Most actors would kill for an opportunity to appear in a Woody Allen film. Rachel McAdams was no different, gladly accepting when he offered her a part in "Midnight in Paris."
Then the eccentric filmmaker called to talk to her about the role, but as the conversation went on McAdams felt Allen was trying to talk her out of it.
"I was very confused," she said during an L.A. promotional tour. "We had a meeting in New York and he said, 'I really would like for you to play this part but if you don't want to do it, it's fine and we'll do something else.' I was like, 'No, I want to do it!'
"It was very endearing and I was very flattered."
The film, which opens Friday after a big debut last week at the Cannes Film Festival, stars McAdams as an American woman named Inez who visits Paris with her Hollywood screenwriter fiancé, Gil (Owen Wilson). Gil falls in love with the city, and is whisked back to 1920s Paris at midnight every night.
"I've always loved his films—every single one of them," the Canadian actress said of Allen. "I've always found something in [them] that touched me, moved me and made me think about something in a different way."
Shooting an Allen film in Paris was a real treat for McAdams, who spent her off days riding scooters on the Champs-Elysees while being awed by the luminous skies above the City of Light.
"It was like so extraordinary," she said. "Watching the sunsets and the dawns. I remember feeling this is the closest I've had to a heavenly experience.
"I think people really take time to enjoy life there. You see everyone sitting out on the sidewalk cafes, having coffee and just kind of taking it in, which I think Woody is acknowledging in the film as well. I think they appreciate really beautiful things there. It's a hub of art and culture and as expressed in this film a place where great artists have gone before and been inspired."
McAdams welcomed the opportunity to play against type in the arty, nostalgic film. Inez is a practical woman with a specific agenda. She's not exactly Regina George in "Mean Girls," but she's a far cry from McAdams' roles in "The Notebook," "The Time Traveler's Wife" and "Sherlock Holmes."
"I liked that she didn't pretend to be swept away—she was quite honest about that," McAdams said. "Woody warned me in the beginning, he said, 'You will not be playing the object of desire. I hope you're OK with that.' The fact that he trusted me to play the villain, so to speak, I was quite excited about that challenge."
Playing opposite Wilson was somewhat physically challenging, too.
"I had this idea that I was the cat and he was the mouse and I always sort of had my paw on his tail and never let him go too far from me," she said with a laugh. "But then Woody saw it totally different and said, 'Stop fondling Owen!'"
One of the things McAdams appreciated most about her celluloid stroll in Paris was the opportunity to revisit that city's past through music and literature. Odes to iconic musicians and writers from the '20s, '30s and '40s often pop up in Allen films. Cole Porter and F. Scott Fitzgerald both make appearances in "Midnight."
"I love that music," she said. "It does inspire such a feeling of nostalgia. It takes you back to a place immediately and gets that wistful feeling going rather quickly."
As a parting gift after filming, Allen gave McAdams a copy of Fitzgerald's novel, "Tender is the Night."