November 2007 By Philip Berk
No one had ever heard of Amy Adams when she played the bubbly expectant mother in Junebug. And even though then popular Benjamin McKenzie played her angry husband, few bothered to see the film.
But word of mouth spread like wildfire after members of the acting branch of the Academy singled her out for a nomination. And ever since she’s worked non stop, starting with Disney’s Enchanted, although she’s quick to remind men a nice way that she auditioned for that role long before the nominations were announced.
I say a nice way, because you couldn’t imagine a more well mannered person than she, a quality that perfectly complements her scrumptious natural beauty.
So what exactly happened in the year and a half after Oscar came calling?
Besides the lead in Enchanted, which established her as a bona fide movie star, she played Tom Hanks’s secretary in Mike Nichols’ Charlie Wilson’s War and an American cabaret singer in Mrs. Pettigrew Lives for a Day (opposite Frances McDormand.) She followed that with another Oscar nominated performance in the Pulitzer prize winning Broadway play Doubt in which she shared the screen with Oscar winners Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
At the moment she is again appearing opposite Meryl Streep in Julie and Julia in which she plays a young New Yorker who sets about the task of cooking every recipe in Julia Child’s classic cookbook, mastering the Art of French Cuisine.
Just in case you’re under the impression (as I was) that Junebug was her first venture into film acting, I’ll let you in on a secret. She’s been working at it for over eight years; unremarkable in Cruel Intentions and Catch Me if You Can, but impressionable in guest appearances on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, The West Wing, and Smallville.
Junebug, of course, changed all that.
In person she looks much younger than her 35 years, as though she stepped out of Disney’s Cinderella to play the princess in Enchanted.
Having worked with Meryl on Doubt, and in this film—albeit they don’t have any scenes together, but surely she must have been on set while Meryl was working—what has she learned from her?
“We were only on set together one day, and that was the last scene at the end where I’m at the Smithsonian—they do this lighting effect change and she walks in. So that was the only day I actually shared set time with her. We shot completely separate segments. I shot for six weeks, and then she shot for six weeks.” (The movie parallels their lives, fifty years apart, recounting Julia Child’s struggle to master the art of French cooking, compiling the recipes, and then finding a publisher for the book which eventually became a worldwide best seller.) “But when it comes to Meryl, what I’ve learned from her, are her ingredients for life that I’ve taken away from her. She’s got a great balance in her life. She’s dedicated to her family, dedicated to her work, and she hasn’t lost any of her spirit. I think that’s something I strive to achieve. To remain my authentic self throughout my life. She’s been able to do that, so that’s what I admire the most about her.”
And in terms of technique?
“Her authenticity and its presence. She’s got an amazing, amazing work ethic. She is a consummate professional, and that’s something that I really admire. But it’s less her acting technique than a philosophy of life that I’ve taken away.”
How similar is she to Julie in terms of achieving goals. It took Julie a while before anybody noticed her. Wasn’t it the same for her?
“There are definite parallels. That’s one of the things that attracted me to the role. Around my thirtieth birthday, I didn’t know what I was doing with my life. I had goals, ambitions, but it was a time to take in the landscape and sort of reevaluate, and that’s something I identified with. It was a huge transformative time in my life. It was the time when something was happening inside of me. I was getting ready to turn 30, saying, “Am I happy? Is what I’m doing going to make me happy? What am I doing?” And I think that a lot of taking charge of your life, really being responsible for your own happiness made the difference. In my 20’s I really looked into other people’s validation and other people’s opinions of me. I wondered if other people liked me. That was way more important than how I felt about myself. I think that changed that summer. If I’m not taking care of myself, no one else is going to take care of me. That’s a lesson we all have to come to at different times in our life, but that’s when it happened for me.”
How is she coping with success? And has it impacted her private life?
