Time Traveling Bana Enjoys The Trip
The next time you need a travel companion, call Rachel McAdams.
To hear Eric Bana tell it, the actress makes for one attentive airport ally.
"I got stuck being searched in Toronto, and she waited for me. I totally wasn't expecting to see her when I got through my Toronto search, and she was there, patiently waiting," says Bana, McAdams' co-star in the romance weeper "The Time Traveler's Wife," opening Friday. "Some people wouldn't have waited. That's all I'm saying."
For McAdams, abandoning Bana wasn't an option.
"What was I gonna do? I was worried about you. What if you'd been sent to jail or something and I had to alert the studio?" the actress retorts.
She's soft-spoken and dreamy, a delicate but steely Canadian with wispy hair and an easy smile. He's a loose, gabby Australian who cracks non-stop jokes while chowing down on eggs Benedict. Together, they're star-crossed lovers Clare and Henry, the couple whose fateful and quixotic romantic fable lies at the heart of "The Time Traveler's Wife," a big-screen adaptation of Audrey Niffenegger's 2003 novel. He darts to the future and back to the past but can't control how and where he winds up. She's the girl he encounters during his jaunts when she's just a child, and she ends up his adored wife during the one brief period when their lives intersect.
It's the very reason McAdams, 30, fell in love with the film's concept.
Clare and Henry "struggle to find each other again. They're constantly at odds with one another. They're never on the same page at the same time. They're out of sync, but they still make it work," she says.
"That's reality, though. That's what's cool about it," says Bana, 41, who has been married for 11 years. "I think it's a great example of love growing and growing. That's what I love about the movie."
Opposites do attract, in life and love, it seems. Director Robert Schwentke says that on set, the two couldn't be more disparate.
"Rachel is a very private person. She has her own life outside of filmmaking," Schwentke says. "Eric started out as a stand-up comic. He has a very different personality. He talks to everyone. He keeps the mood light. They had a great rapport and were very supportive of each other."
Indeed, in person, Bana and McAdams seem to have a breezy repartee. She's more reserved and diffident, he's a chatterbox. And she's just tired.
"I don't think I get to sleep in for a month," McAdams says wryly. She spent her weekend promoting the film, an activity she doesn't relish, while also shooting the comedy "Morning Glory" in Manhattan.
"I don't stop, OK?" Bana retorts. "You may not get to sleep in, but I don't stop getting on planes. I don't notice it anymore. I've gone to another level now."
Says McAdams: "You're enlightened."
They didn't know each other before shooting the movie and had no idea whether they'd have chemistry when they met under decidedly Hollywood circumstances.
"We'd never met until I was getting my 3-D body scan (for special effects)," Bana says.
"We were getting body scans done," McAdams affirms.
"We met in the car park in the body scan special-effects house," Bana says. "That's where it all started."
Before production started, McAdams - who signed on to the film first - was given a list of possible co-stars. Bana's name struck her from the get-go, Schwentke says.
"We sat down with Eric and were taken by his obvious decency. He's very grounded, a very committed family man. We felt those qualities would enrich Henry's character, because we were adamant about Henry not feeling like a victim," Schwentke says.
"Rachel is luminous. There's an almost alchemical reaction between her face and the lens. She just glows and gives Clare an emotional vulnerability that made me believe that she'd go for this kind of thing with Henry."
A tough novel to adapt
Bana and McAdams had some trepidation about starring in the adaptation of a book so layered and intricate that it could be considered almost impossible to compress into a linear movie.
"I was just joking yesterday that I'm way more scared of "Time Traveler's Wife" fans than "Star Trek" fans," says Bana, who co-starred in that summer sci-fi blockbuster. "You're adapting a much longer novel, and it's a really difficult novel to adapt. I was very concerned."
The script was revised numerous times until both actors were satisfied with its more focused structure, which remained centered on the couples' relationship.
"When you're doing an adaptation, you know it's going to be different and you'll lose some things along the way, but can you maintain the point? This was about the love between them," McAdams says. "I think that's what the book is about, too. Yeah, it is scary to attempt it."
The fictional Clare and Henry choose to throw themselves completely into their unusual yet all-consuming passion, even though they know it's not forever. Henry knows his own obituary but loves Clare anyway. It's a concept that intrigues Bana and McAdams.
"Wow. God. I wouldn't want to know when I would die. I always assume it's next week," Bana says. "I live accordingly. I always believe that destiny and luck and fate play a massive part. But I wouldn't sit still and rely on them."
Says McAdams: "It's kind of a morbid way to live, but I feel the same way. I could get hit by a bus tomorrow. I hate the idea of knowing it's coming, that it would affect the way we live. But maybe it would make it better."
Their roles suited them
Bana developed his character in a very Method way: "I time-traveled," he says dryly. "This is the very first character I've played where being an actor is preparation for the part. You can relate to what it's like to shift around and then come back home. You have that shock, the head spinning for a few days. Now we have it down pat. There's a seven-day grace period, where my behavior is not judged and if I forget something, it's normal. It works."
As for McAdams, she's the opposite of the sharp-tongued teen terror from 2004's "Mean Girls," her breakout movie. McAdams sees bits of herself in Clare, who spends most of her time alone, waiting for Henry to surface without warning.
"I think Clare spends a lot of time in her head, and I'm definitely that person. I spend a lot of time in my mind daydreaming, which is why I am always late," she says. "I can relate more to Henry's character in terms of the time traveling. I tend to have that kind of lifestyle, scattered to the winds. I never know where I'll be next."
Plus, McAdams says, like her character, she's "very romantic."
Romance, in fact, proved pivotal to Bana's immersion in his role. He has been married to former Aussie actress Rebecca Gleeson for more than a decade. They have two children, Klaus, 10, and Sophia, 7. Bana says he knew his wife was someone special the first time they met.
"Before she spoke," Bana says. "I know what love is. I can't pretend to not know what it's really like to love someone."
Traditional vs. modern romance
Modern love, though, leaves him a little flummoxed. Bana met Gleeson before texting, Facebook and the myriad other technological advances that have transformed dating.
"I don't know how I would hold up in today's market. I can't imagine making a move on someone via text," Bana says.
McAdams was most famously involved with her "Notebook" co-star Ryan Gosling but has never talked about her private life. She acknowledges that "times have changed and the way we court each other. The passion is not the same. You send sweet nothings over the airwaves. Sarcasm just doesn't translate the same way."
As a former stand-up comedian, Bana says he worries that his jokes won't translate over e-mail. McAdams tries to help.
"That's what emoticons are for," she says.
"What?" Bana replies. "I put a smiley face, with a wink, in brackets."