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Amy Adams in "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day."

Amy Adams

Miss Adams Lives Out Her Dreams

by Jay S. Jacobs

It is way too obvious to say that Amy Adams is having an enchanted year Ė and yet at the same time it is absolutely, inescapably accurate. 

Since her first appearance on film in the 1999 beauty pageant comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous with Kirstie Alley, Adams has worked pretty steadily in film, often doing well in films what were not quite up to her talents, like The Ex, The Wedding Date, Serving Sara and Psycho Beach Party. 

Things changed big time for the actress in 2005 when her role of a wide-eyed small-town pregnant woman who loves meerkats in a quirky little comedy-drama called Junebug earned her the type of reviews that most actresses would kill for Ė as well as a nomination for a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. 

If that film opened the door for Adams, Disneyís comic fantasy Enchanted blew that door off the hinges.  In the smash hit post-modern romantic comedy fairy tale, Adams played Giselle, a fairytale princess who is sent to modern New York City by her evil future stepmother (Susan Sarandon.)  While waiting from her Prince Charming (James Marsden) to come save her, she becomes enamored with a divorced man (Patrick Dempsey) and his cute little daughter. 

Not only that, in 2007, Adams starred in the Sundance Film festival favorite Sunshine Cleaning, had a supporting role in the acclaimed Tom Hanks/Julia Roberts film Charlie Wilson's War and even did the voice of Sweet Polly Purebred in the movie version of Underdog.

Now, Adams follows up her breakthrough performance in Enchanted with a quirky old-fashioned British parlor comedy, Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day.  The movie is based on a 1938 novel by Winifred Watson and co-stars Oscar winner Frances McDormand (Fargo) and Pushing Daisies star Lee Pace.  Adams plays Delysia, a breathy American ingťnue in pre-World War II London who is willing to do anything Ė or anyone Ė for her shot at stardom.  When her juggling of men and career options becomes too much for her, she hires Miss Pettigrew (McDormand), a desperate and slightly repressed former nanny, as her social secretary.  Though they are polar opposites, through their whirlwind relationship both women learn what is important in their lives and open themselves up to finding true love. 

A couple of weeks before the premiere of Miss Pettigrew, Adams met up with us at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York to discuss her film and her exploding career.  

Frances McDormand and Amy Adams in "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day."Can you tell us about Delyshia and what you saw in her character and what you changed in the script? 

Well, I donít think I necessarily changed anything from the script. I think the script provided such a great character just in the situations that she was involved in. Who is a person who would get themselves in this kind of situation?  How can you approach it in a way that makes her still likable?  (laughs)  Sheís a little bit manipulative Ė a lot manipulative. You have to deal with it in a way.  Sheís self-centered and she has a lot of faults, but how can you, at the same time, give her a soul?  Whereís the soul?  (chuckles)  But the script provided that. They let you know.  They show who she really is and who sheís supposed to be when sheís not trying to be who she wants to be.  I think thatís a lesson we all can learn at times.  That was really attractive to me, to get to play somebody who has several different veneers that she puts on for different people.  I mean she is an actress, you know, in her life an actress playing an actress was fun. 

Did you find yourself channeling the ghosts of Carole Lombard, Judy Holliday and Myrna Loy?

It was something I thought about a lot.  I watched the movies.  I did take from themÖ I thought that she was the kind of person who would have watched movies and thought she was just as good as them Ė so she would try to act like them in her own life.  I really felt that she was the kind of person who wouldíve watched movies and act like that in her own life so, I tried to channel them.  I donít know if they were really thereÖ 

What is your favorite movie from that period? 

From that period?  Gone with the Wind.  (long pause, then laughs)  I watched it when I was thirteen and it changed my life forever.  I was like: (dramatically) I am Scarlett OíHara.  Which is not good at thirteen. (laughs again)  That is not a power you need to have. 

Frances McDormand and Amy Adams in "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day."She was a pretty girl and just trying to have funÖ 

I know!  She was a survivor.  I think thatís what I identified with.  She got in these situations andÖ  I mean, I watch the movie now and Iím like, wow, films are different. 

How glad are you that you took Kirstie Alleyís advice to drive out to Hollywood? 

Iím very glad.  It led me on a completely different path than I had intended for myself.  I think the idea of Hollywood just didnít make any sense to me Ė it wasnít on my radar at all.  Acting in films was something that special people did.  So, when I met people that were in films and realized they were just people it helped make it more of a reality.  And having her say that I could work, itís just weird.  Sometimes you just need a little kick in the butt. 

Youíve done some singing in your last two movies.  Is that something you want to explore? 

Iíd love to do it on stage.  I donít have any plans for an album because me singing pop music is just shockingly bad.  (laughs)  Iíd turn it into the musical version of whateverÖ  Itís annoying.  Iím the girl at karaoke that youíre like: ďDid you have to pick Journey?Ē  I would love to work on stage, though. 

