Amy Adams Leads an Enchanted New Life
by Paul Fischer
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Once an unknown, struggling actress, now Amy Adams is the Oscar-nominated star of Disney’s Enchanted, playing an animated character who ends up in New York, trying to search for her Prince Charming. Best known for her star turn in the indie film Junebug, Adams has evolved in a bona fide star. She’ll be next seen in the high-profile Charlie Wilson’s War, and she spoke to Paul Fischer.
Paul Fischer: How did you get comfortable with this character and know who she was?
Amy Adams: Well, when I first read the script, I felt like I knew who she was and I felt that it was something I understood, oddly enough. I think that I’ve always been attracted to characters who are positive and who come from a very innocent place. I think there’s a lot of room for discovery in those characters and that’s something I always have fun playing. And I didn’t treat it like it was a joke. I treated it like it was Chekhov and maybe they sensed my sincerity.
PF: What were the challenges of shooting out of continuity and finding your place?
AA: It’s always challenging when you’re shooting a film. Shooting things out of order and keeping continuity on all levels is always, for me, the most challenging thing. In this character in particular, we paid really close attention to how her emotions tracked and her different levels of vulnerability and her physicality was something we tracked very closely.
PF: Did you watch every Disney animated film since 1937?
AA: Well, I wish I could say that I spent hours in front of them but the truth is that I had done so much of that in my childhood and my teenage years that I already knew them so well. There was no need to study. So if anything, I kind of tried to avoid them because I didn’t want to do an imitation of one of the previous princesses. I wanted to create a new character. Kevin had done such a wonderful job. He did art and he had it all along the walls of Disney. He had us come in and pre-record our voices so that he could storyboard out the whole film. So for each scene, I knew exactly what he was looking for in the physical nature of the character and the emotional nature of the character, what shots he intended to use. It was really helpful for me in this world.
PF: What did you think of the cartoon version of yourself?
AA: I was flattered. I was a little intimidated, her waist is a lot smaller than mine, so I thought there’d be no late-night Mexican food binges while shooting this. But I thought they did a really good job at capturing some of my quirks and my movements. I run pigeon-toed and she does too. Sometimes you get self-conscious because you know they’re looking for what will define this character. I just think they’re so wonderful. Like I said, I grew up watching those films and James Baxter’s animation, so it was a huge compliment to me to be animated by him.
PF: Did you perform for the traditional animators?
AA: We did, we actually recorded the scene of me arriving to the wedding. We treated it as though we were shooting a film and recorded that scene so that they would have it for reference for the animation.
PF: What was the biggest challenge, the rain or the big white dress?
AA: I think it’s a toss up. Any scene where I had the white dress was grueling. It weighed about 45 pounds and the entire weight was on my hips so occasionally it felt like I was in traction. But also doing the last sequences with the dragon, it initially was a much longer sequence which I guess terrified the kids too much so it was a much longer sequence so I spent a lot of time wet in the rain in a harness hanging off the sword trying to climb. I did not look very graceful so that was somewhat grueling but it was also fun and challenging.
PF: Was the best experience in Central Park?
AA: Yeah, I recommend to all of you to go sing—you might not get the same results as Giselle, but there’s something so freeing about it, really. No, that scene was just exhilarating. I think when we come around the Bethesda fountain, I remember arriving on that day and just really remembering my first time visiting New York and seeing the Bethesda fountain and to realize that I’d now be doing a musical around it, which for me is fantastic… I just really had a really wonderful time.
PF: What could you not do in the big white dress?
AA: I know what you’re getting at and I’m not going to. I’m a lady.
PF: No, could you even sit down?
AA: You know, to allow me to sit down, they had to get these big sort of crash mats is what they’re called, these big blankets, and laid them out in the middle of the street. I would basically fill up the whole street and I would lie back. I often played—I acted weird. I would lay back and then sit up as though I was rising from the dead. It was fun.
PF: Was it challenging to find the right balance in the character?
AA: It was. That was one of the things that interested me about taking this role was that challenge of making her fun and coming from the animated world so that you would believe that, but also that she was grounded and human and based in enough emotion that she would resonate. That was a really big challenge and something that I was very conscious of.
