Channing Tatum and Rachel McAdams are sitting together, reuniting to talk about their new romance, The Vow. The film follows a young couple who has their world cave in when McAdams’ Paige loses her memory after a head injury caused by a rear-end collision. The story is loosely based on a real-life couple and how they coped with such trauma, particularly when the only memory that is lost concerns their relationship. The real-life woman remembered everything up to getting together with the man she married.
Director Michael Sucsy actually encouraged his actors to not meet the real-life couple. “[It] was because we took some different liberties with their story,” Tatum said. “I think they were stronger than our characters. They stayed together and I don’t know how you do that in reality. I don’t know if I’d be able to do that. She just woke up and didn’t know him. I think that had a lot to do with their faith. They’re very religious. They are so positive and have two beautiful kids running around. I was nervous to meet the guy.”
McAdams concurs. “This story was inspired by their story, but our characters are very different people with very different jobs and I think they’d only been married for two months before this happened,” she said. McAdams did eventually meet her and was astounded at the experience. “I met her and she’s amazing. She did wake up and say, ‘Okay, you’re telling me this is my husband?’ She hadn’t lost her faith. That hadn’t gone away. She felt the same about her commitment to vows.”
In The Vow, Tatum is Leo and the actor could not believe the film’s good fortune that McAdams signed on to the part of Paige. “Her character is hard to play honestly and I didn’t know who could play it and keep the audience’s sympathy. She was an entirely different person before the accident. Waking up was a world-changing thing for her. Not just waking up and not remembering one person,” Tatum said.
The thorniest aspect of The Vow experience for McAdams was to make her character relatable and grounded. Not many audience members may understand a woman distancing herself from her husband as Paige does in The Vow. “Because Paige becomes so disconnected from Leo, it was a challenge to keep things hopeful and not knowing what’s coming around the next corner and also being true to the experiences and emotions that she would be going through which are quite erratic. And she’s frustrated and anxious,” McAdams said. “That was difficult. These reactions are totally understandable, but you’re also rooting for them. You want them to get back together. We talked about how irritable she could be. How far away can they get from each other and still be able to come back and leave a shred of hope?”
Both actors have had a successful history of appearing in romantic films. For McAdams, it wasn’t about the romance per se as much as the chance to work with her director and Tatum, as well as explore a unique take on a story in a genre that has been very good to her after turns in The Notebook and The Time Traveler’s Wife.
“[The director] seemed to have a new take on the classic love story and this was one I’d never seen before, inspired by true events. It seemed like a really worthwhile story to tell,” McAdams recalled. “I like the challenge of not making it so predictable and working against that. It seemed quite unique to me and certainly a character I hadn’t played. Also, unlike some so-called 'chick flicks,' we’re seeing things through the guy’s eyes in this one.”
Tatum selected The Vow for his next film because the story spoke to him, regardless of its romantic quotient. “I really just loved the idea of Leo in an extraordinary circumstance with his lover Paige and it doesn’t take a stereotypical Nicholas Sparks way to get back around to love,” Tatum said with a slight jab to his Dear John author. “There’s no ah-ha moment where everything falls into place. It’s a more realistic way to get back to love. Rachel did some interesting study on people who lose their memories. A certain percentage just fall back into who they were which I thought was very interesting.”
As Michael Fassbender did in 2011, appearing in five films, it looks like 2012 is the year of Tatum. After his turn in Haywire, he has The Vow, 21 Jump Street, Magic Mike and G.I. Joe: Retaliation all arriving this year. “I had no intention of five movies coming out. Two of them were supposed to come out last year so it was not supposed to happen like this, but it’s a very high class problem,” Tatum said. “I’m very proud of all the films. They’re all very different. If they were all the same, I’d be freaking out.”