Friday, March 7, 2008

Meet Hollywood's favorite "new girl"

What took us so long? Suddenly, Amy Adams has become Hollywood's favorite "new girl."

She starred as a sweet princess in "Enchanted." She sang on the Oscars television show. She's on the cover of Vanity Fair's Hollywood issue.

She's co-starring with Meryl Streep in two upcoming movies. And she plays singer Delysia Lafosse in "Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day," which opens today in local theaters.

Every producer, it seems, wants the new kid. No matter that it has been 10 years since her first movie, and she's 33.

She is regarded by her public as a young girl, guileless and gabby, a specialist in playing innocence. Her image is that of the girl next door - outspoken, but in a nice way. The down-to-earth quality appears to come naturally.

"The one thing that I've noticed, sir," Adams said during a recent interview at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City, "is that they treat me like a child now. On the way in here, two women were being paid just to ask me if I wanted coffee or a soda and to kinda fluff up my hair. It's unbelievable to me that someone would get paid to do that. I'm still used to doing it myself."

As for being recognized on the street, she said, "it's mostly little girls, because of 'Enchanted.' I think every little girl in the world went to see 'Enchanted,' but they don't notice me unless I have on makeup - the eyelashes. My brother and my sister-in-law went out with me in New York last night, and little girls stopped me and asked for my autograph. They were very sweet. But, inside the restaurant, I went to the rest room and took off the makeup. On the way out, no one recognized me."

Her role in "Miss Pettigrew" is as an extroverted singer-actress in the London of 1939. Actually, she's more of a kept woman than a star, but she's on the verge. She has three men pursuing her, and she has lines like, "I love the feeling of fur against the skin" (back when mink was still PC, before World War II and PETA). When she hires a homely, middle-aged "social secretary," played by Oscar winner Frances McDormand ("Fargo," 1996), she begins to learn that looks aren't everything and that she should find someone to love as well as to pay the bills.

"Delysia Lafosse, that's her name, is very sexually provocative. That's fun to play," she said.

But, we point out, innocence and vulnerability have been her strong suits until now. Giselle, the princess in "Enchanted," is a complete innocent as a fairy tale princess who is brought into the modern world. Her breakthrough role three years ago, in the low- budget , independent film "Junebug," had her as a smalltown North Carolina pregnant woman who is beguiled and amazed when a relative from Chicago visits.

She stole the heart of moviegoers as the simple country girl who longed for the outside world as represented by the big city of Chicago. The part won her an Academy Award nomination and the attention of the big studios.

"I'm attracted to playing innocent girls, but, mind you, I've worked for some of the meanest people in the world, so it's hard to do anything to intimidate me."

Back in Castle Rock, Colo., where Adams grew up in a Mormon family, they called her Amy Lou. She was born on an Army base in Vicenza, Italy.

"I was one of seven children, and that made it very competitive. It was kinda like 'Lord of the Flies.' My younger sister was very athletic and always did things before me. I was the shy one."

She sang in the school choir, dreamt of becoming a ballerina, and took dance classes. "I value the dance training, but I eventually realized that, even with the hardest work, I wasn't going to become a classical ballerina."

She got a job as a greeter at The Gap clothing store. "I wanted to work in the stock room, but they said I was great at talking to people, so I had to be out front."

She worked as a hostess at Hooters up until age 18 . For three years she worked in dinner theater musicals in Colorado and then in Minnesota.

When "Drop Dead Gorgeous," a 1999 comedy about small-town beauty pageants, filmed in Minnesota, Adams got a small part.

"This little part gave me the nerve to pack and head for Los Angeles," she said.

Televison parts followed. In the movies, she landed a supporting role opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in "Catch Me if You Can" in 2002, but it didn't immediately help. No work was offered for almost two years.

Then came "Junebug."

"I meet people every day or so that say they just saw 'Junebug' and they loved it. They wonder why it was never in theaters. I tell them that it was - just not many people noticed it. At the Oscars, when I was nominated, I was like Dorothy in the land of Oz."

Her upcoming films are dramas, not musicals. She landed the coveted role of the innocent (there's that word again) nun opposite the heavy-duty obsessive nun played by Meryl Streep in the movie version of the theatrical drama "Doubt." She follows this with another film with Streep, "Julie & Julia," about the famed chef Julia Child.

"I'm trying to find, somehow, a balanced life in which the career won't be everything. At the moment, I'm really homesick. My mother and sister live in Atlanta. I'm working steadily, in everything, because you never know how long this run will be, but I have a boyfriend, who is the saving grace off the set."

A sequel to "Enchanted" is in the planning stages, as well as three other movies. "I guess I really am like Dorothy in the land of Oz."

Source: Mal Vincent for The Virginian-Pilot & The Ledger-Star

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