August 2009 By Philip Berk
The first time I interviewed Amy Adams — it was for Enchanted in which, in true Disney fashion, birds and rodents helped her with her housework.
What would they do for her in real life? I asked her
“If they could write thank-you-notes that would be great,” was her answer.
Ironically when I tried to get her to watch Big Love (as a lapsed Mormon she had resisted the TV series) by sending her the first season of the show, she never acknowledged the gift.
Even when I asked her about it at a subsequent press conference she had only a vague memory of it.
Now 35 (she seems much younger) she’s still has the Cinderella quality that endeared her to audiences even though she’s done some heavy stuff (such as the conflicted novitiate in Doubt)
She’s reunited with 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 Mastering the Art of French Cuisine.
Q: Having worked with Meryl on Doubt, and in this film—albeit you don’t have any scenes together, but surely you must have been on set while Meryl was working—what have you learned from her that has been a lifelong inspiration for you?
A: 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 Julias 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.)
A: But when it comes to Meryl, what I’ve learned from her, it’s 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.
Q: And in terms of technique?
A: 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. It’s less of an acting technique than a philosophy of life that I’ve taken away.
Q: How similar are you to Julie in terms of achieving your goal. It took her a while before anybody noticed her. Was it the same for you?
A: 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.
Q: What changed everything?
A: Junebug, and the sort of recognition that role received. It was a huge transformative time in my life. It was the time when something was happening in my life 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.
Q: You’ve done five movies in a row. How are you coping with success? Has it impacted your private life?
A: 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.…
Q: So fame hasn’t come between you and your friends?
A: My friends have never for a second put a value on what I do. That’s why we’re such good friends. If anything, they let me know that it doesn’t matter what the world thinks of me or whether or not my film does well. They love me. I can go walk around and look ugly and gain weight in their house, and they’re perfectly fine with it—they love that. That’s why we’re friends. The friends I had or have had, who devalue me, either because of what I do—sometimes it can work the opposite too. If they’re hard on you because of your perceived success, then those people aren’t really in my life anymore. I just don’t have people in my life that are like that.
Q: But how do you deal with people who just seek to undermine you?
A: I don’t deal with them, I ignore them. I worked at this dinner theater and had some great girlfriends. Some of them are still my best friends to this day. And there was (laughs), this sounds so silly, but there was this fortune cookie quote that one of them had taped to her mirror. And anytime I would get bent out of shape about something or some person who drove me crazy, she would just point to it. And it said “You give power to the things you give attention to.” And so, I always, always remember that quote. It’s hard, because, trust me, I’m the kind of person—there can be a whole room of people smiling at me and one person flipping me off. I will go to that person and try to make them understand or try to make them feel better. That’s been a real learning for me.
Q: Is it okay to be selfish?
A: There are times when it’s necessary.
Q: After five films in a row, including her currently filming (Darren Aronowsky’s) The Fighter in which she costars opposite Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, are you planning to take a break soon?
A: I always plan a break and then something that I love comes along and then I’m working. I really love what I do so it’s hard to not do it.
Q: How much do you think about food in terms of its health value, the cholesterol, the antioxidants, etc.?
A: The only time I really think about it is when I’m sitting down with my fiancé, eating nachos, going, “I need to eat more vegetables.” We’re all trying to eat healthy and trying to get everything we need. I know that when I make meals that are really healthy and really clean for people, I feel really proud of that. But I’m a huge fan of steamed vegetables with hot sauce. I could eat that all the time. But I think it’s important to be mindful of those things, and yet not lose sight of your love of food. I don’t know about for men, but for women, there’s such a bizarre relationship with food and eating. It seems to be like, if you can deny yourself, you’re rewarded. In this society it’s “Oh my gosh, look how skinny she is. She must not have eaten anything.” Like, they’re impressed. Instead of being like, “Girl, you need a cheeseburger and some French fries.” I do wish that we celebrated natural bodies a little bit more.
Q: Did you get a chance to talk to Julie Powell?
A: It didn’t work out time-wise that I could meet Julie Powell before I started shooting. Then once I started shooting, I was afraid I’d get really self-conscious if I met her. I did meet her recently, and I think she seemed pretty pleased with my interpretation of her.
Amy announced her engagement to her longtime boyfriend actor Darren LeGallo a year ago.
Q: For most girls being engaged is a wonderful time in their life—the planning of the wedding and all of those events, it’s very exciting. In planning yours, what would be your ideal wedding?
A: I’ve said it before, and it sounds so callous, but 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.
Q: Can you share with us some of the horror stories from your kitchen?
A: Oh, gosh. Every time I cook it’s a horror story. I’m a bit of a slob in the kitchen in the sense that when I cook, if you turn around, when I’m finished, it looks like something awful has happened in the kitchen cause it’s just a mess. That’s the great thing about cooking— there’s really no horror story. You can always get take out, you know. If it doesn’t work out, that’s my philosophy. If it’s awful, if everyone makes a face, you’re like, “Chinese food?” or you know, “Pizza?” The last thing that happened was that the oven stopped working when a friend and I were making stuffed baked turkey burgers on the fourth of July. We had to regroup and make some Sloppy Joe’s.