Amy Lou Adams (born August 20, 1974) is an American actress. Known for both her comedic and dramatic performances, Adams has featured in listings of the highest-paid actresses in the world.
Adams has described going to her father's shows and drinking Shirley Temples at the bar as among her fondest childhood memories. The family was poor; they camped and hiked together, and performed amateur skits usually written by her father, and sometimes by her mother. Adams was enthusiastic about the plays and always played the lead.Adams was raised in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints until her parents divorced in 1985 and left the church.
She did not have strong religious beliefs, but has said that she valued her upbringing for teaching her love and compassion. After the breakup, Richard moved to Arizona and remarried, while the children remained with their mother. Kathryn subsequently became a semi-professional bodybuilder and took the children with her to the gym when she trained. Adams has compared her uninhibited early years with her siblings to Lord of the Flies.
Describing herself as a scrappy, tough kid, she has said she fought frequently with other children.Adams attended Douglas County High School. She was not academically inclined, but was interested in the creative arts and sang in the school choir. She competed in track and gymnastics, harbored ambitions of becoming a ballerina, and trained as an apprentice at the local David Taylor Dance Company.
She disliked high school and kept mostly to herself. After graduation, she moved to Atlanta with her mother. She did not go to college, which disappointed her parents, and she later regretted not pursuing higher education. At 18, Adams realized she was not gifted enough to be a professional ballerina, and found musical theater more to her taste.
One of her first stage roles was in a community theater production of Annie, which she did on a volunteer basis. To support herself, she worked as a greeter at a Gap store. She also worked as a waitress at Hooters, where she had to wear tight gym outfits and deal with unruly customers. She left the job soon after she saved enough to buy a used car.
Stephen Holden of The New York Times drew similarities to her role in Enchanted and wrote that the screen magic she displays in such endearing roles hasn't been this intense since the heyday of Jean Arthur.Adams next starred in Doubt, an adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's play of the same name. The production tells the story of a Catholic school principal (played by Meryl Streep) who accuses a priest (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman) of pedophilia; Adams features as an innocent nun embroiled in the conflict. Shanley initially approached Natalie Portman for the part but offered Adams the role after finding her innocent, yet intelligent persona similar to that of Ingrid Bergman.
Adams identified with her character's ability to find the best in people; she described her collaboration with Streep and Hoffman as a master class in acting. Writing for the Houston Chronicle, Amy Biancolli commented that Adams sparks with distressed compassion, and Ann Hornaday opined that she exudes just the right wide-eyed innocence. Adams was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress.As with Junebug and Enchanted, Adams's roles in her three 2008 releases were those of the ingénue—innocent women with a cheerful personality.
When asked about her being typecast in such roles, Adams said that she responds to characters who are joyful and identified with their sense of hope. She believed that despite certain similarities in their disposition, these characters were vastly different from one another; she said, Naïveté is not stupidity, and innocent people are often very complex.The 2009 fantasy adventure film Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian, starring Ben Stiller, featured Adams as the aviator Amelia Earhart. It was the first motion picture to film inside the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
The director Shawn Levy said that the role allowed Adams to showcase her acting range; Adams believed it to be the first time she was allowed to play a confident character on screen. Despite mixed reviews, Adams's work was praised. Terming her a sparkling screen presence, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune thought that the film radically improves whenever Amy Adams pops up. That same year, Adams starred in the comedy-drama Julie & Julia as disgruntled government secretary Julie Powell who decides to blog about the recipes in Julia Child's cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking; in a parallel storyline, Meryl Streep portrays Child.
Adams enrolled at the Institute of Culinary Education to prepare for the part. Carrie RicKey of The Philadelphia Inquirer thought that the film was as delicious as French cuisine and found Adams to be at her most winsome. Both Night at the Museum and Julie & Julia were commercial successes, with the former earning over $400 million.Adams began the new decade with a leading role opposite Matthew Goode in the romantic comedy Leap Year (2010), which the critic Richard Roeper believed was saved from truly awful status by Adams's presence.
Her next release of the year—the boxing drama The Fighter—was much better received. Directed by David O. Russell, the film tells the story of boxer half-brothers Micky Ward and Dicky Eklund (played by Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale, respectively); Melissa Leo played their mother and Adams portrayed Ward's aggressive girlfriend, a barmaid named Charlene Fleming. Describing Adams's part as a tough, sexy bitch, Russell cast her against type to rid her of her girl-next-door image.
