‘Hollywood Is Changing For Women’
here we are, in a swanky hotel room, watching as Rachel Mcadams springs up from her chair (in Louboutins, no less) to adjust the air-conditioning. We happened to mention that we felt a bit chilly,and she’s only too willing to correct that. Yes, the 38-year-old really is that nice.
We’re here to chat about her latest role as Dr Christine Palmer opposite Benedict Cumberbatch in Marvel’s blockbuster Dr Strange. Along the way, we discover that not only is she nice (and flawlessly beautiful) she’s also a super-hard worker who still gets butterflies before hitting the red carpet. As well as all that, she’s our new best friend, although she might not know that yet…
Tell us about your character, Christine. She’s so interesting and super-clever… Oh, thank you. We pick up where Dr Strange and Christine have been through a whole relationship and have come out the other side and are friends now. They’re very different kinds of doctor. She’s more boots on the ground; she just tries to save every life that comes across her path and doesn’t discriminate between who deserves that and who doesn’t, and Dr Strange is more... particular [laughs]. But I think they have mutual respect for one another and a really deep, profound friendship between them. You’re known for being very meticulous in your preparation for roles. How did you prepare for this? I think it’s the thing I love most about my job, that you get to live so many lives in one lifetime. I have a bit of ADD when it comes to things, so variety is the spice of life for me. My mum was a nurse and I just don’t possess that gene so I was always fascinated. It’s a job that takes so much guts. I shadowed a really great female neurosurgeon in Toronto, and one here in London, who taught me how to do stitches. It was very meditative, like knitting. When I was bored on set I would just pull out my… stitching wire? I don’t even know what it’s called – some doctor I am! But I would practise and it was great to jump into another world. Your scenes involve a lot of special effects and CGI. That must be quite daunting. How did you approach it? When I read one of the scenes I was simultaneously daunted and excited because it was like nothing I’d ever seen before. It was fresh and different and weird. It was like choreographing a dance. And Benedict was actually there for a lot of it, up on wires, flying around the room for hours on end. It feels like things are changing for women in Hollywood… Yeah it’s moving – sometimes it moves slowly and you have to be patient with it, but it’s exciting that it’s such a topic of conversation. I think the way to everything is education. Knowledge is power. What was it like to work with Benedict? Did you know he came with an army of Cumberbitches? We were kind of out in the middle of nowhere filming so the Cumberfans didn’t want to come out as far as we were working. I lived in Chiswick, Twickenham… Benedict, Scott [Derrickson, the director] and I were all over the place. I got to know it really well. Often it was just Benedict and me and Scott in a hospital room having a chat, you know? So you kind of lose sight of how big it is and then you go to the world premiere, you’re standing on that carpet and people are going insane. You’re brought back to the reality, which is stranger in many ways! But yeah, it’s easy to see why he’s so beloved and why he has Cumberbitches. How do you find the red carpet? Is it scary? It does get a little easier the more you do it, but I always get some butterflies when I go out there. It’s a weird place to have the reunion – sometimes it’s the first time you see people after you’ve gone through this strange, cathartic experience on the film. Then you see them on the red carpet, everyone’s watching and you’re like: ‘Oh hey! How’s life?’ So you know, it is an odd place certainly for a reunion of the film family that you’ve created. What classic Hollywood role do you wish you could’ve played? I really love the role that Elizabeth Taylor has in Giant. Of course there’s Scarlett O’hara… you know, the classic ones that I think everyone wants to play. I’m trying to think! I mean, I just got to do an audio book of Anne Of Green Gables, which is one of my favourites, and she’s a very strong character. That’s actually a really big question! An audio book sounds interesting. How did you find it? Yeah! It was really fun. It was a totally different set of skills that I actually found out I don’t possess, but yeah, it was fun. You get to do things you would never imagine you could do, so that was really nice.
Dr Strange is in cinemas now
It’s easy to see why Benedict is so beloved
On set with Benedict in Dr Strange
Alongside Bradley Cooper in 2015’s Aloha