The idea of visiting the past or future is intriguing, but Bana says he has no desire whatsoever to revisit any part of his own life. "I’d rather go before I was born, '50s, '60s, maybe go and see some bands just before they're about to break," said Bana at the film's NY press day. "I mean any great band from the past, even bands I'm not into. But just to like see a Beatles or a U2 when they're in their home town before anyone’s discovered them."
McAdams said doing The Time Traveler's Wife made her wish she could see the past. "This film made me think about going back and seeing the people that you love in a different time. Like seeing my parents fall in love or seeing them as children and how fun that would be."
But the time travel aspect wasn't what drew either actor to the project. "I loved the fact that you had a mixture of the thing that usually sends people crazy, which is unrequited love, mixed in with a couple who are actually together and had really present love," explained Bana. "I hadn’t ever seen a story where those two elements kind of combine and I've no idea why, exactly why so many people go so crazy over the book in different ways. They connect with it so deeply and it’s different for every person. But I know for me one of the things was that it was like it’s almost like a mixture of two things, where you do have a present couple who are living and loving, and then on the other side you have two people who can't be together. I was really intrigued by it, by that."
And McAdams was also drawn to the love story. "I think there's a definite choice being made between these two characters. I think they choose to be together every day," said McAdams. "I think they could walk away and they think when Clare says she doesn't have a choice, in that moment I think it’s out of frustration, but I think she genuinely means that this is the man she loves. It’s chemistry and it’s alchemy and that whatever your challenges are, that you make it work somehow. And that she really wouldn't have it any other way. And you could be with a man who doesn’t have a chromosomal displacement disorder and have some kind of other problem."
"It’s also that thing about synchronicity too like, you know, for anyone who’s in a relationship, if you imagine like you're with your partner today, if your partner met another version of you today that was like the 10 years’ previous model that's not quite as good and not quite as well sorted, would you even be together? Like I love those moments between Henry and Clare where the tables are turned and Clare has the upper hand because she knows so much about older Henry and he’s a young Henry. There's a lot of really interesting themes there about how much we evolve as people," added Bana.
Strange as it sounds, there's a weird correlation between being an actor and being a time traveler. "Well something I think we both deal with as actors, you know, it’s separation, it’s falling off the face of the Earth sometimes to the other side of it," offered McAdams. "I think it’s this thing that tears you away from the people you love and I think that's something that's fairly relatable."
Bana agreed. "I can relate to the travel and being together and apart thing. Clearly I think every actor can, and I think the same for a journalist. Anyone who travels a lot for work, you can relate to it. It’s one of the weird things about the film is that it's the first film I've done where being an actor is perfect preparation for the part. You know what I mean? Because there's so much that we can relate to."
And being a part of The Time Traveler's Wife did have its added perks. "It was fun to be 16 again. Yes, that was really fun," admitted McAdams. "You know, we spent a lot of time like talking about the hair, the clothes, the makeup. I worked with such amazingly talented people. I mean Michael with just a brushstroke would change my face a little bit. And the same with the older Clare as well. I looked at myself in the mirror one day and I didn’t really realize we were doing the older Clare that day and I said, 'Oh, I'm looking a little haggard.' And she said, 'Oh don't worry. It’s paint, it’ll come off at night.'"
Audiences need to buy the relationship between Clare and Henry in order for The Time Traveler's Wife to work. But even with the fact he and McAdams hit it off on the set, Bana says having onscreen chemistry is an elusive quality. You can never really tell whether it's going to work or not just by how you get along with your co-star.