Amy Adams: “I thought to be an actress you had to make people pay attention to you, and that’s just not my energy”

Actress Amy Adams

“I think the more people are concerned with me, the less they can invest in my characters.” – Amy Adams

Amy Adams stars in Arrival, one of the best-reviewed films of the year, as a language expert who figures out how to communicate with extraterrestrials that land on Earth. It’s one of the actresses’ most subtle roles in a career that has ranged from flashy (Enchanted) to cerebral (The Master) performances. Speaking with The Guardian, Adams talks about how her approach to acting has changed over her career and why she thinks her desire to rise above her insecurities has made her a better performer.

Despite being an A-list actress, Adams is known for playing less-showy roles. She explains, “My husband and I are very quiet people. Whereas some people – Jennifer Lawrence, let’s say – she just has the kind of energy where she walks into a room and everybody notices. I don’t think that it’s a desire for attention, that’s just the nature of her being. I can disappear really, really quickly in a room.”

Early in her career, Adams thought her ability to disappear hurt her — but she now sees it as an asset. She explains, “Before I almost felt like it was a deficit, because I thought to be an actress you had to make people pay attention to you, and that’s just not my energy. It took a long time to be OK with that because you would see people receive a lot of opportunities based on something intangible, and it’s frustrating. But during my 20s and early 30s, when I wasn’t really working, I realized, OK, I’ll just focus on my work, I don’t have a thing.” Later, she adds, “I think the more people are concerned with me, the less they can invest in my characters.”

Adams also credits becoming a mother as another factor in her changing process. She says, “I definitely feel more raw and more open to empathy, and that helps. But what’s really changed is how I process work. I used to have a dysfunctional relationship with my work, where I was bringing home all my insecurities and expectations, and if I felt a director didn’t love what I did, it would just plague me. That had to change.”

How does Adams reconcile that attitude with the rumors that she had a difficult time with director David O. Russell on the set of American Hustle. Adams is coy in her response, revealing, “It’s interesting, that particular thing, and I don’t want to acknowledge or not acknowledge anything, because in no way do I feel victimized by my choices so it really was… [Russell] didn’t necessarily make me cry: I cried. The experience of playing that character struck me in a strange place, and that’s heightened by David’s energy, yeah. So I couldn’t bring that home… the character definitely, but I think in combination with the heightened environment. I remember looking at my husband and saying, ‘If I can’t figure this out, I can’t work any more, I’ll have to do something else. I don’t want to be that person, not for my daughter.’ So I figured it out.”

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