Amy Lou Adams (born August 20, 1974) is an American actress and singer who portrayed Tara Maclay's cousin Beth Maclay on an episode of the hit TV Show Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy to American parents, and began her performing career on stage in dinner theaters, before making her screen debut in the 1999 black comedy film Drop Dead Gorgeous. After a series of television guest appearances and roles in B movies, she was cast in the role of Brenda Strong in 2002's Catch Me If You Can, but her breakthrough role was in the 2005 independent film Junebug, playing Ashley Johnsten, for which she received critical acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Adams subsequently starred in Disney's 2007 film Enchanted, a critical and commercial success, and received a Golden Globe Award nomination for her performance as Princess Giselle. She received her second Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations the following year for her role as a young nun, Sister James, in Doubt. Though she has appeared in a range of dramatic and comedic roles, Adams originally gained a reputation for playing characters with cheerful and sunny dispositions but has since played a wider variety of roles.
Adams starred in Sunshine Cleaning with Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin, and the following year appeared as Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian. She appeared in Julie & Julia in 2009 portraying writer Julie Powell followed by Leap Year in 2010. Her recent role as Charlene Fleming in The Fighter earned Adams her third Academy Award nomination, her third Golden Globe Award, second BAFTA Award, and fifth Screen Actors Guild Award nominations. In 2011, Adams appeared in the critically acclaimed musical film The Muppets alongside Jason Segel. She will soon play Lois Lane in the upcoming Superman reboot Man of Steel in 2013.
Adams was born in Vicenza, Italy, the fourth of seven children of American parents Kathryn (née Hicken) and Richard Kent Adams. She has four brothers and two sisters. Her ancestry includes English, as well as Danish, Swiss, and Norwegian. Her father, a US serviceman, was stationed at Caserma Ederle at the time of her birth, and took the family from base to base before settling in Castle Rock, Colorado, when she was eight or nine years old. Thereafter, her father sang professionally in restaurants, while her mother was a semi-professional bodybuilder. Adams was raised as a Mormon, although her family left the church after her parents' divorce when she was 11 years old. She said her religious upbringing "... instilled in me a value system I still hold true. The basic 'Do unto others...', that was what was hammered into me. And love."
Throughout her years at Douglas County High School, she sang in the school choir and trained as an apprentice at a local dance company with ambitions of becoming a ballerina. Her parents had hoped that she would continue her athletic training, which she gave up to pursue dance, as it would have given her a chance to obtain a college scholarship. Adams later reflected on her decision not to go to college: "I wasn't one of those people who enjoyed being in school. I regret not getting an education, though." After graduating from high school, she moved to Atlanta with her mother. Deciding that she was not gifted enough to be a professional ballerina, she entered musical theater, which she found was "much better suited to [her] personality". She said that ballet was "too disciplined and too restrained and I was always told off in the chorus lines" and her body at the time was "just wrecked from dancing all these years." Upon turning 18, Adams supported herself by working as a greeter at a Gap store while performing in community theater. For a few weeks after graduating high school, she took her first full-time job as a hostess at Hooters, a fact that became her "entire press career" for a while. Adams left the job three weeks later after having saved enough money to buy her first car. She admitted: "... there was definitely an innocence to my interpretation of what Hooters was about. Though I did learn, quickly, that short shorts and beer don't mix!"
1995-2004: Early Work
Adams began working professionally as a dancer at Boulder's Dinner Theatre and Country Dinner Playhouse. There, she was spotted by a Minneapolis dinner theater director, Michael Brindisi, in 1995. Adams relocated to Chanhassen, Minnesota, and worked at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres for the next three years. While she was off work nursing a pulled muscle, she auditioned for the satirical 1999 comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous, which was being filmed in Minnesota, and was cast in her first film role. Persuaded by her Drop Dead Gorgeous co-star Kirstie Alley, Adams moved to Los Angeles, California, in January 1999. Describing her first year there as her "dark year" and "bleak", she recalled that she would "pine for that time" at Chanhassen because she "really loved that security and schedule", and said, "The people I worked with there were also a great family to me." Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles, she was cast in Fox Network's television series spin-off of Cruel Intentions, Manchester Prep, in the role of Kathryn Merteuil. The series did not live up to the network's expectations and following numerous script revisions and two production shutdowns, it was canceled. The filmed episodes were then re-edited to be released as the direct-to-video film, Cruel Intentions 2.
