Amy Adams on 'Batman v Superman' and the "Cool" Jennifer Lawrence Party She Doesn’t Want To Miss
The Oscar-winning actress spoke at length about her career for the ongoing Hollywood Masters interview series held at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film & TV in Los Angeles.
Five months before the much-anticipated release of Warner Bros.’ Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, one of its stars, Amy Adams, says is still waiting to see the movie, in which she returns to the role of Lois Lane that she played in 2013’s Man of Steel.
“I haven't seen anything of it, except what everybody's seen,” she said on Oct. 14. Speaking of the effects-heavy movies, she added: “They’re kind of hard “They're over the course of six months, so it's a lot of time dedication, but really, really fun.”
Asked to describe her favorite moment, she continued: “I can't give too much away, but I'm coming into a scene and Batman and Superman are both in the scene, so I can say that. And it was just fun. Because they had been working together for a couple weeks and just running it, seeing this dynamic. I'll talk about this when we're promoting the movie and we can tell more. But there were definitely funny moments involving bat-suits and such.”
Adams, a five-time Oscar nominee, was taking part in the ongoing Hollywood Masters interview series held at Loyola Marymount University’s School of Film & TV in Los Angeles. While there, she spoke about the need to avoid perfectionism and comparing oneself to others.
“I have tried being perfect; it doesn’t work, and it’s very frustrating,” she said. “But you do get inundated with, ‘Be perfect on the red carpet,’ and then you also have to show up on time, and you have all of these expectations that, the way that it’s projected to us, are not expected from the male counterpart. You just can’t do any comparison, just run your own race. Don’t compare yourself to what men are getting or not getting, or what that girl’s getting or what she looks like; just run your own race. Put your blinders on. You’re not racing against anybody but yourself. I guess that’s the more finite way to answer that question: only race against yourself.”
Adams described her desire to produce, which she has recently started doing — not so much for herself, but for other actresses she admires (“I love some of the actresses when I get to watch their work and I never get to work with them”) — and she also spoke about the A-list party she hopes to attend.
“I’m waiting for Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer to invite me to their party!” she said. “So, I hope I was funny today so they will invite me to their next boating party! I’m a little more neurotic than both of them, but I think that would be — they need a little of that, and they’re both so cool and I could be the ‘not-cool’ person.”
A full transcript follows.
STEPHEN GALLOWAY: Hi everyone I'm Stephen Galloway and welcome to The Hollywood Masters. I was going to begin by saying that our guest is one of the finest young actresses alive and then I thought — why “young”?; she’s one of the best actors on the planet at the moment. That's been recognized with five Oscar nominations. She's made some of my favorite films of this century: American Hustle, The Master, The Fighter. It's an absolute extraordinary body of work, and when you see the five clips that I’ve chosen — which are only part of what she’s done — you really see just this invisible acting. I'm delighted to welcome Amy Adams. [APPLAUSE]
GALLOWAY: Welcome. Do you have a favorite among those films?
ADAMS: The Master. I really enjoy the other ones. I think just the process of The Master was really special.
GALLOWAY: We’re going to come to that. I thought that film was an absolute masterpiece.
ADAMS: Thank you.
GALLOWAY: And I was astonished when it came out that it didn't get more of a response.
ADAMS: I think it requires a lot of the audience and if you’re not ready to go on that journey, I can see why you would maybe be emotionally detached from it. When I saw it, I was shell-shocked by the impact it had on me. It does ask a lot of the viewer.
GALLOWAY: I think it was very different in the edited version than in the first version. They went through a very long editing process…
ADAMS: Oh yes.
GALLOWAY: And it changed quite a bit.
ADAMS: Oh interesting, I don’t remember that being the case, but you know, when we were shooting it — and we can get that if you want — it might wait, but it was very intense so.
GALLOWAY: You started off not from an acting family.
GALLOWAY: You were born in Italy.
ADAMS: Yes sir.
GALLOWAY: You were…
ADAMS: Military. See? There you go: yes sir.
GALLOWAY: I noticed that.
ADAMS: You go right back.
GALLOWAY: I was embarrassed. We had Jane Fonda here last night. I was afraid to call her “Jane.” I didn’t know if I should call her Miss Fonda or ma’am.
