She tortured Lindsay Lohan in "Mean Girls," broke Ryan Gosling's heart in "The Notebook" and even took a spin around the astral plane with Benedict Cumberbatch in "Dr. Strange." But can anything truly prepare Rachel McAdams for the zaniness that is Will Ferrell?
McAdams costars with Ferrell in the Netflix comedy "Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga." The film centers on two aspiring Icelandic musicians Lars (Ferrell) and Sigrit (McAdams) who are given the opportunity of a lifetime to represent their country at the world's biggest song competition.
For those unacquainted with Eurovision think of a cross between "America's Got Talent with "The Voice" on steroids with a ton of pyrotechnics and wacky costumes tossed in for good measure. The annual festival began in 1956 and now spans 40-plus nations — including non-European countries like Israel and Australia. It's also responsible for bringing Celine Dion to the world stage. Dion claimed victory in the competition for Switzerland in 1988.
Alongside McAdams and Ferrell the film also stars "Downton Abbey" alum and "Legion" star Dan Stevens, who plays Alexander Lemtov, Ferrell's singing and romantic rival in the film. Lemtov is loosely inspired by a few past Russian Eurovision participants, including singer Philipp Kirkorov, who placed 17th at the 1995 competition and wrote songs for several additional contestants.
McAdams and Stevens spoke about their experience on set and working opposite the "SNL" alum.
Rachel, this was your first film since 2018's "Game Night." So what attracted you to the project?
McAdams: I heard from (Director) David Dobkin who I had already worked with and I know that he's a really musical guy who brings a lot of passion and expertise to this world. And then the fact that it was Will...
The two of you were both in "Wedding Crashers" but didn't share any scenes together. What was it like actually working with him this time around?
McAdams: I think that’s he's one of the funniest people alive and I admire him so much. Since we didn't get a chance to work together on Crashers this seemed like such a great opportunity for that. He never breaks. He's very professional. He's a lot of fun but he's the king of deadpan comedy. You can't beat him at it. So I was the one who was kind of unprofessional and ruining takes.
Dan this was your first exposure to Will. What was that experience like for you?
Stevens: Will was wonderful. I've been a huge fan of his for so long. I love his style and that his comedy comes from a very sweet, silly place. It's not mean, it's very playful. Just getting to work with him on set was a joy. Learning how he comes up with those improvs and getting to see how seriously he takes it. He's obviously very funny a lot of the time, but he wants to make people laugh in a way that’s true to the character. That's what makes him wonderful I think.
It was also first time you worked with Rachel. What did she bring to the role of "Sigrit?"
Stevens: Rachel is amazing just so sweet and lovely. She plays Sigrit in such a way that really roots what can be at times a really silly story into something sweet and earnest. And the way that she interacts with the imagination and the folklore of Iceland it really gives a sweet and beautiful grounding to the whole story. She's very funny in it and I don’t think people have seen her do this sort of thing before either.
What else about the script jumped out to you?
McAdams. It offered a lot of challenges for me I had never explored yet, like playing guitar and piano, singing, doing an Icelandic accent. And I just loved the character. She was real quirky and I had never met anyone like her before. And then the Eurovision world which was sadly very new to me. It's so rich and unexplored on my part so there was a lot going for it. To get to do comedy is such a gift. The good ones don’t come along every day and I'm probably not the first on the list for them. And the character was unique and that’s always something you’re looking for as an actor to diversify and keep pushing yourself to do new things.
Stevens: For me it was fun to play a role like that of someone kind of bombastic and overconfident... someone representing the figure of experience in the Eurovision contest. Alexander knows the ropes. He's there to show Rachel's character around and induct her into this extraordinary world. And if you're not familiar with Eurovision he's a recognizable character within the realm of what you sometimes see at Eurovision. There's always somebody who’s pretty extraordinary who shows up and Alexander there to represent that.
In terms of the singing how much of what we're hearing is really you?
McAdams: I did sing everything and they did use some of my voice, but the really crazy musical things and big notes were done by someone else. They did a sort of blending technique so my voice would sort of introduce songs and that sort of thing so it wound up being a sort of combination deal, but I took singing lessons and sang some songs even just for the look of looking like you're actually singing and not just lip-syncing. They really wanted me to know those songs inside out.
"Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga" premieres on Netflix on June 26.