From 2000 to 2002, Adams appeared in a series of small films like Psycho Beach Party while guest-starring on television series such as That '70s Show, Charmed, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Smallville and The West Wing. She then appeared in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can as Brenda Strong, a nurse with whom Frank Abagnale, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) falls in love. It was, in Spielberg's words, "the part that should have launched her career" but she was unemployed for a year after that. However, Adams said, "It was the first time I knew I could act at that level with those people. To be believed in by Steven Spielberg... it was a huge confidence booster." In 2004, she starred in The Last Run as well as voicing characters on the animated television series King of the Hill. She was also cast as a regular in the television series, Dr. Vegas, in the role of Alice Doherty but was later fired after a contract dispute.
2005–2007: Critical success and breakthrough
Prior to leaving Dr. Vegas, she had received the script for the low-budget independent film Junebug and auditioned for the role of Ashley Johnsten, a young, cheerful and talkative pregnant woman. Director Phil Morrison explains his decision to cast Adams: "Lots of people looked at Ashley and thought, 'What's the sorrow she's masking?' To me, the fact that Amy didn't approach it from the angle of 'What's she covering up?' was key." The film was shot in 21 days in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. During that time, Adams turned 30 and was worried about her film career: "I thought maybe I should move to New York, maybe I should do something else. It wasn't that I was quitting or making a dramatic statement. It was more like maybe this just wasn't a good fit." On the experience of making Junebug, Adams said, "It was really empowering. At the end of the summer I was unemployed but I was happy and I was proud. I was like, you know what, I'm done with being pushed around." Junebug premiered at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival with Adams winning a Special Jury Prize for her performance.
After theatrical release of The Wedding Date, in which Adams appeared alongside Debra Messing and Dermot Mulroney, Junebug was released in theaters by Sony Pictures Classics. Adams earned critical accolades for her work in Junebug; Carina Chocano of Los Angeles Times noted, "Adams' performance in a role that could have easily devolved into caricature is complex and nuanced." Joe Leydon of Variety commented, "Partly due to her character's generosity of spirit, but mostly due to her own charisma, Adams dominates pic with her appealing portrayal of a nonjudgmental optimist savvy enough to recognize the shortcomings of others, but sweet enough to offer encouragement, not condemnation". She received several awards for Best Supporting Actress including the National Society of Film Critics award and the Independent Spirit Award. She was also nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award and an Academy Award. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences invited Adams to become a member in 2006
Although Junebug had a limited audience, Adams' critically acclaimed performance in the film helped to increase interest in her acting career. Adams went on to appear in films like Standing Still and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and played the recurring guest role of Katy on the television series The Office. After providing the voice for Polly Purebred in Walt Disney Pictures' Underdog, Adams starred in Disney's 2007 big-budget animated/live-action feature film, Enchanted. The film, which co-stars Patrick Dempsey, Idina Menzel, Susan Sarandon and James Marsden, revolves around Giselle, who is forced from her 2D-animated world to real-life New York City. Adams was amongst 300 or so actresses who auditioned for the role of Giselle, but she stood out to director Kevin Lima because her "commitment to the character, her ability to escape into the character's being without ever judging the character was overwhelming".
