Amy Adams on ‘Arrival’ and abandoning her ‘harsh critic’

Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker star in “Arrival.”

Amy Adams has been nominated for an Oscar five times, four of them for her work as a supporting actress. In a tribute to Adams on Saturday night at the Telluride Film Festival in Colorado, before the first North American screening of Denis Villeneuve’s science fiction thriller “Arrival,” the actress explained why she has so often opted for distinctive, smaller parts.

“I love being a supporting actress,” Adams said, in a conversation that followed a showing of clips of her work in movies like “Junebug,” “Doubt” and “The Fighter.” “In my experience, the lead role has the burden of plot. I’m not looking at the size of the role. I’m looking at, ‘Will I get a chance to grow?’ ”

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But in “Arrival,” which Paramount Pictures will release Nov. 11, Adams is decidedly the lead, as a linguist reluctantly drawn into a government attempt to communicate with aliens that have landed on Earth. A brainy, “Close Encounters Of the Third Kind”-esque drama adapted by Eric Heisserer from the Ted Chiang story “Story of Your Life,” “Arrival” places actors Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker in the supporting position to Adams’ heroine, Louise Banks, whose job it is to decipher the aliens’ complex language and determine their reason for coming.


Competent and brave, Louise is weighed down by a personal sadness that is slowly explained over the course of the film.

“I felt like I knew her,” Adams said of Louise. “She was everywoman. She was me, and I don’t often see myself in my characters.”

In the pre-screening conversation conducted by Vanity Fair’s Krista Smith, Adams, 42, reflected on how she had changed since first capturing critics’ attention as a joyfully naive pregnant woman in 2005’s “Junebug.”

“I’m a harsh critic of myself,” Adams said. “I see when I stopped needing to be perfect. I stopped carrying the weight of criticism. I really was so tired of giving a [expletive] cause I just gave so many all the time.”

Adams noted that it was during the making of Spike Jonze’s 2013 science fiction romance “Her” that she shed much of her self consciousness.

One habit she said she has retained, however, is over-preparing for roles, and occasionally bringing home accents and quirks adopted for a part.

“It’s confusing when you invest in your work and you talk in a Boston accent and your husband says, ‘You have to stop doing that. You sound like one of my ex-girlfriends,’ ” Adams said.

The actress, who starred in the musicals “Enchanted” and “The Muppets,” said her dream role would be to play the character Elphaba in a movie version of “Wicked.”

Asked if she would ever consider having a social media profile on Twitter or Instagram, Adams answered, “Hashtag Bad Idea.”

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