"Look, it's snowing!" she cries, looking out of the window of an Upper West Side cafe to the snowflakes gently settling on the cabs and buildings outside. "It's sticking!"
Adams has an ability to make whatever she's focusing on seem irresistible. There's a sparkle to her, a glimmer that hasn't escaped the notice of a certain co-star of hers, Meryl Streep, who just wrapped the drama Doubt with Adams.
"Amy has a little light on inside her that burns — sometimes a soft light, sometimes a hot little blue flame, but you are aware always of the light," Streep says via e-mail. "It is her immediacy as an actress, that present quality that makes her special."
Kevin Lima, who directed Adams in last year's hit Enchanted, says: "Her soul is joyful. She's a big laugher."
And even as her career soars, Adams, 33, relishes small pleasures. Sure, she just sang live at the Oscars, but she is equally besotted with the mushroom soup she's having for lunch, offering up a taste of the murky substance she swears is amazing.
Despite teasing from her friends, she still wears the Oscar sweatshirt she picked up at the nominees' luncheon for her 2005 supporting nomination for Junebug because "when we have dinner parties, and we go outside, you need an oversized sweatshirt, so I put it on."
The more she works, the more she craves the simple things, "like going to the post office."
She has precious little time for the small stuff these days. In Doubt, which opens at the end of the year, Streep plays a nun suspecting a priest of abuse, and Adams is a nun caught in the middle. It's an adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning play.
This month, she starts shooting her second Streep project, the food flick Julie & Julia. And this week, she's on screen as flamboyant actress Delysia Lafosse in Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, opening Friday. In the comedy of manners, Adams' deliciously dramatic Delysia helps Frances McDormand's dowdy governess Guinevere Pettigrew find herself.
Adams calls Delysia "a beautiful disaster" whom she just had to play. Having McDormand attached to the film already, as a lead and as a producer, sweetened the deal.
"I'd met Frances during the Oscars. We were nominated in the same category, and I'd said to my boyfriend that I absolutely have to work with her someday.
"And this came around. I was so excited. It's right up my alley in terms of what I'm interested in, coming from theater. It's such a throwback. It seemed like fun. Her performance lacks vanity, and she's such a great role model for me."
Admiration goes both ways
Actually, McDormand was a bit in awe of Adams when they met during the 2006 awards season.
"I was immediately impressed at how much fun she was having while looking absolutely fabulous in her couture gowns. I don't manage to do either of those things with much grace and was chastened into looking for a way to try and enjoy the ride," McDormand says in an e-mail.
"Our next encounter was at a mutual friend's house for dinner the summer that Amy was in NYC filming Enchanted. She came in a cute strapless cotton sundress and 3-inch strappy sandals. I was agog. I, of the hiking boot generation, cannot even get to a cab and through dinner sitting down at a restaurant in such shoes."
McDormand would be pleased to know that on this wintry afternoon, Adams chose practicality over pizazz, in a pair of tall walking boots paired with a flowing black coat. Fashion differences aside, Adams and McDormand clicked while shooting Miss Pettigrew in London.
Adams, McDormand writes, "gave Delysia the right amount of innocence and spice that the story required. It's not easy to have a room full of men thinking of you as a bowl of strawberry ice cream and them all wanting the spoon and keep your wits about you to get the job done."
Adams was impressed with McDormand's "amazing sense of self" and her "amazing work ethic."
"I pride myself on being someone who never keeps production waiting. I come from small theaters where you had to be on time. But every time I showed up on set, she'd already be there. So I asked her how it is that she continuously beat me to the set. She looks at me and says, 'I never leave.' She's involved in the production, and she knows everybody's name. She comes with her A-game every day."
Does Adams see anything of herself in Delysia, who juggles men and social engagements with equal aplomb?
"She's a survivor. She's a bootstrap girl. She's living a life that isn't organic to her, and I can honestly say that I feel that way at times. In a way, everybody does, but I never thought I'd be where I am today, so I really related to her in the struggle to survive."