PF: How do you follow up this gig? Is it hard to find something as challenging?
AA: I think every role is challenging in its own way. I’ve already done a couple movies since then and they’ve had their own challenges and wonderful moments. I’m getting ready to go work on a film called Doubt. That’s a challenge in itself, acting opposite the great Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
PF: How different is it to the play?
AA: I’m not sure. I’ll see. I hate to make definite statements before we’ve begun rehearsals.
PF: What are the other films?
AA: I did Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day with Frances McDormand where I play a 1930s cabaret singer, very ambitious girl who Frances McDormand’s character sort of, we meet each other and have this fantastic day together. And then I did Charlie Wilson’s War, which is being released. I play a congressional administrative assistant to Tom Hanks’ character, so she’s sort of His Gal Friday.
PF: How fun was that?
AA: It was so much fun. Just to be on that set and learn from these people and get to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks do these amazing scenes together, directed by Mike Nichols, it was for me like going to school.
PF: Did you work much with Julia Roberts?
AA: We had a scene together. One very fun scene.
PF: Are you prepared for this movie to catapult you to a different level?
AA: I haven’t thought about it.
PF: You should start.
AA: You know, what can you do about it? I’ve been nominated for an Oscar and still managed to live in relative anonymity and did Catch Me [if You Can]. Right now, I guess I’ll have to deal with it all as it comes.
PF: Did Junebug’s Oscar nomination open a lot of doors for you?
AA: I don’t know if it’s the nomination or the attention that it brought to Junebug, but it also, I think, brought people’s attention to my previous work. I got a long time without people making the connection to all my different films and all my different acting things, so I think it’s the first time where I was really identified. I think it absolutely has brought amazing opportunities and introduced me to so many people and it was just a really wonderful experience.
PF: How do you stay grounded at this point, ignoring the hype?
AA: I’m so busy. I also just surround myself with people who are pretty honest with me. I’d like to believe they’re honest with me. They’re not afraid to tell me no and that’s to me the most important thing or to let me know when I’ve stepped out of line and I have a really great support group. I think that’s the key.
PF: Are you signed for a sequel to Enchanted?
AA: I believe that’s in the contract.
PF: Have they talked to you yet?
AA: No, they haven’t really pitched any ideas to me. I kind of don’t want to speculate yet. I’d rather, unless they’re really interested in me coming into a creative meeting, which we’ll see, but I would rather enjoy this process right now rather than think about that.
PF: Working with Alan Menken on the songs, and was there an additional song that got cut?
AA: No, all of the songs that I worked on are in the film. I was terrified. I was so scared. I don’t know, not scared, I think I just was so anxious, I really wanted to do a good job. I grew up listening to Alan Menken’s music, like “A Part of Your World.” I tormented the high school with that song for years, so I really wanted to live up to that standard so I did do a lot of training on my voice. I’d done musical theater prior but I’d been more of a dancer so I wasn’t considered a solo singer. I did work very hard and they ended up, I was afraid they were going to be such toughies, but they ended up being so gracious with Jimmy and I. I think they were just so thrilled that we actually sang that they were really supportive and really allowed us to feel as though we could succeed in doing this. I mean, I knew Jimmy could. He’s flawless.
PF: Do you have any musical aspirations outside of movies?
AA: No, I won’t be doing an album. I would love to do musicals. I’m realistic about where my voice sits, and it doesn’t sit in the pop world. I could try, but it would not do well.
PF: How did you get the musical tone of the character right?
AA: I did listen to a lot of Disney princesses because they wanted the first number to be reminiscent of a more Snow White feel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty—softer, more lilting. And as she becomes more real, into the real world, we bring it up to a more current style with “That’s How You Know,” which is much more of a Broadway showstopper style of song. If you’ll notice, the songs continue to progress throughout the film. It goes into “So Close,” which is a lot more poppy and then we end up with Carrie Underwood’s “Ever Ever After,” which is a country-rock ballad. So the music continues to evolve and I did pay a lot of attention to that and that was part of what I trained to do was try to sing in that sort of operetta style, then also doing a more Broadway style.
Paul Fischer is originally from Australia. Now he is an interviewer and film critic living in Hollywood.
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