TORONTO - Canadian actress Jane McLean is hungry to network.
After all, it was just seven years ago that she quit her job as a marketing manager in Toronto to pursue her childhood dream of acting, and she feels like she's got a bit of catching up to do.
But when she had the chance to schmooze with Hollywood megastar Brad Pitt on the set of her new movie, "The Time Traveler's Wife," opening Friday, she inadvertently let the opportunity slip away, and she's still kicking herself.
"I actually didn't know that it was Brad Pitt when I met him," McLean, 35, who was born in the Philippines and raised in Mississauga, Ont., said wincing in a recent interview.
"It was quite embarrassing."
Pitt is an executive producer of the highly anticipated romantic drama, about a man (Eric Bana) with a genetic anomaly that forces him to travel through time, putting a strain on his relationship with his soul mate, Clare (Canadian Rachel McAdams).
McLean plays Charisse, Clare's roommate and girlfriend to Ron Livingston's character in the feature, which is directed by Robert Schwentke and based on the bestselling novel by Audrey Niffenegger.
Pitt, recalled McLean, showed up to the set in Toronto one day and sat on a blue couch that she'd planned to buy once filming wrapped and it was no longer needed as a prop.
He was wearing a pageboy cap, and McLean, but she was bleary-eyed from the 12-hour workday and didn't recognize him.
"It was just Eric and I, we were trying to finish up this last, really quick shot, and from the corner of my eye I see someone sitting on my couch!" said McLean, who resembles British big-screen beauty Thandie Newton.
"I'm (thinking): 'Who is sitting on my couch? You better not put your feet up on my couch because I'm buying it and taking it home."'
When Pitt went over to introduce himself just as "Brad" and later said goodbye, she shook his hand and exchanged pleasantries, but that was that.
"So I take off, I get in the car, the driver says to me: 'Oh, that Mr. Pitt's a really nice guy,"' she said, her eyes widening.
"I thought: 'Oh my God, that was Brad Pitt!"'
McLean has loved acting since childhood, but her "fairly conservative Catholic family" viewed it as "a hobby" and "not what you do to make a living," and dissuaded her from pursing it, she said.
But about two years into her office gig, she fell ill with vertigo, "and I just realized ... 'I'm not happy and it's manifesting itself physically,"' she said.
With that, McLean packed up and moved to L.A. to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in 2002.
Her first gig was a TV movie called "Guilt By Association," which also starred McAdams.
Since then, she's landed roles on high-profile projects like the TV series "Dexter," in which she played the girlfriend to Masuka (C.S. Lee); the 2007 film "Shoot 'Em Up" with Clive Owen; and the upcoming season of "24," in which she plays the head of forensics for CTU.
These days, her parents are fully supportive of her new career, she said.
"I can't tell my mother when (an article on me) is coming out because she will pick up every single copy at the newsstand, I kid you not," said McLean.
Of course, with rising fame comes detractors, and McLean made the mistake of recently going online to see what fans of "The Time Traveler's Wife" book were saying about the film.
"I will never do it again," she said. "Some of the (comments) were like: 'Oh, that Jane McLean that they cast, she looks kind of mean,"' she said.
McLean, too, is a big fan of the book, which she read in three days after landing the part of Charisse.
Her character has a much bigger role in the book than in the movie, which she understands.
"There's only so much that you can fit in," she said.
"To try and take a 500-page book and condense it into a two-hour movie is very very difficult and the story is a beautiful, beautiful love story between Henry and Clare, that's what the movie's about."
– For movie trailers, photos and screen times, or to buy tickets, click here
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