The next what, you ask? The next Reese Witherspoon? The next Sandra Bullock? The next Meg Ryan? The next Julia Roberts? Here’s the bolder (but true) statement:
Rachel McAdams will be bigger than all of them.
Tomorrow marks the DVD release of “Red Eye”, her cool “B” movie thriller that was a late summer sleeper hit. This comes on the heels of last week’s DVD release of “Wedding Crashers”, the ginormous summer hit she sparkled in and stole every time Vince Vaughn wasn’t on-screen. These releases cap a tremendous 2005 for the fledgling Canadian would be mega-star, and was probably the best all-around movie star year since Mel Gibson’s $100 million trifecta back in 2000 (The Patriot, Chicken Run, What Women Want). This follows a 2004 that saw her not only break out as a recognizable name (with Mean Girls) but saw her carry a romantic drama to huge box office gross and now legendary chick-flick status (The Notebook). I’ll put it to you this way, with the last five films she’s made (including last month’s The Family Stone), if she retired today, we would still look at her as one of the biggest stars of the new millennium.
Her combination of fresh beauty, lightning charisma and down-to-earth humility have helped her to transcend the teen genre she started in (The Hot Chick), and in only two years vault herself to the top of the A-List. If you had a movie centered on a female protagonist and you had your choice of every actress in Hollywood, who would be on your list? Chances are it would be a short list and probably look something like this:
1. Julia Roberts
2. Reese Witherspoon
3. Rachel McAdams
Now consider that Julia has all but retired from acting in order to raise her kids, and that Reese is fast losing her audience goodwill, especially in romantic comedies (Just Like Heaven, anyone?). As well, both of those actresses have bombs on their resume, and McAdams does not. Both of them carry the baggage of past successes, and McAdams does not yet. Your choice would obviously be Rachel McAdams.
Moreover, when was the last time you saw an actress succeed in five different genres (Comedy, Drama, Thriller, Romantic Drama, Teen Comedy)? I’ll give you a hint, that person doesn’t exist. In fact, the only comparison you could make is Julia Roberts. Let’s take a closer look at the beginnings of each actress’s careers, and see if we can find some similarities.
These are Julia’s first five big films and their genres, in order:
- Mystic Pizza – All-Girl Comedy
- Steel Magnolias – Ensemble Family Drama
- Pretty Woman – Romantic Comedy
- Flatliners – Sci-Fi / Horror
- Sleeping With the Enemy – Thriller
Now look at Rachel’s first five:
- Mean Girls – All-Girl Comedy
- The Notebook – Drama
- Wedding Crashers – Romantic Comedy
- Red Eye – Thriller
- The Family Stone – Ensemble Family Drama
See any patterns emerge? They both broke out in all-girl comedies, they each had a huge comedy hit in which they were the sole female star, they each toplined their own thriller, and they each took a supporting role in a well-received family drama. Rachel is following the blue-print that Julia created for super-stardom. The only main difference is that Rachel as been able to avoid most of the tabloid hell that Julia fell prey to (due to the failed engagements to Kiefer Sutherland and Jason Patric). This feat is even more impressive considering how intense celebrity gossip in the media has become in the last ten years.
Also, and this is purely subjective, in twenty years, which set of films will we still be watching? My bet is on Rachel, as Wedding Crashers, Mean Girls, and The Notebook are all well on their way to permanent DVD collection status. I’ll put it to you this way, when I show my kids the best teen flicks of all time, I’m gonna run a marathon of these flicks: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Heathers, Clueless and Mean Girls. And you can bet my wife will show our daughter The Notebook before she shows her Pretty Woman. And I agree with that decision. I’d rather show my daughter a movie about the passion of two people in love, over the redemption of an L.A. street hooker, no matter how good she cleans up or how spunky she is to a snooty Beverly Hills saleswoman. So they’ll both most definitely be introduced to Rachel, before they know Julia.
So now we know that Rachel McAdams is the next Julia Roberts. Let me now tell you why she will be a bigger star that the famous red head.
First and foremost, Rachel is older than Julia was when she became famous. Rachel was 28, while Julia was only 21. Those extra seven years give Rachel a higher level of maturity, a quality necessary to navigate the ups and down of celebrity life. This maturity is most on-display in the handling her private life. Did you know that Rachel is dating (and possibly engaged) to her Notebook co-star Ryan Gosling? You probably didn’t, because they’re never on the covers of Us Magazine or In Touch Weekly. They don’t flaunt their relationship for publicity and they defend their privacy as vehemently as possible. This attitude helps her in two ways, 1. It keeps her a believable on-screen romantic foil, and 2. By staying out of the public eye, her interest level from the casual movie-goer remains high.
(By the way, the fact that she is dating Ryan Gosling, after they have become immortalized as one of the best on-screen couples of all-time, is unbelievable and no one is making anything of it. This is akin to Meg Ryan dating Billy Crystal directly after When Harry Met Sally. Or Sylvester Stallone dating Talia Shire after Rocky. Or Ben Affleck dating Matt Damon after Good Will Hunting. Why is no one paying attention to how surreal and cool this is? UNBELIEVABLE!!!)