The role marked a significant departure for her, and she was challenged by Russell's insistence on finding her character's strength in silence. She enrolled in an exotic dance class by the trainer Sheila Kelley to find her character's eroticism. Joe Morgenstern of The Wall Street Journal wrote that she is as tough, tender, smart, and funny as she was ethereal and delightful in Enchanted. What an actress, and what range! She received Academy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA nominations for Best Supporting Actress; she lost the former two to Leo.
She expressed a desire to play more dramatic roles in the future. The Disney musical The Muppets (2011) starring the eponymous puppets featured Adams and Jason Segel in live-action roles. Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum remarked that the role marked her return to her comedian-sweetheart persona. She also recorded seven songs for the film's soundtrack.
The following year, Adams played the Baker's Wife in the Public Theater's revival of Stephen Sondheim's musical Into the Woods, as part of the Shakespeare in the Park festival at the open-air Delacorte Theater. It was her New York stage debut and her first theater appearance in 13 years. She agreed to the month-long production to take on a challenge that seemed insurmountable, though she was overwhelmed and intimidated by it. She prepared with a private singing coach, but her film schedule enabled her to spend only four weeks in rehearsal.
Ben Brantley, The New York Times' theater critic, praised Adams's lucidly spoken and sung performance but criticized her for lacking the nervy, dissatisfied restlessness of her part.Adams took another fierce woman part in Paul Thomas Anderson's psychological drama The Master (2012). She played Peggy Dodd, the ruthless and manipulative wife of the leader of a cult (played by Philip Seymour Hoffman). It marked her third and final collaboration with Hoffman, whom she deeply admired, before his death two years later.
The organization depicted in the film was deemed by journalists to be based on Scientology; Adams considered the comparison to be misleading but was glad for the attention it brought to the film. Although not a method actor, Adams believed that the intense role had left her on edge in her personal life. Comparing her character to Lady Macbeth, the critic Justin Chang wrote that Adams's pertness has rarely seemed so malevolent, and Donald Clarke of The Irish Times commended her for playing the part with discrete menace. John Patterson of The Guardian noted that a scene in which she chastises Hoffman's character while furiously masturbating him was one of the most significant sequences in the film.
Once again, Adams received Academy, Golden Globe, and BAFTA nominations for her supporting part.Clint Eastwood's sports drama Trouble with the Curve, in which she played the estranged daughter of a baseball scout (Eastwood), was Adams's second film release of 2012. She admired Eastwood's warm and generous personality and was pleased with the collaboration. She prepared for the part by learning to catch, pitch, and swing from a baseball coach.
The film received mixed reviews, and Roger Ebert took note of how Adams had made a standard role seem valuable. She also played the brief part of a drug addict in On the Road, an ensemble drama based on Jack Kerouac's novel of the same name.
I only knew I kept getting called in and lectured about my lack of professionalism. She lost the job but went on to perform in dinner theater at Denver's Heritage Square Music Hall and Country Dinner Playhouse. During a performance of Anything Goes at the Country Dinner Playhouse in 1995, she was spotted by Michael Brindisi, the president and artistic director of the Minneapolis-based Chanhassen Dinner Theater, who offered her a job there. Adams moved to Chanhassen, Minnesota, where she performed in the theater for the next three years.
She loved the security and schedule of the job, and has said that she learned tremendously from it. Nonetheless, the grueling work took its toll on her: I had a lot of recurring injuries—bursitis in my knees, pulled muscles in my groin, my adductor and abductor. My body was wearing out. During her time at Chanhassen, Adams acted in her first film—a black-and-white short satire named The Chromium Hook.
Soon after, while she was off work nursing a pulled muscle, she attended the locally held auditions for the Hollywood film Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), a satire on beauty pageants starring Kirsten Dunst, Ellen Barkin, and Kirstie Alley. Adams was cast in the supporting part of a promiscuous cheerleader. She felt that her character's personality was far removed from her own and worried about how people would perceive her. The production was filmed locally, which enabled Adams to shoot for her role while also performing Brigadoon on stage.
Encouragement from Alley prompted Adams to actively pursue a film career, and she moved to Los Angeles in January 1999. She described her initial experience in the city as dark and bleak, and she pined for her life back in Chanhassen.In Los Angeles, Adams auditioned for whatever parts came her way, but she was mostly given roles of the bitchy girl. Her first assignment came within a week of her relocation in Fox's television series Manchester Prep, a spin-off of the film Cruel Intentions, in the lead role of Kathryn Merteuil (played by Sarah Michelle Gellar in the film).
