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Channing Tatum, Rachel McAdams wow in ‘The Vow’

After snowplow accident outside Music Box Theatre Paige (Rachel McAdams) can’t recall being love with her husbLeo (Channing Tatum) “The

After a snowplow accident outside the Music Box Theatre, Paige (Rachel McAdams) can’t recall being in love with her husband, Leo (Channing Tatum), in “The Vow.”

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Updated: March 6, 2012 8:09AM

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — Channing Tatum stands over six feet, which he insists was no match for Mother Nature roaring through the Windy City.

“I’ll never forget the day on the set that we had this crazy windstorm,” says Tatum, whose new romantic dramedy “The Vow” did some filming in Chicago.

“People weren’t just holding onto their shirts. They were holding onto the trailers where we were dressing,” he marvels.

“A window flew off a building near us, but I loved it. It was my kind of crazy.”

On a much calmer day in Los Angeles, he’s joined by his “Vow” co-star Rachel McAdams. “We shot some exteriors outside of Kingston Mines and by the Underground Wonder Bar,” she says. “I had a great time.”

Jumping into Lake Michigan on a freezing night — well, not such a great time. For starters, both of them were wearing just underwear during a scene where they re-create their first date.

“I really didn’t care because I jump in the lake semi-naked in every city I film in,” Tatum says. “Actually, I strip down to my underwear, drive to the nearest body of water and jump in.”

Adams, a native of Toronto, adds, “I’m the one who was more concerned about staph infections, but they tested the water. It was very, very clean. Not that I’m a germaphobe.”

In “The Vow” (opening Friday), they play a young Chicago couple — Paige and Leo — whose life changes dramatically after they wed. One night outside the Music Box Theatre, they walk into a sudden snowstorm.

While sitting in their car talking about having children, a snowplow hits them from behind, and their car becomes a collapsed accordion.

He hits the steering wheel, but she’s jettisoned through the glass in the window and has a brain injury. When she wakes up, she can clearly remember life with her parents, but not ditching law school to go to the Art Institute and then live a more bohemian lifestyle with Leo, who runs a Chicago recording studio.

“It’s a hard movie,” admits Tatum. “It’s about a woman who wakes up from a terrible accident and she sees some guy who she doesn’t think is her husband — but he keeps insisting that he is her husband.

“She wakes up to a different life,” Tatum says. “She looks differently than what she remembers. She’s a girl from an upper-income Lake Forest family who wakes up and finds out that she’s not a lawyer married to some corporate bigwig. She’s a sculptor and a vegan and likes Obama. It’s all one big shock.”

Says McAdams, “She doesn’t want to remember their love at one point, which was tricky. You still had to make the film sympathetic. You want the audience to root for this couple. You want them to get back together, but we had to finesse it and see how far we could get away from their love and still leave a shred of hope.”

“The Vow,” directed by Michael Sucsy (HBO’s “Grey Gardens”) was partially shot in Chicago while the rest was filmed in Toronto.

Tatum, a veteran of romantic tearjerkers including “Dear John,” was a natural to team up with McAdams, who knows something about Kleenex-inducing scenes. She did star in “The Notebook.”

“I wasn’t playing to a fan base with this film,” says McAdams. “Honestly, I was just excited to work with Chan. And this was a new take on a classical love story and one that I had never seen before.

“The story is actually based on a real-life couple where she had a brain injury and didn’t remember him, but they reconnected and got back together. Now, they have a lovely family. I thought that was really a worthwhile story to tell.

Tatum denies catering to “a romantic, chick-flick fan base” as well.

“I don’t make decisions about movies to play to certain fans,” he says. “It’s just about ‘Am I interested in this story?’ ”

Teases McAdams, “He’s just selfish.”

McAdams says she spent time with women who had experienced brain traumas to inform her role. “I talked to people who had lost their memories. There is a big percentage of them who fall back into who they are supposed to be in life without even remembering,” she says.

Working together offered a few surprises for the two actors.

“During our first meeting,” McAdams says, “he came bounding into the door with his three dogs who just about knocked me down. I was trying on dresses and he began to try the dresses on to break the ice.”

(“I try to be helpful,” Tatum interrupts.)

“He kept saying, ‘Rachel, I think I look better in this than you do,’” McAdams says. “Yes, he’s very helpful.”

Tatum, 31, who hails from Alabama, is pretty busy to be this helpful. He’s also at the multiplex in “Haywire” and next month stars in the big-screen version of “21 Jump Street.” Later in the year come “G.I. Joe: Retaliation” and “Magic Mike,” where he plays an upstart male stripper for director Steven Soderbergh.

“It’s the Year of the Chan. I would love to have my own animal,” he says. “There has been a rat and a dragon now. There could be a Chan. I’m going to propose that to China.

“Honestly, I had no intention of having five movies come out in one year. Two were supposed to come out last year. Look, it’s a high-class problem. But they’re all very different films or I’d be freaking out.”

McAdams, 33, stars in a still-untitled Terrence Malick project, about a man who reconnects with a woman from his hometown after his marriage falls apart. The film also stars Ben Affleck, Michael Sheen, Javier Bardem, Jessica Chastain and Rachel Weisz.

She still lives in Toronto, where she can be seen biking around during her down time. Someone made a vow to razz her about it.

“I did make fun of her helmet,” Tatum says. “The first time I saw her ride off, I said, ‘What’s with the ‘Starship Trooper’ headpiece?”

“He’s just trying to be helpful,” McAdams says, slugging him in the arm.

Big Picture News Inc.

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