Are you singing at the Oscars? 


All three songs? 

No.  I was like; if I get through the first one I think I should just count my blessings.  But, Kristin Chenoweth is singing the second one so, no pressure.  I was like; did you have to pick the best singer in musical theatre? 

How fascinating is it that three songs got [nominated for Best Original Song Oscars]? 

Itís reallyÖ I mean, itís not surprising but I wasnít expecting that.  I thought one Ė maybe.  But they are very different.  They are three different styles of songs. 

You are doing two back to back movies with Meryl Streep.  How amazing is that? 

Itís amazing.  Sheís great. 

Did she stay in character the entire time you filmed? 

Not really.  No, she didnít.  But, at the same time, if she did I donít know that I would notice.  (laughs)  I know, it sounds horrible, but I tend to just accept people for who they are and whatever their process is.  She was playing my Mother Superior, so she was very warm with me and very kind.  If that was her way of [staying in character]Ö I donít think it was.  Sheís just a great lady.  She wasnít the disciplinary nun with me at all. 

Amy Adams and Lee Pace in "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day."What about your leading men?  Can you say something unique about them? 

Unique?  I donít know.  What I know about Lee [Pace, who played the man in love with her in Miss Pettigrew] that is exceptional is that he is one of those people who really enjoys life.  He just roles with the punches.  Iíve never seen anything anyone more spontaneous than him.  I really envy that.  Heís so spontaneous in his life.  Heís so much fun to do something with.  Itís always an adventure.  Whatever comes up.  Iím not spontaneous like that at all, so I really envy that quality in him.  Heís wonderful to work with.  6í4Ē and completely solid.  (chuckles)  Itís like, thatís really what you look like.  I just feel squirrelly talking about it. Hereís why.  I have come across as boy crazy because Iím like: Oh, my gosh.  Heís so cute.  But thatís how Iíve been, so Iím kind of trying to be more professional, because I sound like that actress who, like, really overly enjoys all of the scenes I get to do with them.  There is this story with Lee where the director asked him to leave the set because I was staring at him. (laughs)  Because I am a little boy crazyÖ  But I was staring at him and the director was trying to talk to me.  Lee had come in on a day where he was not working.  He had a dialect session.  He was across the room and he just looked dashing.  He looked like an old movie star, just lounging there in his cowboy boots, like Steve McQueen across the room.  I was, like, oh, wow.  And the director was like, ďWhat are you doing?Ē  I was like Iím sorry, I wasnít listening.  I was looking at Lee.  I mean look at him leaning over there.  Itís just distracting.  And the director walked over and said ďyouíre distracting Amy with your presence so you need to leave.Ē  You werenít supposed to tell him!  He was joking Ė it was all in a good spirit.  But I was mortified.  Mortified!  We just started laughing. 

What was it like working with Frances? 

It was excellent.  It was wonderful.  I have always loved her work and so to get to act opposite her and do comedy opposite her and to realize that we have a similar approach to certain kinds of comedy; it was really, really fun.  Her work ethic and her professionalism is just unbelievable.  The more that I work, thatís what I really notice.  People who are where they are Ė thereís a reason most of the time.  Theyíre hard workers.  She never left the set.  She set such a wonderful tone.  The director as well, Bharat [Nalluri].  The two of them really Ė it was one of those experiences on the set [where] you just canít believe how good itís going.  How much fun youíre havingÖ  Thereís no drama.  Thereís no issues.  Nothing, weíre just having fun every day.  You show up to work and you are excited.  I think that comes a lot from the people you work with. 

Lee also pointed out that it was exciting working on those grand sets.  What was that like for you Ė being in with all that splendor?  

Itís fun.  Itís transformative.  It helps you so much to believe in yourself in the situation.  When you are in London, a lot of it is existing spaces.  They did an amazing job of finding those spaces in London.  Shooting outside of the Savoy Ė all they did was change the storefronts.  The rest of it was as is, which is amazing.  It puts you back into a bygone time.  It seems glamorous, but Iím sure itís far too much work for me, but everyday getting that dressed up, that would be a lot of work. 

Lee Pace and Amy Adams in "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day."How comfortable are you with your ďIt-nessĒ 

Until this junket I didnít even know about it. (laughs)  I always equated ďItĒ girls to having a certain kind of sexuality.  So, for me, I donít think like that.  That was the original thing, sheís got ďIt,Ē you know what I mean?  Who was the first one?  Clara Bow?  So, I guess itís not something that I associate with myself at this time.  But Iíve been working which is so grounding.  You donít get a sense of the outside world when youíre working Ė also when youíre in New York, because New York is its own universe.  So weíll see, Iím sure, when I go home weíll see how it goes. 

With Enchanted and this film being comedy, do you see yourself as funny? 

