Fresh from the romance-fantasy hit “The Time Traveler’s Wife,” Rachel McAdams now literally goes to the past in Warner Bros.’ Victorian era-set action-adventure ”Sherlock Holmes.” McAdams portrays Irene Adler, the only woman ever to have bested Holmes and who has maintained a tempestuous relationship with the detective.
Directed by Guy Ritchie and produced by Joel Silver, “Sherlock Holmes” stars Robert Downey Jr. in the title role, Jude Law as Watson and Mark Strong as the villain Blackwood.
In the following interview, McAdams articulates her thoughts on “Sherlock Holmes” and why she agreed to do the film.
Question: Can you talk a little bit about Irene Adler, Sherlock’s love interest?
Rachel McAdams: Well, Irene is really fun because she’s totally a kind of woman for the late 1800s. She’s very independent. She’s very active. She kind of lives in the underworld. There’s only one story where Irene is introduced, “Scandal in Bohemia,” and it’s a really fun story between her and Sherlock. She happens to beat Sherlock at his own game, and it’s the first time a woman has ever done that.
So we developed this kind of strange love affair, (Laughs) a very unique love affair. We just kind of played on that, but we’re very competitive with one another and we’re trying to outsmart each other all the time, and yet trying to have this odd, normal relationship, which is nearly impossible. It’s fun.
Q: What’s it like playing games with Robert Downey Jr.?
McAdams: I really think that Robert is the modern day superhero. I mean, you should see him work. He’s so committed and so ripped. (Laughs)
Q: Robert said it’s really embarrassing that you always kick his ass, and that Irene Adler just lays out Sherlock seemingly at will….
McAdams: That’s Guy Richie’s fault, because like every three scenes, he’d go, “How about you kick him in the nuts? (Laughs) But we haven’t done that for at least ten days.
Q: How much did you use Arthur Conan Doyle’s books as reference for your character and for the film as a whole?
McAdams: I combed the ten pages that I was in (Laughs) over and over. I read it backwards and upside-down. Yeah. I mean it’s the “Scandal in Bohemia” story, so I relied heavily on that. And then I just played around with it from there—I had her in the circus, and I had an adopted brother that died fighting for his revenge. You build all these little things in your head so that it’s all really urgent and dire. But I spent a lot of time with Arthur Conan Doyle’s Irene.
Q: Did you have a lot of fun doing this? Can you talk about the costumes and how that worked within your character?
McAdams: Yeah, Irene Adler is a really fun character to play, because she’s quite different from a lot of women at that time. She’s really her own boss. She’s a real free spirit. And she’s a woman of the night and of the underworld. So she’s very acrobatic and she has traveled all over the world. So, there’s a lot to play there.
And then the costumes—I mean, I’m such a girly-girl. So, it was like a paper doll. I was in heaven just being dressed from the head down. And the costumes are incredible—I mean, real-life corsets with the bones and totally cinched in. I would try to push my belly out in the morning when they would come and strap me in. I mean, it really was like out of “Gone With the Wind” and I’m holding onto the trailer door and trying to eke out just a little bit of space so I can speak properly. But they managed to squeeze me in everyday. They’d try to make me laugh, and on the laugh, they’d yank. (Laughs) But it was so much fun to be that authentic, to be really dropped right into the period. It was great.
(Opening soon across the Philippines, “Sherlock Holmes” is distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.)