“I’m on mommy duty,” explained Amy Adams of the cherubic yelps furnished by her 2½-year-old daughter, Aviana, on her end of a telephone talk last Friday morning. To suggestions that this is a potentially terrifying phase of the upbringing process, Adams responded with vehement denial. “I think this is a great age,” she said. “Well, let’s put it this way: She’s very communicative, so that makes it great.”
Adams is tentatively looking forward to her own still-young life flashing before our collective eyes at the tribute on Thursday night, January 31. “They told me that they’ve put together a lot of scenes from my films, so, actually, I’m sure that part will be surreal,” she said. “I never watch myself — I watch my movies two times, and that’s it.”
Cue another youthful peal of laughter in the background, which reminds her, “Actually, my daughter and I watched Enchanted together the other day, but that was because it happened to be on TV.” As intoxicatingly surreal as that sounds, Adams found it as another reinforcement of how sophisticated her baby girl was. “She’s sort of used to it,” explained Adams. “There was a production of Into the Woods in Central Park last summer, and she saw me in it. She understands the difference — she says, ‘There’s mommy in the big white dress she wears at work.’”
Adams has had a really good year, she readily admits, in terms of work and well-deserved awards and nominations. Born to an American service couple in Vicenza, Italy, in 1974, Adams is one of those overnight-success stories that took two decades of dinner theater, stage, and minor roles to achieve. She was finally widely recognized in the 2005 indie film Junebug and then went on to bigger roles, though usually (until recently) in some bittersweet variation of a sweet, buoyant girl. She returned to the camera to do On the Road after Aviana was born, and the film, she said, provided a nice, brief immersive experience working with director Walter Salles (The Motorcycle Diaries). “I was only on the set for 11 days,” she recalled. “It was a perfect way to return.”
Next on her big year was The Muppets, which was technically difficult to shoot with puppets but enjoyable because she could play the bubbly ingénue while simultaneously making fun of herself. It’s true, though, that she’s ready to leave the sunshine behind for a while, for the surprising reason that it’s not her natural state. “I don’t really have the energy to play the nice girl,” she said. “It takes a lot of energy to have that much energy. It takes so much energy to be that pert.”
Enter Adams’s nearly brutal characterization of Peggy in P.T. Anderson’s enigmatic quasi-biopic The Master. My pet quirky theory of the year is that Peggy is the true master in The Master, an idea that made her laugh. “I never saw it like that. I never thought that there was one person in the film who was the master,” she explained. “In fact, that was the bigger idea in the film. Though, to tell you the truth, I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out what the bigger ideas in a film are. It’s the director’s job, I always thought, to worry about the bigger picture.”
Since then, Adams teamed again with The Master’s Joaquin Phoenix on the soon-to-be-released Spike Jonze film Her, soon begins work on David O. Russell’s Abscam film, and is eagerly awaiting playing Janis Joplin in a Lee (Precious) Daniels biopic. Thursday’s tribute will offer Adams a convenient if surreal opportunity to see where she’s been and a chance to imagine — with her daughter’s voice in the background — what might come next. “I’m going to continue to find myself in new roles,” she said, “not just as a mother but continuing to find myself growing up, so to speak.”
Amy Adams will be honored with SBIFF 2013’s Cinema Vanguard Award on Thursday, January 31, 8 p.m., at the Arlington Theatre.