It may have been the blockbuster 'Mean Girls' that put her on the global map, but Rachel McAdams is regarded as one of the nicest and most respected actresses in Hollywood, equally adept at comedies or romantic comedies that have made her one of the biggest box office draws of her generation.
Born to Sandra Kay and Lance Frederick McAdams, in London, Ontario, Rachel McAdams was the oldest of three children, with a sister, Kayleen and younger brother, Daniel. Her mother was a nurse and her father was a truck driver and raised her and her two siblings in St. Thomas. McAdams’ family is a mixture of Irish, English, Scottish, and Welsh ancestry, with her maternal fifth great-grandfather, James Gray, a Loyalist ranger during the American Revolution that fled to Canada shortly after the Battles of Saratoga. Growing up in a Pentecostal household, McAdams began figure skating at only 4 years of age and by nine she was training in pairs, competing until the age of 18 and winning several regional awards. She attended Myrtle Street Public School and then later the Central Elgin Collegiate Institute. Although McAdams claims to not have liked school she was nonetheless very active and participated in several sports, including volleyball, soccer, and badminton. She was also in several groups on campus as well, including student council, the Crimestoppers program, and was a member of the Peer Helping Team. She also worked part-time at a McDonald’s for three years during the summer holidays.
The interest to perform started as early as 7 years old for McAdams, and she attended Shakespeare and Disney summer camps as a child. From age 12, she was a participant in the Original Kids Theatre Company, based in London, Ontario. McAdams also dabbled as a director, doing so for a few children’s theatre productions as well as getting involved in school stage productions and winning a performance award at the Sears Ontario Drama Festival. After being persuaded to pursue a professional acting career, she enrolled in the four-year theatre program at York University and eventually graduated with a Bachelor of Fine Arts honors degree in 2001.
2001 was the year that McAdams debuted on television in the MTV pilot Shotgun Love Dolls, which she shot during spring break from York University. Her Canadian film debut was also the same year in the comedy My Name Is Tanino. She received a Genie Award nomination for her role in Perfect Pie, a drama shot in her native Canada. Her next movie established her as a young actress to look out for, when she starred alongside Rob Schneider and Anna Faris in The Hot Chick, a comedy that ended up a box office hit in 2002. Her breakout role, however, came in 2004 in the box office sensation Mean Girls, starring Tina Fey, Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Seyfried, and Lacey Chabert. The movie grossed over $129 million worldwide and earned McAdams two MTV Movie Awards, making her a household name in the process. Later that year, she starred alongside Ryan Gosling in The Notebook, a romantic comedy that grossed over $115 million worldwide and cemented her status as a growing commodity in Hollywood. In 2005, she starred in Wedding Crashers with Owen Wilson, Bradley Cooper, and Vince Vaughn, playing a politician’s daughter caught up in a love triangle. The film was a huge box office success, generating $285 million worldwide, leading to many in the media to refer to her as the next rom-com queen.
Proving that she was more than just a romantic comedy actress, McAdams next appeared in 2005 opposite Cillian Murphy in the thriller Red Eye. The Wes Craven-directed movie follows her character as she is help aboard a red-eye flight. The movie, which received good reviews, earned over $95 million at the box office globally. Later that year, she starred with Diane Keaton and Sarah Jessica Parker in the comedy The Family Stone, which was also a commercial success, raking in $92 million worldwide.
Between 2006 and 2007, citing a need to make choices in her career based on art and not commerce, McAdams took a break, turning down blockbusters The Devil Wears Prada, Casino Royale, Mission Impossible III, and Get Smart.
Resuming her film career in 2008, McAdams starred alongside Pierce Brosnan and Chris Cooper in the ’40s thriller Married Life playing Kay Nesbitt, a woman vying for the affections of both Brosnan and Cooper’s characters. In 2009, she appeared with Russell Crowe, Helen Mirren, and Ben Affleck in the political thriller State of Play, which was based on the BBC production of the same name. Later that year, she starred with Eric Bana in The Traveler’s Wife, based on the novel by Audrey Niffenegger, a film that grossed over $101 million globally, another hit for McAdams. Next, she appeared in Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey, Jr. and Jude Law playing Irene Adler, the love interest of Sherlock Holmes character. The movie was a major box office smash, grossing over $524 million in box office receipts.
In 2011, McAdams teamed up with Woody Allen in Midnight in Paris, starring alongside Owen Wilson and Michael Sheen. The movie opened the Cannes Film Festival and eventually was nominate for three Academy Awards. She later reprised her role as Irene Adler in the sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, which grossed more than $543 million globally.
In 2012, she starred with Channing Tatum in the drama The Vow about a woman who loses her memory after a car crash and must learn to love her husband all over again. The film was a smash hit, grossing over $196 million globally and cementing her status as a leading lady in Hollywood. In 2014, she acted opposite actors Philip Seymour Hoffman in A Most Wanted Man, which was directed by Anton Corbijn. She received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame in 2014.
In 2015, in the film Spotlight, McAdams played Sacha Pfeiffer, a young journalist that helped to uncover the child abuse scandal in Boston. For her work, she received several nominations, including the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, Critics Choice Movie Award for Best Supporting Actress, and the Screen Actor’s Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role. She appeared in three other films that year: Aloha, She co-starred with Jake Gyllenhaal in the boxing drama Southpaw (2015), where she played the wife of Gyllenhaal’s character, and Every Thing Will Be Fine.
McAdams returned to television in the role of Detective Ani Bezzerides in the crime drama True Detective alongside Vince Vaughn, Colin Farrell, and Taylor Kitsch. Her performance was praised across the board, and McAdams received a nomination by the Critics’ Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Movie/Miniseries.
McAdams is notable for her environmental work, running an eco-friendly website called GreenIsSexy.org for five years, from 2007 to 2011. She famously doesn’t drive a car (aside from her stints working in Los Angeles), and bikes everywhere in Toronto where she lives. Her home is also powered by renewable energy.
After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the south, McAdams volunteered in Mississippi, Biloxi, and Louisiana. In 2006, she protested in Los Angeles as part of the ‘Day Without Immigrants’ demonstration against the criminalization of illegal immigrants in the United States. In 2007, she sat on the judging panel for TreeHugger/Live Earth and in 2010, she helped acquire funds for Haiti during a telethon in Canada to help the hurricane ravaged country. In 2013, McAdams appeared in two promotional videos for the Food & Water First Movement to preserve farmland and precious source water in Ontario. In 2014, she was the narrator for the documentary Take Me to the River, in an effort to save the environment. In addition to these causes, McAdams has also volunteered with the Sunshine Foundation of Canada, the Alzheimer’s Association, the Read Campaign, and the United Way of Canada.
Known as an intensely private celebrity, McAdams lives in Toronto and although she holds a green card for the United States, she doesn’t live there. Famously, McAdams stated there was no point in doing so.
From 2005 to 2007, she dated Ryan Gosling, and then American actor Josh Lucas in 2009. Michael Sheen, a Welsh actor, was acknowledged in the press as her significant other from mid-2010 to early 2013. She dated music manager Patrick Sambrook between 2013 and mid-2014. And in 2016, she began dating director Jamie Linden and their relationship is still going strong.
- Rachel McAdams Unauthorized & Uncensored by R.B. Grimm
Written by: Triston Brewer