The rise of a fairy princess

Five times Oscar-nominated Amy Adams is currently starring in two thought-provoking movies. She spoke to Susan Griffin.

CHARMED LIFE: Amy Adams as Susan Morrow in Nocturnal Animals.        Picture: PA Photo/Universal.
CHARMED LIFE: Amy Adams as Susan Morrow in Nocturnal Animals. Picture: PA Photo/Universal.

Next year marks a decade since Amy Adams enraptured audiences as a fairy-tale princess thrust into modern-day New York by Susan Sarandon’s evil queen.

The role of perennially perky Giselle in Enchanted remains a favourite for the actress.

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“It really is,” exclaims Adams, a five-time Oscar nominee (for Junebug, Doubt, The Fighter, The Master and American Hustle) who’s currently in talks to star in the sequel, Disenchanted.

“I’ve had conversations with Adam Shankman, who’s been brought on as a director. He’s a dear friend of mine, so that’s exciting to me and I’m open to see what they bring,” reveals the 42-year-old. “You know, I was always really scared to revisit it because I didn’t think it was time, but there’s been so much going on in the world that I’m feeling it might be,” she continues.

Adams’ new movie Arrival, which opened this week, is a grown-up sci-fi tale based on a short story by Ted Chiang. It examines humanity’s response to fear.

The actress, who was born in Italy and raised in Colorado, states, “it doesn’t make a political statement, more a human statement” about the importance of uniting against a shared threat or problem.

“Whether it’s coming together over policies or to help solve a problem with your friends, we’re always stronger when we work together, and I think [the film] does comment on that.”

Adams, who reprises her role as Lois Lane in next year’s Justice League, wasn’t planning on taking on any new projects when the script for Arrival appeared.

“I didn’t know what I was going be doing next and it was at a time when I really wanted to take a break and just be a mum for a while,” reveals the actress who has a daughter, Aviana, 6, with her husband Darren Le Gallo.

“Then I read the script. It spoke to me really deeply and I felt I had to do it.”

She plays Louise Banks, a linguist mourning the loss of her daughter. When mysterious spacecraft touch down across the globe, Louise is hired by the US government to make contact with the aliens and try to understand the purpose of their visit.

“Denis [Villeneuve, the director] is a huge reason I was attracted to this,” reveals Adams, who had aspirations of becoming a ballerina before turning to musical theatre.

“He really wanted to tell it as an intimate story of this woman, it just happens to be placed in this amazing sci-fi universe.”

Arrival is far from your usual popcorn alien fare. It explores the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, the idea that the language you speak determines how you perceive the world and the thoughts you have.

The shoot had a profound effect on Adams, who met a linguist in preparation.

“My character studies the anthropological significance of language and culture, how people speak to one another, and how languages originate. I did a lot of reading, and realised I wouldn’t be a good linguist,” she says with a laugh, “but I found it fascinating.”

She also learned from watching her own daughter interact with other children.

“I’ve brought Aviana to several different countries now for work and watching her and other kids who cannot speak the same language, but who end up communicating; you start to learn communication and language are based on so much more than the words we speak.”

Villeneuve, who has directed movies such as Prisoners and Sicario, explained his reasons for choosing Adams as the film’s protagonist.

“She brought a lot of humanity, profoundness and a beautiful vulnerability to her character, a melancholia that I was looking for,” says the film-maker.

It’s a sentiment shared by Tom Ford, the fashion designer and director who cast her as his lead, Susan Morrow, in Nocturnal Animals.

“Amy has a spectacular ability to telegraph emotion without dialogue, but with just her face and soulful eyes,” observes Ford.

He wanted the character to be sympathetic, because in Ford’s own words, “it would be very easy to hate her”.

On the surface, Susan looks like she has it all. In truth, she’s in a loveless marriage and feels disenchanted by her lavish existence. One day, she’s sent a book written by her ex-husband, Edward (Jake Gyllenhaal), which he’s dedicated to her. It’s a brutal story of what happens to a man, Tony (also played by Gyllenhaal), when he and his family are taunted by a gang one night.

The drama switches between Susan’s current life, flashbacks to her past relationship with Edward and the story Edward’s written.

Adams admits she was intrigued when she heard Ford, who directed 2009’s A Single Man to great acclaim, was keen to cast her. “I really wanted to hear Tom’s perspective and how he intended to tell the story, because it was a beautiful script, but there’s a lot of going back and forth between past and present,” she says.

“When I spoke to him, he had such a wonderful way about him and such a personal relationship with the story, I was like, ‘Yes, I want to be a part of this’.”

The movie invites people to ruminate on how decisions made in youth can have a lasting impact.

“I have a lot of regret over people I may have hurt,” says Adams. “Situations I maybe didn’t handle well. It also helped remind me about hanging onto the things that are valuable to you now, even if fear gets in the way of trusting those things.”

Nocturnal Animals (15) and Arrival (12A) are out now.