protest against a proposed limestone mega quarry in Melancthon, Ontario. In 2013, she filmed two promotional videos for the Food & Water First Movement, aiming to preserve prime farmland and source water in Ontario, Canada. In 2014, she will narrate the feature documentary Take Me To The River, which investigates what is being done to try to save iconic rivers.
In 2006, McAdams took part in the "Day Without Immigrants" demonstration in Los Angeles, protesting against the federal government’s attempts to further criminalize illegal aliens living in the United States. In 2011, she attended the Occupy Toronto demonstration. In 2013, McAdams volunteered with Habitat for Humanity in her hometown of St. Thomas. She has also worked with charities including the Sunshine Foundation of Canada, the Alzheimer's Association, the READ Campaign, and United Way of Canada.
McAdams resides in the Harbord Village neighbourhood of Toronto, Ontario, Canada.[ She shares a house with her brother. McAdams also holds a U.S. green card but has remarked that, "The world has become so small these days, and most films aren’t shot in Hollywood any more, so there’s no point living there." She practices kundalini yoga daily.
McAdams dated her The Notebook co-star Ryan Gosling from mid‑2005 to mid‑2007; they briefly reunited in 2008. She dated American actor Josh Lucas in 2009. McAdams dated her Midnight in Paris co-star Michael Sheen from mid-2010 to early 2013.