Enchanted was a commercial success, grossing more than $340 million worldwide. Her performance was well received by the critics, with Todd McCarthy of Variety describing Enchanted as a star-making vehicle for Adams the way Mary Poppins was for Julie Andrews. Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times commented that Adams was "fresh and winning", while Wesley Morris of The Boston Globe stated that she "demonstrates a real performer's ingenuity for comic timing and physical eloquence". Adams garnered a Golden Globe Award nomination for Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, a Critics' Choice Award nomination for Best Actress, and the Saturn Award for Best Actress. Three of the film's songs were nominated for Best Original Song at the 80th Academy Awards. Adams performed one of the songs, "Happy Working Song", live on stage during the Oscar ceremony. "That's How You Know", originally performed by Adams in the film, was sung by Kristin Chenoweth at the ceremony. In an interview, Adams remarked that the song was "perfect" for Chenoweth since Chenoweth "was a huge inspiration for how [she] approached Giselle".
The success of Enchanted increased Adams' media exposure during the 2007–08 film awards season. As well as appearing on the covers of Interview, Elle and the Hollywood issue of Vanity Fair, which named her as one of the "10 fresh faces of 2008", Adams hosted the seventh episode of the 33rd season of Saturday Night Live in March 2008. In the episode, she played various characters, including Heidi Klum, as well as singing "What is this Feeling" from Wicked in a mock battle with SNL cast member Kristen Wiig during the opening monologue. Adams appeared in Charlie Wilson's War, co-starring with Tom Hanks, Julia Roberts and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Adams portrayed Bonnie Bach, the title character's administrative assistant. On the experience of making the film, Adams said, "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." Adams' next project was Sunshine Cleaning playing a single mother who starts her own crime scene clean-up business in order to make enough money to send her son to a private school. The film premiered at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival and received mixed reviews. When it received a limited theatrical release in March 2009, it was generally well received. Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle gave the film a positive review, saying: "The play of emotion on Amy Adams' face is the main reason to see Sunshine Cleaning."
Her first theatrically released film of 2008 was the 1939-set film Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, in which she plays Delysia Lafosse, an aspiring American actress living in London whose life is changed after meeting a governess named Miss Pettigrew, played by Frances McDormand. While the film received generally favorable reviews. Adams' role was noted to be similar to her joyful and naïve characters in Junebug and Enchanted. Carina Chocano of Los Angeles Times stated that "Adams is amazingly adept at playing smart playing dumb". Similarly, Kirk Honeycutt of The Hollywood Reporter wrote that "Adams more or less reprises her princess from Enchanted, only with a beguiling touch of ditzy naughtiness". When asked whether she is in danger of being typecast, Adams responded, "Not at this point... Right now I'm just doing what I enjoy and I've done some different films, I've done some different types of roles. I've done drama this year, we had a film at Sundance (Sunshine Cleaning), but I enjoy playing upbeat characters, I really do because you take your characters home with you whether you intend to or not." In another interview, Adams said, "I think I just respond to those kinds of characters... They're so layered, and I love the fact that they've made this choice to be joyful... I really identify with that sense of hope." She also noted that before dyeing her naturally blonde hair red, she mostly played the role of "the bitchy girl".
In late 2008, Adams starred in Doubt, an adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's play of the same name, as the young and innocent Sister James alongside Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Viola Davis. After being informed of the project by her Sunshine Cleaning co-star, Emily Blunt, Adams pursued the role of Sister James but was told that it had already been offered to another actor. Shanley eventually cast Adams in the role because "she's got this Ingrid Bergman thing going on, this luminosity. You see a good person struggling in this complicated world. She's fiercely intelligent but has this peculiar innocence about her. She has a beautiful face of light." On acting alongside Streep and Hoffman, Adams revealed that there was "a sense of uncertainty, a sense of doubt, a sense of wanting to please these amazing actors". The film was well received by the critics, while Adams' role was noted to be the "least-showy" among the four major parts. Though her performance was criticized by Manohla Dargis of The New York Times as "unsteady", Todd McCarthy of Variety commented that "Adams does all anyone could with the role of a nice young nun." Mick LaSalle of San Francisco Chronicle wrote: "Adams provides one of the film's singular advantages. She takes the role of Sister James, which onstage seemed little more than a sounding board for Sister Aloysius, and turns the young nun into someone quite specific and lovely." Adams was nominated for Best Supporting Actress at the 81st Academy Awards, the 66th Golden Globe Awards, the 15th Screen Actors Guild Awards, and the 62nd British Academy Film Awards.
