In an unconscious way Rachel McAdams has been preparing to play Dr. Christine Palmer in Doctor Strange her whole life.
“My mother is a nurse,” says the London, Ontario born actress. “She is a very compassionate kind of nurse and Christine is sort of that way as a doctor. She has excellent bedside manner as opposed to Doctor Strange. I took a page from my mom.
“I’ve been talking to her about it for my whole life. She brought her job home sometimes. I picked it up over the years.”
Doctor Strange, the fourteenth film in the Marvel Universe aims to introduce you to the neurosurgeon, played by Benedict Cumberbatch, who goes from saving lives to saving planets. Trauma surgeon Dr. Palmer is his ex-girlfriend but still a constant in his life, and later, when things get mystical, his anchor to the real world.
“It’s a much less typical love trajectory,” she says of their connection. “I think because we had so few scenes to establish our relationship it was a better jumping off point. We had a lot more subterranean life and a much richer history for the characters.”
In the comic books Christine Palmer is a very different person than the one McAdams brings to life on the screen.
“She is an amalgamation of a couple of characters,” she says. “It gave us a lot of creative freedom. We were inventing something. I kind of looked at the comic books more for the flavour of the world and Doctor Strange himself and less so for my character.”
McAdams’s nurse mother may have helped the actress access the emotional side of playing a doctor, but what about the practical stuff, like tying a suture?
“This great neurosurgeon we had on set with us taught us how to sew up a raw turkey breast,” she laughs. “I guess it’s the closest thing to a real live human being, Poor turkey. Then I used oranges, which were easier to carry in my purse. Better smell too. I also had a fake head to practice on. It was kind of like knitting. I would take the suture stuff around, put it on a light stand while we were shooting and practice. I still have sutures on my doorknobs. Haven’t gotten around to cutting them off yet.
“I was really nervous about it because I thought it was going to take forever but it is just one of those thing that one you get the hang of it it’s kind of fun to do.”
The result of all her work is a movie she calls “an ambitious film on the page that I think ticks a lot of those boxes for people are hoping for when they go see a big, blow-out Marvel film. There’s also a quiet deep emotion that runs through it that may catch people off guard.
“I find it hard to get swept away by a film I am in,” she adds, “because I look at it differently, but I actually jumped at one point in my own scene. My friends were laughing. ‘You knew that was coming!’ I know, but I was wrapped up in it.”