by admin   /   14.06.2018   /   0 Comments

Telegraph – In a corner of the genteel lounge of Los Angeles’s iconic Chateau Marmont, Amy Adams is launching into the opening lines of the Abba classic The Winner Takes It All – and it’s pitch-perfect. With other Hollywood actors, this tuneful showcase of talent, five minutes into an interview, might come across as showing off.

But the star of American HustleNocturnal Animals and Arrival – a five-time Academy Award nominee and the recipient of two Golden Globes – seems atypically unstarry. Our conversation has simply prompted a demo of one of her great passions: karaoke.

Fresh-faced and freckled, today, the 43-year-old is dressed casually in jeans and a peach blouse, her red hair pulled into a loose ponytail. In spite of her success on the big screen, you might not recognise her if she strolled past you on the street.

She’s one of the most in-demand actors in Hollywood, skilled at switching between roles – from wide-eyed and vulnerable in Junebug, which launched her leading-lady career, through tough-talking and trashy in The Fighter, to religious fanatic in The Master and – most memorably – sexy, seductive con artist in American Hustle.

Amy’s latest part looks set to make her more immediately familiar, however. Next month, she stars in HBO’s hotly anticipated new mini-series Sharp Objects, an adaptation of the novel by Gillian Flynn, author of the bestselling thriller Gone Girl. ‘I’ve been attracted to Gillian’s work for years, because she creates these incredible, flawed females,’ she says.

Directed by Jean-Marc Vallée (who also directed last year’s critically acclaimed TV hit Big Little Lies), Sharp Objects is set in small-town Missouri, where restraint, manners and strong cocktails mask brutal violence and deep dysfunction.

Amy plays what is easily her darkest, most damaged character to date: Camille Preaker, the acerbic, alcoholic, self-harming protagonist. Recently released from a psychiatric unit, Camille, a reporter, is dispatched to Wind Gap, the town in which she grew up, to investigate the murder of two pre-teen girls.

It quickly becomes clear that the intense pain that affects her also infests the other women in her family – her uptight, neurotic mother, Adora (Patricia Clarkson) and her manipulative younger half-sister, Amma (star-in-the-making Eliza Scanlen).

As is becoming increasingly common among Hollywood’s leading ladies, Amy was also an executive producer on the series. It was she who suggested French-Canadian director Vallée. ‘There’s something about the way he tells women’s pain: he circles around it, yet gets to the heart of it,’ she says.

‘He’s not afraid to approach the violence in a way that’s also very emotional.’ For his part, Vallée praises Amy’s bravery in taking on bleak themes. ‘It was scary material, and she was so courageous to tackle this, to be so naked – literally and metaphorically,’ he says.

To help her dig into the darkness, Gillian Flynn recommended she read A Bright Red Scream. ‘It’s first-person accounts by people who self-harm,’ explains Amy, who had to wear prosthetic scars from the neck down during filming. She admits it wasn’t easy to leave Camille behind at the end of each day. ‘I’ve trained myself not to bring a character home, but there were times – whether from living in her head space or just exhaustion – when I suffered insomnia.’

The role also required her to research the psychological condition Munchausen syndrome by proxy, which causes a parent to harm their son or daughter to create the illusion that the child is ill. ‘I did a lot of reading about that too,’ says Amy. ‘It’s so against every parental instinct I have, so I just can’t imagine it. Our daughter [seven-year-old Aviana] has been hurt twice in a way that required trips to the hospital and that’s not something I’d ever want to revisit – it was traumatising.’

Happily, both Amy’s disposition – upbeat, energetic and quick to laugh – and her family life would appear to be a far cry from Camille’s. She and her husband, Darren Le Gallo, met in 2001, at an acting class in Los Angeles, and today live in the city’s glamorous Hollywood Hills. She describes their life as ‘quiet’, save for the odd karaoke night out, or in – the family’s portable karaoke machine even accompanies them on holiday.

When Amy travels for work, her husband and daughter generally go with her. ‘If I’m on my own, I engage in not-great behaviours, like hotel-room eating – sitting in bed every night with a bag of crisps and salsa and a beer,’ she admits.

The middle child of seven, Amy was born on a military base in Vicenza, Italy, where her father was stationed at the time. Her parents were Mormons and, although their adherence to the faith was ‘more cultural’ than overtly religious, ‘church played an important part in our social interactions’, she has said. ‘It instilled in me a value system I still hold true.’

The family eventually settled in Castle Rock, Colorado, when Amy was eight, where her father, having left the army, began singing professionally in nightclubs and restaurants. The rest of her family was more sport-orientated. ‘I was surrounded by these incredibly coordinated siblings who excelled at everything, whereas I just liked to read in my room,’ she laughs.

Her parents divorced when she was 11, and left Mormonism. Her mother, Kathryn, a former gymnast, was also, for a while, an amateur bodybuilder. ‘We have a good relationship, but my mom is tough and always challenged me to push myself,’ says Amy. ‘I wasn’t allowed to be afraid of things, even though I’m naturally very risk-averse. For instance, if a guy pulled up on a motorcycle, I’d be like [adopts goody-goody voice], “Don’t you understand that those are just coffins on wheels?”’

When her mother would take her to her gymnastics class, she goes on, ‘She would say: “We’re not leaving until you do this really tricky move.” That taught me to do things I was afraid of, because the sense of pride in having done something difficult was always worth it.’ It’s a skill that appears to have served her well in her career.