Sydney Poitier once said that if the public sees you for free during the week, they won’t pay to see you on the weekend. That statement has never been truer than right now. So while Lindsay Lohan continues to devalue herself by slutting around in front of the paparazzi, her Mean Girls nemesis is still a mystery to the public. I know more about Lindsay than I ever cared to, and because of this, I no longer buy her on-screen. I’ve seen her next movie (Just My Luck) and at no point did I ever forget about her off-screen actions or reputation (drugs, bulimia, Wilmer Valderrama). Conversely, while watching The Family Stone, I couldn’t help but notice how easily I believed McAdams as the sister of Luke Wilson, despite having seen her romance Luke’s brother Owen not six months ago. Rachel has no off-screen baggage, and if it continues this way, she will be able to retain her pure on-screen persona during the prime of her career.
Let’s not forget, she carried a romantic drama to $80 million at the box office, in the middle of the crowded, male-heavy summer season, and turned the film into an instant-classic. To give you a sense of perspective, the last romantic drama to succeed in the summer season was back in 2002 with “The Divine Secrets of the Ya-Ya Sisterhood”, starring Sandra Bullock (putting on her Hope Floats face for most of the flick), and The Notebook out-grossed this film by $12 million, and did it without an A-list star. Moreover, in ten years, which film will you remember more? My money is not on the Ya-Ya (a film even my Mom can’t stand, and she LOVES Hope Floats).
In sports terms, if Rachel McAdams had come out at the same time as Julia, Julia would have been Magic Johnson, but Rachel would have been Larry Bird. Maybe Magic won more titles, but everybody knows that Larry was the better player. Also, and this can’t be stressed enough, it was easier to become a movie star in the 80’s and 90’s. There was no internet, no US Magazine, and there wasn’t 300 hundred recognizable names like there are today. Back then, if you headlined a couple movies you were a mega-star, even if you didn’t deserve it (see Winona Ryder as a prime example).
Now, it’s nearly impossible to break through the glut of the media to become a name and face that we all care about. This is why so many movies bombed this year, they were headlined by actors we don’t care about and will never care about (hello Orlando Bloom, Jennifer Garner, Paul Walker, Kirsten Dunst and Jessica Biel). Conversely, a Rachel McAdams movie has never grossed less than $60 million dollars… EVER. Think about that again. While all of her peers are releasing bomb after bomb, all of her films have been hits. Even the small movie she made (Red Eye), which had zero expectations and would have grossed $35 million tops with any other actress, was a good mid-size hit.
She has won Mtv Awards, Teen Choice Awards, and was the 2005 ShoWest Supporting Actress of the Year. Though to be fair, “critical awards” is the only area she’s lacking in. Julia had already been nominated for an Oscar and a Golden Globe by this point. But I figure since there are over 300 movies in awards contention this year, and there were only around 180 back in 1990, that this point is less important. I expect Rachel to get major awards attention for her next group of films. In fact, her audience and critic goodwill is so high right now, this is how I figure her next ten years will probably go:
- Seven movies, for which she will topline four of, with 3 grossing over $100 million, 2 grossing over $70 million, and one solid indie at $45 million.
- Three Golden Globe nominations, and one win
- Two Oscar nominations, and possibly one win.
- The covers of Vanity Fair, People, Premiere, Cosmopolitan, In Style and multiple Entertainment Weekly covers
- She will work with Steven Spielberg, and a collection of the most talented writers and directors that Hollywood has to offer.
- Her price tag will rise to $15 Million per movie, making her third behind Julia Roberts and Jodie Foster.
- There will be repeated and correct comparisons to Audrey Hepburn, both in beauty, in talent and in their respective places in cinema history.
Anything less than the above should be considered a squandering of her talent and promise.
You want one more reason that she will be The Next Great Actress? Nobody really wants to see her naked. I mean, yes, of course we do, but we really don’t. This has always been a quality of famous actresses. Julia, Meg, Sandra, Reese, Jodie, Cameron (especially Ms. Three Day Coke Bender)… none of them are high on the list of “Must See Naked Before I Die” (which used to be topped by Britney Spears, but is now firmly in the corner of Scarlet Johansson). And when we do see one of them (i.e. Meg Ryan in “In The Cut”) the nation of men is collectively mortified and apologetic. It is important for a mega-actress to be so wholesome that we want them to stay pure and incorruptible, but sexy enough that we always hope they get a little wild.
And further, not to make too much of this, but look at that list again, none of them are how you say… voluptuous. And Rachel is no different. She has the body, the chest, the face, the smile, the sexuality and the personality of the type of women that we want to see on screen again and again.
Here’s my recommendation for her next few career moves: Make a geek movie. You want to be an eternally loved movie star? Make a film that every braces-wearing, Star Wars-loving, film school wannabe will love, revere and have a poster of on their walls. Next, do a small, dark comedy like “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, get some indie cred and some awards and cement your reputation as the best of your generation. Then follow it up with a good role in a Steven Spielberg movie and then a big whopping studio picture with your face and name on the poster. After you’ve done that, go back to your roots and do an ensemble film, then a romantic comedy. And whatever you do, do not start accepting every film thrown your way. The fact that you have nothing on your current slate speaks to your choosy nature, which I appreciate. Keep that in you, and choose smart movies that further you as a talent, and not as a star commodity. You do those things, and my list above won’t seem so far-fetched, it will seem like small potatoes.
Over the next decade the top female actresses will all, one-by-one, defer to a new Queen. She will be she will be winsome, she will be humble, she will be private, she will be charming, charismatic, funny and nice, she will be Canadian, she will be deserving and she will be successful. Her name is Rachel McAdams, and she is The Next.