Rachel McAdams on fame and flicks -- Missy Schwartz talks to the one time ''Mean Girl'' about ''The Lucky Ones''

Three years ago, you couldn’t mention the name Rachel McAdams without hearing ”next big thing.” But after starring in a string of hits — including The Notebook (with her reportedly on-again boyfriend Ryan Gosling), Wedding Crashers, and Red Eye — she returned to her native Canada and all but disappeared. This fall, the 31-year-old actress is back on screen in director Neil Burger’s The Lucky Ones, a dramedy about three soldiers who travel across the U.S. after finishing stints overseas. And she has two more films in the pipeline for next year: The Time Traveler’s Wife opposite Eric Bana and State of Play, a thriller with Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.

It’s interesting that The Lucky Ones never mentions the word ”Iraq.”
Quite purposefully. Neil thinks of it as a road-trip film. It’s not a traditional war film. There’s no judgment about if there should or shouldn’t be a war. It’s more about friendship, loss, family, trying to fit in and maintain who you are.

How did you research your character, who was wounded in battle but still radiates optimism?
I was fortunate enough to speak with some female soldiers who had served in Afghanistan as well as Iraq. Some of these women were just getting out of the Army and had done two tours in Iraq. They were half my size, but they could just crush me with a look. They had so much sheer willpower — almost more than the men.

You puzzle a lot of people in Hollywood because you don’t seem interested in being a big star.
I puzzle myself most of the time. It’s a mysterious business and there’s no clear path to take, so you just make choices in the moment and see where you wind up, and hopefully you land on your feet.

Was it a conscious decision to get out of L.A. for a while after your big year in 2005?
I don’t think there’s anything particularly conscious about it. I did those films at such different times and then they all came out, tumbling on top of each other. But I rarely work back-to-back. I often take breaks in between films.

So, are you going to vanish again after The Time Traveler’s Wife and State of Play come out next year?
[Laughs] It really depends on what comes up. I never thought I’d say this, but I actually miss L.A. when I’m not there. At first it was a real adjustment, but now I’m having more fun with it.