Following numerous script revisions and two production shutdowns, the series was canceled. Adams later said that a controversial scene in which her character encourages a girl to masturbate on a horse was the primary reason for its cancellation. The three filmed episodes were re-edited and released later in 2000 as the direct-to-video film Cruel Intentions 2. Despite a negative critical reception, Nathan Rabin of the A.
V. Club wrote that Adams plays her alpha-bitch role with vicious glee largely missing from Sarah Michelle Gellar's sterile take on the character.Adams next had a supporting role as the teenage nemesis of a movie star (played by Kimberly Davies) in Psycho Beach Party (2000), a horror parody of beach party and slasher films. She played the part as a homage to the actress Ann-Margret.
From 2000 to 2002, Adams appeared in guest roles in several television series, including That '70s Show, Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville, and The West Wing.Following brief roles in three small-scale features of 2002—The Slaughter Rule, Pumpkin, and Serving Sara—Adams found her first high-profile part in Steven Spielberg's comedy-drama Catch Me If You Can. She was cast as Brenda Strong, a nurse with whom Frank Abagnale, Jr. (played by Leonardo DiCaprio) falls in love.
The film raised her confidence. Despite the film's success and praise for her warm presence from Todd McCarthy, a critic for Variety, it failed to launch her career. She was unemployed for a year after its release, leading her to almost quit film acting. Adams instead enrolled in acting classes, realizing that she had a lot to learn and a lot of self-growth to work through.
Her career prospects seemingly improved a year later when she received a lucrative offer to star as a regular in the CBS television drama Dr. Vegas, but she was dropped after a few episodes. On film, she only had a minor role as the fiancée of Fred Savage's character in the little-seen The Last Run (2004).
Morrison was impressed by Adams's ability to not question her character's inherently good motives. She found a connection with Johnsten's faith in God, and spent time with Morrison in Winston-Salem, North Carolina (where the film is set), attending church. She described making the film as the summer I grew into myself, and after dyeing her hair red for the part, she decided to not go back to her natural blonde color. Junebug premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, where Adams won a special jury prize.
Tim Robey of The Daily Telegraph labeled the film a small, quiet miracle and wrote that Adams had given one of the most delicately funny and heartbreaking performances it's ever been my pleasure to review. Ann Hornaday of The Washington Post opined that her radiant portrayal reflected the film's deeply humanist heart. Adams received her first Academy Award nomination, for Best Supporting Actress, and won an Independent Spirit Award. Later in 2005, Adams had supporting parts in two critically panned films—the romantic comedy The Wedding Date, starring Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney, and the ensemble coming-of-age film Standing Still.
Also that year, she joined the cast of the television series The Office, for a recurring role over three episodes. In Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, a sports comedy from Adam McKay, Adams played the romantic interest of Will Ferrell's character, which critic Peter Travers deemed quite a comedown from her role in Junebug. She also had a minor role in the workplace comedy The Ex, starring Zach Braff and Amanda Peet.After voicing in Walt Disney Pictures' animated comedy film Underdog (2007), Adams starred as a highly optimistic and joyous Disney Princess named Giselle in the musical romantic comedy Enchanted.
She was among 250 actresses who auditioned for the high-profile part; the studio favored the casting of a bigger star, but the director Kevin Lima insisted on Adams due to her commitment to the part and her ability to not be judgmental about her character's personality. Patrick Dempsey and James Marsden featured as her romantic interests. A ballgown that she had to wear for the film weighed 45 pounds, and Adams fell several times under its weight. She also sang three songs for the film's soundtrack—True Love's Kiss, Happy Working Song, and That's How You Know.
The critic Roger Ebert commended Adams for being fresh and winning in a role that absolutely depends on effortless lovability, and Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe wrote that she demonstrates a real performer's ingenuity for comic timing and physical eloquence. Todd McCarthy considered the role to be Adams's breakthrough and compared her rise to stardom to that of Julie Andrews. Enchanted was a commercial success, grossing over $340 million worldwide. Adams received a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress in a Comedy or Musical.
Following the success of Enchanted, Adams took on the part of Bonnie Bach, Congressman Charlie Wilson's assistant in Mike Nichols' political comedy-drama Charlie Wilson's War (2007), starring Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter praised Adams for being sweetly savvy in her part, but Peter Bradshaw was disappointed to see her talent wasted in a role he considered to be of minimal importance.