ADAMS: I don’t know what I would call her. Goddess Fonda.
GALLOWAY: So how did you start to get interested in acting?
ADAMS: I was always interested in acting. Kids have a natural curiosity, and having a daughter now I can see that probably most kids really have an interest make-believe and imagination. And I didn't know that you could necessarily make a career out of it. I mean, we didn't have reality television and there was no access to Hollywood; it was just the place where the magic happened. So I never really thought that was an option. I invested more in the stage side of things, and became a dancer, and that led me to musical theater, which then led me to small roles, and pretty soon I was talking on stage — which was overwhelming — which led me to audition for a film, my very first film, which was Drop Dead Gorgeous, while I was working in dinner theater in Minnesota.
GALLOWAY: Did your parents encourage you to act?
ADAMS: No, no. They didn't discourage me; they just understood that I wasn't the best student. I was a gymnast and I did track and around ninth grade I decided I was going to stop doing all of those things and focus on dance. They were concerned that I wouldn't qualify for scholarships and that kind of thing, because I didn't come from the kind of background where my parents were going to be able to help me with my education. And I said, “Oh, don’t worry, I’m not going to go college.” [IMITATING PARENTS’ SHOCKED REACTION] “That’s fine.” Which I regret.
GALLOWAY: Do you really?
ADAMS: I do. I think I missed out on some key things, not just educationally but also socially, and learning to be on my own in this transitional environment. I do think I missed out on a certain amount of exploring myself without having to… oh, how do I put this? Like, without having to work at Hooters, you know? [LAUGHTER] Ah, there you go. I was getting to that.
GALLOWAY: I wasn’t going to bring this up.
ADAMS: No it’s OK, it doesn’t bother me.
GALLOWAY: But you were there for three weeks or something, right?
ADAMS: I worked there for three months. Three months yeah after I graduated high school. Well, you guys got to understand: I was a dancer, and now those Hooter’s costumes — that doesn’t look like anything. People tweet things that, as a woman of my age, I find shocking. I know I’m such an old lady, but —
GALLOWAY: Every time you say “fuck” on screen, is this hard to do?
ADAMS: No! [LAUGHTER] It’s hard to do it in front of people, because I’ve been taught manners – but boy, once you shut that door at home and my daughter goes to sleep! My daughter hasn’t sworn yet, so I feel like I’m doing a good job of preserving it for just the right moments, you know. But it’s very liberating to do it.
GALLOWAY: Your mother was a part-time body builder?
ADAMS: Yeah, my mom’s had a lot of different jobs and that was one of her passions.
GALLOWAY: How does she influence you?
ADAMS: She’s so creative in the way that she moves through life. She’s very nonconventional and she’s just a strong woman. She went through a lot and she wasn’t afraid to be who she was — “I’m going to have seven kids and then I’m going to body build” — and she’s in her 60’s and she still rock climbs and mountain bikes, and she’s just strong — like, she’s got guns. She’s intimidating.
GALLOWAY: Are you like her?
ADAMS: I thought you said, “Do you like her?”
GALLOWAY: I hope you like her!
ADAMS: Part of me is like her. I’m kind of a mix of my mom and my dad, I would say. But I’m really happy I have her in me. My dad’s a little bit more laid-back and I don’t know that I would have had the courage to declare myself as an actress without that side of me, because my dad was actually a performer, so that stuff comes from him; he was a singer and I watched him perform. But my mom — she just has this never-say-die attitude, so she never let me quit anything. And that was good for me, because I don’t think I would have developed this attitude of, “No, I’m not going to quit. I’m just going to keep going.”
GALLOWAY: But you did think of quitting at one point?
GALLOWAY: So you have done dinner theater, you did Drop Dead Gorgeous.
GALLOWAY: You did a few other films that are not necessarily memorable —
ADAMS: Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey!
GALLOWAY: — that have words like slaughter and psycho in them.
ADAMS: What? [LAUGHS]
GALLOWAY: And then you auditioned for this little movie, that $1 million movie, and give this fantastic performance. And I remember at the time, having been with The Hollywood Reporter for too long, I remember hearing about it. “What’s Junebug?” “Oh it’s this new movie with Amy Adams.” “Am I meant to know Amy Adams?” “Oh, she’s incredible, she’s incredible.” I want you to set up this scene that we’re going to show, which is the scene where you’re in the hospital.
