“I can be a pretty fearless person,” Amy Adams says. “Then again, I don’t usually put myself in physical trouble, so I don’t test that one out on a daily basis.
“Emotionally I am fearless,” the 39-year-old actress says, “which I think plays pretty well in my professional life.”
Things are different in her personal life, however. Three-and-a-half years ago Adams had a daughter, Aviana, and since then she’s been anything but fearless.
“I’m a very fearful mom,” Adams says with a laugh during an interview at a Los Angeles hotel. “Oh yeah, I’m definitely a worrier. Is she OK? Is she happy? Is everything baby-proofed?
“But I do have to say that getting over your fears in life is a much more impressive thing than not having any fears at all,” the four-time Oscar nominee says. “I think the challenge of any human being is pushing past your fears. That’s where true strength comes from.”
It’s been a memorable year for Adams, whose 2013 has featured three major films: Man of Steel, Her, and American Hustle, which will open in limited release on Friday.
American Hustle, based loosely on the Abscam sting operation that brought down several congressmen in the 1980s, revolves around an FBI agent (Bradley Cooper), an arrogant con artist (Christian Bale), a manic-depressive alcoholic (Jennifer Lawrence), and a con woman named Sydney Prosser (Adams).
The lead actors are no strangers to writer/director David O. Russell’s style: Lawrence and Cooper earned matching Oscar nominations for Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012), as Bale and Adams did for his The Fighter (2010), with Bale and Lawrence winning.
This time around Adams plays a small-town hustler who ends up in New York, where she reinvents herself ... to a point. She also gets to flaunt some uncharacteristically sexualized looks, including a crocheted bathing suit that leaves little to the imagination.
“I loved the role because it was a chance to work with David again,” Adams says. “I do think that, on this one, David got rid of my good-girl image.
This is a woman who gets what she wants, and she dresses to get it. She uses her sexuality.”
One of the most talked-about scenes in the movie features Adams and Lawrence trading vicious barbs in a confrontation that ends ... in a kiss.
“I don’t take credit for a lot of things, but that was my idea,” Adams says, giggling.
“I don’t know why. Maybe I just wanted to kiss Jennifer. She was just so cute.”
This holiday season Adams also will be seen in Spike Jonze’s Her, a quirky exploration of artificial intelligence.
The film revolves around Theodore (Joaquin Phoenix), a lonely writer who falls in love with the voice of the computerized operating system (Scarlett Johansson) that’s designed to meet his every need. Adams plays Amy, Theodore’s longtime friend, who is facing romantic woes of her own.
Adams sees the film as an exploration of the meaning of true intimacy.
“I don’t think you can break it down to a male-female thing,” she says. “Women always say that men fear intimacy, but I think being fearful or lack of intimacy isn’t specifically male or a failure in men. Each person has his or her own reasons why intimacy is hard.
“For my character in this movie, she has a hard time with intimacy because she is always pretending to be someone else,” Adams says. “When you’re not expressing yourself as your true self, you will never find intimacy, because the real you is always in hiding.”
An Army brat who was born in Aviano, Italy, Amy Lou Adams was the fourth of seven children. She was 8 when the family settled down in Castle Rock, Colo. Dance was her first dream, but after high school she realized that she didn’t have what it took to be a ballerina and instead turned her eyes toward musical theater and acting.
She made her film debut in Drop Dead Gorgeous (1999), and went on to pay her dues with small roles in such films as Psycho Beach Party (2000), Pumpkin (2002), and Catch Me If You Can (2002), and guest appearances in television series such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer (2000) and The West Wing (2002). Her breakthrough came with her performance as a pregnant country girl in Junebug (2005), which earned her an Oscar nomination as Best Supporting Actress and paved her way to the lead role in the Disney musical Enchanted (2007), which finally put her musical talents to good use. She went on to major roles in such films as Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day (2008), Doubt (2008), Julie & Julia (2009), Leap Year (2010), The Fighter (2010), The Muppets (2011), The Master (2012), and Trouble with the Curve (2012), earning three more Oscar nominations for Doubt, The Fighter, and The Master.
This year she made her first blockbuster since Enchanted, playing gutsy reporter Lois Lane in Man of Steel.
Her Lois was more like the hard-charging investigative reporter of the comic books than the damsel in distress of previous television and film versions.
“Lois isn’t sitting it out anymore,” Adams says. “She’s not on the sidelines. She wants to fight next to Superman.”
In the works is a sequel, Batman vs. Superman, in which she’ll again play Lois, with Henry Cavill returning as Superman and Ben Affleck co-starring as Batman.
“I’m definitely still the intrepid reporter,” Adams says, “but now she’s part of the solution and not just part of the problem. She’s on the inside now. I thought that was a very unique idea.”
When not working, Adams usually can be found with her fiance, Darren Le Gallo. The two have been together since they met at acting school in 2001, and live a lifestyle as far as possible from traditional Hollywood glitz. Though she’s currently one of the movie industry’s most bankable stars, Adams prefers to think of herself as an actress, not a movie star.
“I like when people come up to talk about the movies,” she says. “I’m much more comfortable talking about the characters than myself. I still get self-conscious talking about me.
“It’s all about dissecting the characters for me,” Adams says. “That’s the easy part. Then you have to find the truth in the moment on a set, which is the magical part.”