Adams prides herself on being a working actress who paid her dues for years with turns in Cruel Intentions 2 (2000), Catch Me If You Can (2002) and Serving Sara (2002).
She once hit a year-long dry spell and started to have doubts. "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," she says. "Maybe I should go refocus. And then at Sundance, everything shifted."
That's when Adams picked up an acting prize for playing a pregnant, wide-eyed chatterbox in Junebug, which led to her first Oscar nomination and eventually to a princess named Giselle.
"It didn't feel like a fast shift," she says. "It felt very gradual, not like an overnight thing."
Even as her list of credits grows, Adams freely dishes about working at the Gap in Atlanta after she graduated from high school. One day, she had a memorable encounter with one of the city's famous residents.
"Whitney Houston came in. Someone dared me to do 'the Gap act' on her. You know, the Gap act. So I went up to her like I didn't know who she was, and I said, 'Hi, I just wanted to let you know about our sale items and make sure to check out our new colors.' She looked at me like I was crazy."
Those who know Adams say success won't spoil her — or send her to rehab.
"She'll be one of those actresses who commits herself to the work because it's more important than the celebrity," says Enchanted's Lima. "She views it necessary to do what she does, but the work comes first. She's level-headed. Success has come at an age for her when she can really handle it. I wish more actresses could find themselves at this age."
A life in balance
Certainly, Adams appears to be settled. She has been with actor boyfriend Darren Le Gallo for six years after meeting in acting class.
"It's really important to have someone to remind you who you are," she says. "I'll run all over but come back to him, and I know who I am."
They're renting a house in Los Angeles and subletting an apartment in the West Village. For fun, they host dinner parties or go out to eat in their neighborhood. The club scene isn't much of a draw.
"It's just fun being at home. I want to have a vacation in my house. I've been out twice in New York, and it's always fun. But I always feel like I could have had the same amount of fun at home." Though, she concedes, "New York is the best place in the world to go out to eat."
Adams doesn't see herself as anything out of the ordinary.
"I'm very fortunate that those things have been set in front of me," she says of her recent career home runs. "I'm very lucky to have had those opportunities and to have worked with such powerful females, as well."
Speaking of strong ladies, don't even ask Adams about her first encounter with Streep.
"The first time I met her, I just made a jerk out of myself. I don't remember what I said. I call it running downhill, when you start talking and you get so nervous that you don't really know what you're saying, but you can't stop. At this point, they're just looking at you with this slightly confused amusement. She was very gracious and lovely, and I was very grateful that her companion pulled her away."
Did Streep recall the tête-à-tête when they started Doubt? Adams vigorously shakes her head. "I wasn't going to bring it up!"
Her work spoke for itself, says writer/director Shanley. "One thing I really admired about her was that she always brought something, an idea, or a little skew moment, just some little invention that was not written in the scene, into the scene. She was not afraid of invention, of flourishes, of adding little extra fillips of fun."
Yet for Adams, Doubt was an experience rich with learning.
"The character had no vanity, so you never worried about what you looked like. I learned to listen and not talk. It's a hard lesson. It's a good one to know," she says, pausing. "It taught me about simplicity, and that I'll never be Meryl Streep. It's not a bad thing! It goes back to having your own path. She's so exquisite, just so exquisite."
Being around Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman (who plays the priest), two of New York's premier stage actors, made Adams hungry for a taste of the Great White Way: "It taught me that I want to go do more theater. I want that experience. Whether I succeed or fail, I want to know what that is."
But she has more film to do first. In Julie & Julia, she's Julie, an amateur chef who decides to cook her way through Julia Child's classic cookbook. Streep plays culinary legend Child.
"I'm sorry we won't get to work together in Julie & Julia— our characters live in different times — but knowing she's there in her kitchen while I'm in mine energizes me and makes me happy!" writes Streep. "I'm going to watch all her dailies and steal ideas! Ha ha ha ha ha!"
By Donna Freydkin, USA TODAY / Thanks Jerica for the alert :)