/ FACES Magazine January 2017
Amy Adams is in a particularly upbeat mood these days. Wearing a glorious blue dress and looking radiant as she greets you with that intoxicating smile of hers, the American actress is excited about promoting her latest work.
This Autumn she’s doing double-duty by simultaneously promoting two big movies set for release in November. First up is Tom Ford’s dramatic thriller, NOCTURNAL ANIMALS, which stars Adams as the owner of an art gallery who gets involved in a revenge tale set in motion after she reads her ex-husband’s violent novel. That film alone could well be a major contender come Oscar time with its Gone Girl-like overtones.
But mainstream audiences around the world will doubtless be flocking to ARRIVAL, a riveting sci-fi tale directed by French Canadian filmmaker Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) that could well turn into one of the most talked-about films of the year. The story opens with the appearance of 12 menacing alien spaceships at various points around the globe. The U.S. government then sends linguistics professor Louise Banks (Adams) and theoretical physicist Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner) to establish communication with the aliens, whose giant, oblong-shaped spacecraft is hovering above rural Montana, and figure out why they have come and what they want. Adams’s character is also dealing with the tragic loss of her daughter which adds deeper emotional layers to her interaction with the aliens.
“This is a very unique story but it’s also a woman’s story,” Adams says, “The sci-fi element is very appealing and there’s this critical theme of communication on which the fate of
mankind might depend. But I also saw it as a mother’s story - I had never played a character dealing with that kind of loss before.”
The 42-year-old Amy Adams lives in Los Angeles together with her husband, actor Darren Le Gallo, and their 6-year-old daughter, Aviana, a name adapted from the Italian military base of Aviano not far from the town of Vicenza where Adams was born while her father was serving in the U.S. air force. During her impressive career, she has received five Oscar nominations, most recently for
Big Eyes (2014).
When asked about how she might wind up competing against herself come Oscar time, Adams quipped, referencing the U.S. presidential race and Donald Trump: “I don’t worry about campaigning. The only campaign I’m worried about right now is the presidency...Intent is just as important as content, and sometimes, in today’s media, intent gets lost inside the content...being careful what you say is important. I won’t name names - but hopefully we can have honest voices in society that aren’t inflammatory.”
Amy, how does it feel to have two very interesting films coming out this Fall? Industry observers are speculating that you’re going to be competing with yourself for another Oscar nomination?
I’m very proud of both films but I’m not thinking about awards or anything else relating to that. I’m concentrating on my work and the things in life which are important to me - my, daughter, for example.
How did you get into your character in Arrival?
I needed to be able to create a character who has this burden of immense pain yet at the same time she needs to be able to overcome that. She’s very aware that she’s part of very important and difficult mission. I needed to be able to feel all of that and put myself in the position of someone who has this huge responsibility. I put a lot more time and effort into her journey than with any other role I’ve played before.
This is also a story where the female character is playing the lead role in this kind of a mission. Was that important to you?
I considered this role to be a great gift. It’s rare that you get to play a very emotionally vulnerable and intellectually strong character like this. It’s even rarer to play a woman like this in the science fiction genre who has so many sides to her and is a reflection of what women are really like.
Denis (director Villeneuve) kept reminding me that this is ultimately a woman’s story and to me it was so gratifying that he was the kind of director who truly understood what her real journey was all about.
In the sense that it’s not just about the aliens?
There are many other important themes that the film explores. We’re being asked to consider how important communication and memory and time is when it comes to thinking about what it means to be human. How you need to pay attention to those fleeting moments that are so vital and so essential to life and how we are doomed to miss out on so much of what is truly precious.
Your character Louise is a linguistics professor. What did you learn about communication from that perspective?
What I learned while doing the research for the film was that communication through language is not just about speaking different languages but it also involves the history of all languages, and the complex history behind the structure of language.
Communication is fundamental to the story and the films says that the only way to communicate properly is by developing human relationships. If you do not know people, if you do not establish contact when you speak, if you’re not in a context where a relationship facilitates another, then there are many critical things that are going to be lost and misunderstood.
The film is also trying to show how emotion and sensitivity are important elements to communication?
Yes. Languages are just a part of the way we communicate,actually. We also need to understand the other, to empathize, and try
to put yourself in the place of another being. Sometimes when I was working on the film I would think about my (6-year-old) daughter and how even though she may only have a small fraction of my language mability, she is still able to make up that gap in ways other than just with words.
Did your own experience as a mother also influence how you approached your character whose daughter died of a rare form of cancer?
There’s nothing in my experience as a mother that could ever prepare me or help me truly appreciate what it must be like to lose a child. It’s something almost unimaginable. But being a mom enables you to have a stronger connection to a character like Louise and to try to be authentic to her loss and how she still carries that loss and the love of her daughter within her.
Has motherhood changed the way you approach your career?
It’s made an impact in the kinds of projects I choose and wanting to play characters that make me happy. I look at things differently now. I pay much more attention to being present and thinking more deeply about matters that affect my daughter. My perspective has changed.
You’ve had an extraordinary amount of success in recent years with films like The Master, American Hustle, and Big Eyes? What had that meant to you?
I am very relieved to be far, far removed from the days when I couldn’t pay my rent, but now I have other anxieties. I’m happy, but I am not so naive as to believe that success allows you to escape all the pain and difficult moments that comes with life.
You’re also playing in Tom Ford’s new film, Nocturnal Animals. What are your thoughts on that story?
Susan was a very difficult character to get inside when I read the script. Tom (Ford) gave me time so that I could understand her and
what finally drew me to her was that she’s in a crisis and she’s no longer willing to live the same kind of life. There’s no going back for her.
Revenge is one of the film’s underlying motifs. How do you feel about revenge?
Revenge is something you can phantasise about, but I’ve never really acted on that. (Smiles) I don’t believe that revenge is ever that pleasurable a thing. It’s never going to be something that satisfies your soul. All it can do is maybe make you feel good just for a second.
You spent your early years growing up in Italy. What was it like for you when you and your parents moved to Colorado?
The thing I missed the most was how friendly Italians were especially the kids I knew at school. What I noticed about the girls I went to school with in Colorado was how they were always thinking about designer clothes which I could never afford. When my mom would buy me an outfit I would change the label so the other kids in school would think it’s an original designer brand. It’s stupid when I think about it, but I desperately wanted to be one of them. I also wanted to be a ballerina more than anything else but unfortunately, I couldn’t do anything to make my legs longer! (Laughs)
When you were struggling to make ends meet as an actress, what was your worst job?
As soon as I turned 18, I started working. My first job was at Hooters, a restaurant and bar where the waitresses wear shorts and tight T-shirts. But I didn’t stay there very long - a lot of the customers believed that touching your ass was included in the service.Then, fortunately, I found a job at the Gap, where I could finally afford to buy everything I wanted at 50% off!