Adams' next role was Amelia Earhart in Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian, opposite Ben Stiller. The film premiered over the 2009 Memorial Day weekend and topped the U.S. box office with a gross of $15.3 million on its first day, beating Terminator Salvation. Although the film received "mixed or average reviews", Adams' performance was praised by most critics. Among those to give it a positive review, Michael Phillips of the Chicago Tribune thought that the film "radically improves whenever Amy Adams pops up as aviatrix Amelia Earhart... she's terrific —a sparkling screen presence"; and Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly wrote that "Battle of the Smithsonian has plenty of life. But it's Adams who gives it zing." On the other hand, Ty Burr of The Boston Globe disliked the film, describing Adams' Earhart as "a flighty pill with no resemblance to the woman herself". While Lael Loewenstein of Variety thought Adams was "trying a bit too hard", Roger Ebert commented that she was the only actor who surpassed the material. The film's director, Shawn Levy, says of her: "I don't know that there's a better actress in her generation... I mean, there are other big female actors, but someone who can do Doubt and Julie & Julia, and Night at the Museum 2, all in the same year? Her range is almost unparalleled. It's a huge part of why we feel that this movie is even better than the first." That same year Adams starred in Julie & Julia alongside her Doubt co-star Meryl Streep as Julia Child and Adams as government secretary, Julie Powell, who decides to cook all of the recipes in Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking.
In 2010, Adams appeared in two films, the romantic comedy, Leap Year, and as Charlene Fleming, the aggressive and gritty girlfriend of Irish Micky Ward, in The Fighter. The Best Picture nominated-film received critical praise for its actors in which Adams starred alongside Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale and Melissa Leo. Adams received acclaim for her work and was praised for taking on such a volatile and aggressive character. This was noted to be Adams' definitive performance because of the rough edges and darkness mixed with authenticity that she brought to the role. For her role in The Fighter, Adams was nominated for the BAFTA Award, Broadcast Film Critics Association Award, two Screen Actors Guild Awards, Golden Globe and an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress losing the latter three awards to her co-star Leo. In 2011, she again worked with Disney, starring in the acclaimed film The Muppets alongside Jason Segel and The Muppets; in the film, she returned to singing.
Her upcoming projects include Daughter of the Queen of Sheba and an adaptation of Adena Halpern's novel The Ten Best Days of My Life, which she will also be producing. Adams is also set to appear in the film On the Road opposite Viggo Mortensen. It was recently announced that Adams will portray Lois Lane opposite Henry Cavill as Superman in the upcoming comic book reboot film, Man of Steel. Produced by The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan, director Zack Snyder said in statement, "We are excited to announce the casting of Amy Adams, one of the most versatile and respected actresses in films today. Amy has the talent to capture all of the qualities we love about Lois: smart, tough, funny, warm, ambitious and, of course, beautiful." Adams had previously worked in Superman-related media in 2001 on the series Smallville. She is also set to star in the upcoming Paul Thomas Anderson 2012 film, The Master as the wife of Philip Seymour Hoffman's character.
In March 2012, it was announced that Adams would play the role of the Baker's Wife in Stephen Sondheim's Into the Woods to be staged by The Public Theater as part of their annual Shakespeare in the Park summer festival at their outdoor home, The Delacorte Theater in Central Park, marking her New York Stage debut and her first appearance in theater in 13 years. After delaying a day due to weather the production began July 24, 2012 and will run through September 1, 2012, extending from August 25.
As of April 2008, Adams is engaged to actor and artist Darren Le Gallo, whom she met in 2001 in an acting class. In May 2010, Adams gave birth to the couple's first child, a girl named Aviana Olea Le Gallo.