‘I had a kind of autonomy from childhood on,’ she continues. ‘There were so many of us that I knew my parents weren’t going to be funding my life, meaning my choices were my own and I wasn’t worried about what they thought of them.’

She gave up gymnastics, focused instead on dance and trained at a local ballet school. At 18, however, she decided she wasn’t good enough and switched her focus to musical theatre. She worked in dinner theatre for a few years before scoring a chance to audition for Drop Dead Gorgeous, the 1999 beauty-pageant comedy starring Kirstie Alley and Kirsten Dunst, in which Amy played a promiscuous cheerleader.

With Alley’s encouragement, at 24, Amy moved to Los Angeles, where her first few years attempting to break into the industry weren’t easy. ‘I auditioned a lot, but couldn’t figure out why it wasn’t working,’ she has said. ‘The problem was a lack of confidence and self-esteem,’ she tells me today.

In 2004, she was cast as the lead in the CBS series Dr Vegas, alongside Rob Lowe, but the show was dropped after just a few episodes. At that point, she considered quitting the industry.

‘I began thinking I should do something that was more secure,’ she says. ‘I wasn’t willing to be as unhappy as I was in danger of becoming and I didn’t like what it was turning me into.’

Then her fortunes began to turn around. In 2005, she was cast as the lead, Ashley, in the indie comedy Junebug. Her portrayal of the garrulous pregnant woman won her the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival, and two years later, scored her the part of Giselle, the optimistic princess, in Enchanted.

Achieving success at 31, rather than 21, has its advantages, she now believes. ‘At least I was able to enjoy my 20s before anyone was paying me too much attention,’ she sighs, nostalgically. ‘No Instagram, no Twitter, no Facebook – thank God! I had a bad habit of taking photos on disposable cameras that didn’t belong to me. I have no idea how many complete strangers’ cameras I mooned into back then!’ she laughs.

Since the downfall of Harvey Weinstein and the rise of the #MeToo movement, are there incidents from early in her career that she feels she wouldn’t be OK with now?

‘Yes, and I wasn’t OK with it back then either,’ she says. ‘I had to audition in a bikini. I didn’t get the role, because the character would be filmed wearing one and I don’t look good in swimwear.’

I scoff at this claim. ‘I really don’t,’ she insists. ‘And that’s OK – that’s not why I was put on this earth. But I don’t know a single woman, working in any industry, who doesn’t have a story like that, about feeling vulnerable.’

I wonder whether, beneath her sanguine exterior, some of the self-esteem issues she mentioned earlier still lurk. Despite being petite, Amy is surprisingly self-deprecating about her body.

‘I always look pregnant in photos,’ she claims with a laugh. ‘I wear loose dresses because I have a paunch. It’s not a big paunch, but it’s there!’ And she’s less than comfortable being snapped on the red carpet. ‘I understand it’s part of the job, but it’s not my favourite place,’ she has said.

‘I love fashion, but having to be somebody who promotes that industry has always been a tricky one for me, because of the way it affects women’s sense of self,’ she says. ‘I’ve lectured several designers about their sizing. If a dress in my size is five inches too small for me, what’s happening?’

Even before the #MeToo and Time’s Up movements began, Amy was catapulted into the centre of rows about sexism within the industry. When thousands of email accounts at Sony were hacked in 2014, the revelations about American Hustle focused mainly on the fact that Amy and her co-star Jennifer Lawrence were paid less than their male counterparts, Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale.

At the time, she chose not to comment. ‘Everyone wanted me to talk about how I felt about it, but I want to fight for people outside our industry, so to come out and look ungrateful about what I’m paid as an actress just didn’t feel right,’ she says today.

‘I do believe in equal pay, but let’s start with our teachers. Let’s get waiters paid the minimum wage. That’s what’s great about what’s happening with Time’s Up – we’re starting to have bigger conversations than just about what’s happening in Hollywood.’

Other emails were also leaked, alleging that the film’s director, David O Russell, was so tough on Amy that Bale stepped in to address the problem. ‘He was hard on me, that’s for sure. It was a lot,’ Amy later said, and she has admitted in interviews that she cried ‘most days’ during the making of the film. ‘I remember saying to my husband, “If I can’t figure this out, I can’t work any more. I’ll just have to do something else. I don’t want to be that person, not for my daughter,”’ she has said.

When she talks about coping during the making of Sharp Objects, it’s clear that she was determined for it to be a very different experience. ‘I’m now able to think, “OK, I know what’s going on here. I just need to go to work, do my job, then come home, make dinner and do something grounding.”’

She was recently reunited with Bale for the upcoming biopic Backseat, about former US vice-president Dick Cheney. She whips out her phone to show me an image of her in character as his wife, Lynne, alongside Bale, who played Cheney, and both are virtually unrecognisable thanks to extensive prosthetics.

The lengthy process of transformation renewed her respect for her co-star. ‘I had to wear the prosthetics for only two weeks, but Christian was coming in at 2am every day to have his applied before the day’s filming started. His work ethic is just incredible.’

Amy is keen to do more producing, too. ‘There’s lots in pencil on the calendar, but I don’t talk about anything until it’s in pen,’ she says. Risk-averse to the end. And with that, she gives me her top karaoke-bar tips and slips back to her quiet life in the hills.