"I was a very fearful child," recalls the daughter of a U.S. serviceman dad and housewife mom. "When I got a bike for the first time, I remember thinking, "Riding a bike can't be a very good idea. I could fall."
"My sister would go, "Cool, a bike!' She stole my pink Huffy because I didn't learn how to ride it. So she just took it and went off and had a good time."
Performing wound up giving Adams the outlet she needed to shine. A little more than a decade since she first started kicking up her heels in dinner theater chorus lines, the actress is doing all right for herself.
In fact, Adams is one of the few actresses who can brag about finishing up 2007 with a $300 million hit. Her turn as a cartoon princess who springs to live-action life in "Enchanted" left cash registers jingling and critics applauding.
But that doesn't mean Adams is a household name just yet. "Last week, this gentleman came up to me and said, "You look so much like Amy Adams that it's weird,' " recalls the effervescent redhead, who has been compared to actresses from Lucille Ball to Julia Roberts. "I said, "Yes, I've been told that before.'
"It's wonderful to have industry people responding to your work and to be getting really great opportunities. I'm not going to lie about that. But as far as some sort of public shift in perception about me -- that hasn't happened yet. I can still go walking down the street."
By the end of the year, Adams might have a harder time taking an anonymous stroll. The actress will pop up in three 2008 films including the indie "Sunshine Cleaning" and a pair of pics with Meryl Streep: "Doubt," based on the hit play by John Patrick Shanley; and "Julie & Julia," a comedy about a newbie chef who spends a year cooking her way through Julia Childs' recipes.
First up for Adams is "Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day," a comedy based on a 1938 novel by Winifred Watson. Frances McDormand stars as the title character, a dowdy ex-governess who, through a strange twist of fate, winds up in the employ of nightclub singer Delysia Lafosse (Adams).
Over the course of a madcap 24 hours, Miss Pettigrew falls in love while juggling Delysia's very complicated romantic life.
While Adams never had a Miss Pettigrew in her life, she credits her boyfriend, actor Darren Le Gallo, with giving her an added sense of self-worth.
"My boyfriend definitely altered my path," says the actress, 33. "He's the most generous person I know. To me, the movie's about opening yourself up to the fact that someone can love you just the way that you are, that you don't have to change and try to be someone else."
For as long as she can remember, Adams longed to be a ballerina. But after years of dance classes, she eventually hung up her ballet slippers, certain she wasn't good enough to go professional.
Instead, Adams turned her attention to dinner theater. Following high school graduation, she worked at Hooters and the Gap while auditioning for roles at Boulder's Dinner Theatre and Country Dinner Playhouse. Once she relocated with her folks to Minnesota, Adams booked a tiny role in the Kirstie Alley beauty pageant comedy "Drop Dead Gorgeous." Alley was so impressed with Adams' abilities, she advised the young actress to give Los Angeles a go.
It didn't take Adams long to snag the female lead opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can." It was a juicy part that was supposed to be her big break but, afterward, Adams found herself back in the margins of TV shows and movies.
And then came her turn as the perennially chipper Ashley Johnsten in "Junebug." Few saw the indie film but Adams managed to snare an Oscar nomination as best supporting actress.
Next up for Adams is "Sunshine Cleaning," an indie about crime-scene scrubbers co-starring Emily Blunt and Alan Arkin.
"I usually play upbeat characters and my character in "Sunshine Cleaning' is living a bleak existence," she says. "You spend the whole day feeling bad and then you get home and have to pull yourself out of it. That was a new challenge for me.
"I was, like, "Ugh! I don't know if I can ever play a depressed person again.' I remember thinking, "This is hard!' "
Amy Longsdorf for The Courier-Post