Iím silly.  Iím a silly person.  I can be ridiculous.  Annoying Iím sure.  But what I like about both of them is that thereís a little bit of pathos underneath with them.  It gives us a place to center the characters because theyíre both really out there Ė as far as characters go. 

Are you at all concerned about getting typecast? 

Not at this point.  Right now Iím just doing what I enjoy.  Iíve done some different films.  Iíve done some different types of roles.  Iíve done drama.  We did a film at Sundance this year [Sunshine Cleaning] that was much more dramatic.  I enjoy playing upbeat characters.  I really do, because you take those characters home with you, whether you intend to or not, so playing depressed people, itís just a downer, you know?  Itís a lot of sacrifice in your personal life. 

Talk about Sunshine Cleaning.  What was it like to make and what were your co-stars were like? 

Well, Emily Blunt is like my English sister.  Sheís like my English twin, as far as personalities go.  The two of us together we would exhaust people.  (mimicks talking non-stop)  We like to tease each other.  Sheís got a great sense of humor.  What I took from working with her is not just from the acting experience, but getting to know her.  Itís so nice to have someone whoís your peer who you can absolutely, without any question, cheer for.  She does the same for me.  Weíre so supportive.  I was so excited when we did the cover of Vanity Fair.  Sorry, Iím all blah-blah-blah-blah.  The coffee just kicked in.  (laughs)  When she was cast I was originally, completely intimidated because Iíd seen My Summer of Love.  At the time she was cast I hadnít seen [The Devil Wears] Prada yet.  I did see it and sheís great in that, too.   I was like that girlís got chops.  I have got to bring my A game to this.  Not that I was planning on not.  (laughs again)  But, I knew her potential and she completely lived up to it.  Then they also cast Alan Arkin. It was just really a dream cast.  I really felt that she was my sister.  I still do.  Itís weird when youíre not related and have such a kinship. 

Director Bahrit Vallori with Frances McDormand and Amy Adams making "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day."Did you read the book Miss Pettigrew by Winifred Watson? 

I asked if I should read it and I was told not to read it beforehand, because I would draw comparisons.  I try to take that advice from people.  I have read part of it since.  It is quite a bit different. 

Did you get to keep the costumes? 

No, I didnít get to keep the costumes. You know I have to be honest; I see the costumes as my characterís wardrobe so I would feel so weird, you know?  But I would have kept the jewels.  That I can handle.  (laughs)  Jewels!  The diamonds, I would have kept those. 

I hear youíre slated for Night at the Museum 2? 

Yeah, Iím in negotiations right now for that Ė to play an undeterminedÖ 

Have you seen the script? 


Can you tell us anything? 

Nope. (laughs) 

Whatís it like when you go back to your hometown? 

I havenít been back to my hometown, I think, since I left it.  It was one of those places for me.  I was ready to leave. 

What about when you visit your family over the holidays?  How does your family react to all thatís happened? 

Theyíre cool.  You know, Iíve been out in LA working now for nine years.  Theyíve had a lot of time to get used to the idea.  I think they have a lot to deal with because they are always asked a lot of questions about me.  Iím not the best communicator, so they donít know the answers.  Iím like; just tell them to stop asking you questions.  But I understand. 

Speaking of going back to your hometown, that was the premise of Junebug, the film that got you your Oscar nomination and really got you noticed.  Did you know have any idea when you saw the script for Junebug it was the movie that would launch you? 

I had no idea.  At the time I had just done a pilot for a television show that was picked up.  [Dr. Vegas, a short-lived series with Rob Lowe.]  Then my contract got renegotiated.  I really was consideringÖ at that time I had done Junebug and I was like, I have to do this project.  I have to prove to myself that I can do this Ė play this character.  Then after that I finished my obligation on a television show and I was really considering moving to New York and pursuing theater.  Because I was like I donít know if LA and I are a good match.  Iíve been out here for seven years at the time and Iím still not happy.  Iím still not, sort of fulfilled as an artist.  What can I do?í  So I thought, okay, Iím going to go back and Iím going to get some conservatory training and go to stage.  Then it premiered at Sundance and things changed. 

Youíve been working a long time to become an overnight sensation. 

Most people who arenít eighteen do.  Even at eighteen some people have been working [a long time]. 

Luckily, you arenít so much in the magazines and the blogs and things.  How do you keep your private life private? 

Iím not that interesting.  (laughs)  I donít do interesting things.  I think part of it is that Iím a little bit older so I donít have a nightlife that really involves anything other than going to get Mexican food.  There are only so many times they [can write] ďHow can you eat so much Mexican food and still be thin?Ē  That would be the only headline.  (laughs again)  ďWhatís she really eating in that Mexican food restaurant?Ē   I donít know what it is,  I think there would be a lot of people in LA who do not appreciate that attention but get it.  So, in a way, it is just luck that they really havenít found me interesting yet.  Iím happy to be a bore.


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Copyright ©2008 PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved.  Posted: March 1, 2008.