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In the stylized Forties drama “Married Life,” in theaters Friday, Patricia Clarkson plays the wife of Chris Cooper, who falls for Rachel McAdams and plans to end his marriage to be with her. Enter his best friend, suave single rake Pierce Brosnan, and this love triangle becomes a compelling square, in which none of the characters walks a straight line between love, lust, deception and truth.
Real-life singletons Clarkson and McAdams sat down with WWD at the Four Seasons hotel in Beverly Hills to discuss the age-old mysteries of romance.
WWD: What do you think this film says about marriage?
Patricia Clarkson: Do you ever really know whom you are sleeping next to?
Rachel McAdams: I think people are incredibly complex and there are no right answers. You never can know someone inside and out — and I wouldn’t want to, personally. I think that keeps it exciting. In the beginning, you appreciate someone for the things you didn’t know about, so you want to keep some of that, right?
WWD: Why do you think people cheat?
P.C.: They are unhappy, unfulfilled. People make mistakes in life. Sometimes it’s that simple.
R.M.: I think often you are looking externally for something that you lack internally. You are externalizing your inner needs onto someone else.
WWD: Did playing the movie in 1949 feel archaic or modern, given the subject matter?
P.C.: I think 1949 lent it glamour and cachet, but we approached this film very realistically. We played these scenes for broke. Most of our costumes were pulled, not built. They were real clothes and the sets were real houses. I had beautiful negligees.
R.M.: Of course, to cook you have to wear your best dress. That’s a real skill [laughs]. They were all clothes that I would wear today on a red carpet.
WWD: Do you think romance has changed since the Forties?
P.C.: I don’t think romance has ever changed. I think the movies were more romantic. I don’t think the people were.
R.M.: I think we have more of an obsession with romance nowadays. You don’t just stay with the guy you met in high school. There is more a sense of seeking out that one person who’s perfect for you at every level, which is obviously impossible to find. We idealize love now. It’s become very “fairy tale.”
WWD: What was it like to work with Pierce Brosnan?
R.M.: Hypnotizing. He would have been great in the Forties. He knows how to take care of a woman and sweep her off her feet and just do everything right. It made my job very easy.
WWD: What do you have coming up next?
P.C.: I shot four movies over the summer, one with Javier Bardem [Woody Allen’s “Vicky Cristina Barcelona”] and two with Penélope Cruz [“Vicky Cristina” and “Elegy”], but I didn’t have scenes with either of them. In May, I’m doing Martin Scorsese’s next movie, “Shutter Island.”
R.M.: I am currently working on the political thriller “State of Play” in Washington, D.C. This is my fake short hair [She gestures to her cropped dark brown do], and I just finished “The Time Traveler’s Wife” based on the book and “The Lucky Ones” about three soldiers in Iraq.