In 2004, Rachel McAdams made one of the most romantic movies ever produced, The Notebook. Seven years later, she’s has returned to that genre with The Vow, and another heart wrenching tale that opens just before Valentine’s Day.
In it she portrays Paige, a sculptor happily married to Leo (Channing Tatum), who works at a recording studio. On a snowy night, the couple are in a terrible car accident. Leo survives intact, but a head trauma erases Paige’s entire memory of her relationship with her husband.
Suddenly Leo finds himself in the painful position of losing the relationship he’s waited his whole life for, and is determined to win her back.
McAdams spoke of her return to the genre at the press day for the movie.
You haven’t done a romance recently, what was it about this script that attracted you?
I loved the way the script unfolded. When we first meet Paige, she is a much more actualized version of herself than we see later on in the film, which is kind of a backwards way to go but exactly what I found so interesting. Paige has embraced the life she’s made with Leo.
They’re clearly free and comfortable and supportive of each other; she appreciates his music and he encourages her sculpting. But then we find out that she’s cut off from her family and denying a big part of her life.
When Paige wakes up and doesn’t recognize her husband and learns that she’s estranged from her family, she sees big holes in her life that need to be filled in. I find that idea of not knowing if you will find your way back to your destiny so interesting.
Was the overwhelming love that your characters go through something that interested you?
Yeah, it is an incredible story that actually happened to two people and they came through this and they found their way back to each other. It’s just amazing to me, so that drew my attention but I also really liked the character.
I felt like I hadn’t played anything like her before. She goes on such an emotional and circumstantial rollercoaster and there’s just such a lot to play there.
The more I got into the research of brain injuries and memory loss, there is so many directions to go in with how the personality changes, some people can be very irritable, other people laugh at inappropriate times, so there is a lot of potential in that that the director (Michael Sucsy) and I kind of finessed. As an actor and a role, it seemed very challenging.
Did you have a chance to meet with the real woman who lost her memory, whose life this is based on?
Yes, I did. The characters are very different, but we did meet. I also read his book about the aftermath and winning her back.
How much research did you do?
I read up a lot on it and I spoke to an expert who spent some time on set with us. She was talking about how many brain injuries there are every year. We decided that Paige probably doesn’t get her memories back. That the tape is erased.
Do you believe in destiny?
What was so interesting about this, and what the experts say, is that people often find their way back to the path they were on before they lost all their memories.
It’s quite common, they will go back into the same careers, they will wind up with the same people and they will resemble their previous selves quite closely, so I think that is an interesting argument for destiny.
What was it like working with Channing Tatum?
Channing is the perfect guy for this role because he’s a real renaissance man; chivalrous and gentlemanly. He’s playing someone who would do anything to win back is his wife’s heart and that’s very much, I think, who Channing is. He’s a very heroic kind of guy.
Paige starts out where her parents are guiding her towards a career in law and then when she finds her own sense of self, she realizes that that was not who she is supposed to be. Did your parents have a different path for you but your inner voice felt otherwise?
No, fortunately I was given a lot of freedom when it came to whatever choices I wanted to make and my parents said, follow your dreams, follow your passions and pay for half of the tuition and it’s fine! (she laughs)
What about your early figure skating career?
Early on, it was skating, but it wasn’t skating for me ultimately. My parents always said this to me, ‘Okay you finish out this season and if you don’t want to carry on, that’s fine, but you have to finish what you started.’ So that was their only rule.
When I told them I wanted to go to theatre school, I’m sure they were terrified (she laughs), but they didn’t show it and they were completely supportive and it’s fine now.
Why did you want to become an actor?
I don’t know why. I think I wanted some kind of outlet to express myself. I didn’t know how, I didn’t know what that was.
My mom put in me in painting classes and I found a lot of that in sports, but it just wasn’t complete and I found that I was quite nervous in sports in a way that held me back, where as when I discovered acting the nerves propelled me forward.
They got me on to the stage where as when I was figure skating, my knees were knocking together and I thought I was going to be sick! It wasn’t quite the [right career]!