Amazing Amy

Five-time Oscar nominee and star of two critically-acclaimed new films, Amy Adams, talks assumed identities, challenging stereotypes and that elusive golden statue.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel
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Five-time Oscar nominee and star of two critically-acclaimed new films, Amy Adams, talks assumed identities, challenging stereotypes and that elusive golden statue

Amy Adams does not look like a movie star. She’s beautiful, yes, but not in a way that you would describe as traditional. She has presence, too, but not in a way that is particularly striking. You could say that this is part of her underlying charm. As film director Tim Burton puts it, Amy is like “a weird school memory: Someone who is very vivid, and yet you don’t really know them.”

That is not to say that the flame-haired actress is forgettable or unlikeable. In fact, she’s far from it. Every role she’s starred in has brought to life her warmth of character. So much so, it feels like she brings a sense of vulnerability and true-life grit to her on-screen personas that makes them just that little bit more relatable. She has brought this rare quality to the big screen countless times in American Hustle, for which she received an Oscar nomination for Best Actress in 2013, Man of Steel, Big Eyes, Julie & Julia and Enchanted. Amy has also been nominated for Best Supporting Actress in Junebug (2005), Doubt (2008), The Fighter (2010) and The Master (2012).

It seems she has been more often the bridesmaid than the bride, but her upcoming two films could finally give the actress the due credit she’s owed. The first is sci-fimindbender Arrival, which is directed by Sicario’s Denis Villeneuve and could well end up being the most talked about film of the Oscar awards season. Amy plays a linguist confronted with the task of figuring out how to communicate with aliens who have unexpectedly landed on Earth, while dealing with the loss of her young daughter.

Animal Instincts

While the star is no stranger to playing intensely cerebral and ferociously intelligent characters, even she was surprised at the twists and turns Arrival had up its sleeve. “There’s this critical theme of communication on which the fate of mankind might depend,” the actress explains, “but I also saw it as a mother’s story and I had never played a character dealing with that kind of loss before. It’s rare to play a woman like this in the science fiction genre who has so many sides to her and is a reflection of what women are really like.”

And it seems that motherhood has contributed to making Amy a better, stronger, more dedicated actress. “I actually love work more now because I feel if I’m going to be away from her (six-year-old daughter Aviana), I’d better enjoy it. I’m trying to be more present in each moment of my life,” she revealed.

Fans of moody thrillers will be flocking to Amy’s festive year-ender helmed by fashion designer-turned-auteur Tom Ford. Nocturnal Animals sees Amy take on the role of Susan, an art gallery owner who is haunted by her ex-husband’s novel, which she sees as a veiled threat and a symbolic revenge tale.

Amy admits that Susan was a very difficult character to get inside of when she first read the script, but appreciated the lengths that her director went through to allow her to acclimatise to the role. “Tom gave me time so I could understand her and what finally drew me to her was that she’s in a crisis and she’s no longer willing to live the same kind of life,” she says. “There’s no going back for her.”

From Hooters to the Oscars

In much the same way, Amy herself won’t be going back to the early days when she was a struggling actress working as a waitress at Hooters to make ends meet. But she displays her down-to-earth character, saying, “I am very relieved to be far, far removed from the days when I couldn’t pay my rent, but now I have other anxieties. I’m happy, but I am not so naive as to believe that success allows you to escape all the difficult moments that come with life.”

A “difficult” moment could soon be near if her two new films are picked up as Academy Award contenders in the lead up to the Oscars. Which will she be rooting for? Like the pragmatic person she is, Amy says, “I’m very proud of both films but I’m not thinking about awards or anything else relating to that. I’m concentrating on my work and the things in life which are important to me, like my daughter. I’m constantly striving to be the woman my 42-year-old self will be proud of and someone Aviana will be proud of.”

Nocturnal Animals is in theatres now, while Arrival will hit screens in January 2017.


The flamed-haired actress claims she’s “boring” but her serious talent has everyone else in Hollywood singing her praises…

“I think American Hustle was the first time a lot of us realised how beautiful she was. How beautiful her body was. It was a surprise. It was like, wow.” – Tom Ford, director of Nocturnal Animals

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“There are two Amys. One is this incredibly seriously dedicated actor and the other who’s always, ‘Let’s sing some show tunes!’ Never go to karaoke with her.” – Zack Snyder, director of Batman v Superman

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“She purposely keeps a little mystery about herself. It’s why you’re able to be surprised by her and taken in by her. She becomes the part she’s playing.” – Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy’s co-star in Doubt and The Master

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“Amy surprises me every day. You’ll see her go from someone very serious doing the actor-y thing to all of a sudden being a complete goofball.” – Henry Cavill, Amy’s co-star in Man of Steel

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“Obviously, Amy kind of can do anything. She is definitely a muse.” – Spike Jonze, director of Her

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