“I don’t see my friends or my family nearly as much as I should, but I’m really lucky success happened a little later for me because I had already established friendships and relationships. So those friends, they’ll send me nasty e-mails from time to time, like, ‘Where are you?’ but that’s about it. They’re so great. I would say if anything I’m just a lot busier. I’d love to have some time to get to slow down and reflect on the past four years. I’m the kind of person that whenever I have something to do, I just put my head down and do it. So I really haven’t looked up in four years. I need to take some time to sort of look up and sort of see what my life is right now.…”
Her real life Cinderella story actually began thirty five years ago, surprisingly in Vicenza, Italy, where her father, a U.S. serviceman, was stationed.
She is one of seven children.
Does she get to see your family often? I ask her
“It’s really hard to see my siblings all the time. I’m a bit neglectful of some of them, for which I publicly apologize for not returning calls,” she jokes.
Does she attend Mormon services?
“No, my parents left the church when I was twelve.”
What was her childhood like?
“I was a typical little girl. I liked playing dress up. I lived in a very fantastical world.”
Can she remember her first kiss?
“I remember my first kiss, and then my first kiss, if you know what I mean. I’ve always been a sucker for men who dance with me.”
How romantic is she?
“I’m definitely a romantic at heart. I’ve tried to be cynical, but it doesn’t suit me.”
Her first romantic lead was Patrick Dempsey, who played her Prince Charming in Enchanted. What was that like?
“I loved working with Patrick. He’s so charming, and he has the kind of personality that lights up a room. I just adore him. I really do.”
But her heart belongs to (fiance) Darren LeGallo, who she’s lived with for over five years.
“We’ve been together eight years. As time goes on I find myself more settled, taking responsibility for the decisions in my life, and that’s really strengthened our relationship because I am now able think of the future in a much broader sense.”
What can she say about him?
“He’s an actor.”
Is he Italian?
“No he’s Texan of all things. His background is French-Irish.”
Obviously he’s not as established as she is; how has that affected their relationship?
“He’s stuck with me through the ups and downs. I’m stubborn and I’m feisty. He hasn’t been competitive in any way. For him to have stood by me through the Academy Award nomination with no amount of jealousy or competitiveness and be truly supportive — I just couldn’t have asked for a better partner. His kindness and his support — he rubs my feet — I’m a simple girl. A foot rub and a dance, maybe not in that order, is all I need.”
How did he win her heart?
“He was goofy one day, and I just love a man who can make me laugh.”
Do they have any pets?
“We have two dogs; they’re mutts.”
“Pippy (after Pippy Longstocking) and Sadie.”
Last year she announced their engagement.
Are they planning a wedding and what would be her ideal wedding?
“I’ve said it before, and it sounds so callous — one that’s over (she laughs). I haven’t made a single plan, and it’s starting to become — I guess maybe because I’ve been doing so much press, and I’ve been talking about it but haven’t really done anything. So it’s sort of a different pressure than other brides who just have to check in with their friends. I’m checking in with everybody, and I still haven’t done anything or made any plans. I’m getting to the point where I’m just like, ‘Vegas sounds good.’ But I think I’d like something that’s really personal. Something that involves nature; that’s very personal I think, yeah.”
Has fame changed her for the better or the worse?
“It really hasn’t affected me. In fact I have become less self centered because I am not having to work so hard. Nobody works harder than an unemployed actor, in my opinion. So I’m getting to focus on relationships in a way I have never been able to. If anything, the opportunities I’ve been given has made me more rounded.
She wears designer Caroline Herrera’s clothes exclusively. How did that happen?
“I think I might have courted her. I wore one of her dresses to the SAG awards, and I loved it. I’m the kind of girl that loves dressing up, but I want the process to be simple. I’d rather have one great dress than to have to choose from five. I’m a horrible decision maker; so if I find someone I trust and love, I leave it up them.”
Does she have a personal stylist?
“I do, because I can’t put an outfit together. That’s why I love dresses. It’s just one piece, very simple, hard to mess up.”
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