ADAMS: I should’ve worn waterproof.
GALLOWAY: Right! And what I love in this role — and those of you who haven’t seen the film, please do — you see this extraordinary transition, where we see somebody that we judge a certain way, when we meet your character —
GALLOWAY: — as provincial, redneck, naïve — and later it’s extraordinary how we come to sympathize with her. And I think it’s what great art doe: it changes our view of people and the world. Tell us what happens that gets you in the hospital.
ADAMS: In the movie, Ashley is pregnant and expecting a child and [that’s] her whole focus and a place of great hope for her. She comes from a hopeless situation and she chooses hope every day. She's one of my favorite characters that I've ever gotten to play, because she’s somebody who chooses to be positive, who chooses hope every single day, and comes across as very naïve but perhaps is the wisest one in the picture. And she's in the hospital and she loses her baby].
GALLOWAY: Well let’s watch it. So here’s the clip from Junebug.
GALLOWAY: How did this film come about? And why on earth, halfway through, were you talking to your co-star Embeth Davidtz and saying, “I’m thinking of quitting acting?”
ADAMS: I had been working in L.A. for a while. I did Catch Me If You Can. Nothing really came of it, but the truth was, I was just not happy, kind of, in the life that I was leading, and [with] this pursuit of a career that I didn't think was going to be a good fit, maybe, and that’s why. So I was getting really close on things, but I just figured maybe I just don't have “it” and that's got to be OK with me. I mean, I'll just go back to theater. And I booked this television show called Dr. Vegas and I did the pilot and that's how I ended up with red hair.
GALLOWAY: Right you got —
ADAMS: Because there was — there was another girl hired, who actually is one of my really good friends now; I'm very-sexy-blonde at the time, and I went this is not good: I mean, we have a really tall blonde and a really short sort of pale-blonde, and they’re like, “One of you has to go red.” And I was like, “I’m guessing it’s me, just a hunch.” But anyway, I mean I don’t know. I just couldn’t find my home, you know, figuratively; I was just sort of floundering, and then Dr. Vegas changed my schedule and they sent me home from Las Vegas and I was really bummed because I was like, “Oh I was going to have a week off in Las Vegas.” But when I got home, there was a script called Junebug on my doorstep, and I went and auditioned for it. And I loved Ashley. I still love Ashley; it’s funny — I feel like you carry characters around, and I still watch that and it … sometimes I want to cry, and I'm not crying at my performance. It's like, I feel for [her] still. I know that sounds crazy, but I still feel what she was feeling.
GALLOWAY: We think she’s naïve, but she isn’t. You said she has this very positive view of the world. Are those things true for you?
ADAMS: In the truth of who I am, yeah, I think so. I think that's sort of who I want to be. I think as you go through life, that gets kind of chinked out of you a little bit. I think watching my daughter has been really interesting —
GALLOWAY: It can come back though.
ADAMS: Well it's interesting, because it’s like who we were we born as — what’s our core self? — and then who we’re shaped to be, given our circumstances, whatever those are.
GALLOWAY: But you know it’s interesting, because you can go through those phases where you lose that optimism.
GALLOWAY: But then it comes back, and I’m just speaking personally, you know.
GALLOWAY: And it’s great when it does.
ADAMS: It’s true. And my loss of optimism didn't have anything to do with me not working. It more had to do with, like, the guy swearing at me on the street in L.A. You’re like crossing against the light, because you don’t understand, and he’s calling you names, and you’re like “Why are you so mean? I’m just from Colorado. I just moved here.” I don’t know. So you just stand up. [TO THE AUDIENCE] I’m sure you guys have been there. You’re like, “What?! Why are people so — ”
GALLOWAY: They’re the ones doing the swearing.
ADAMS: You’re swearing?! Now, now.
GALLOWAY: Steven Spielberg expected that you'd break out after Catch Me If You Can. Were you disappointed when you didn't?
ADAMS: I was. In retrospect, it's a good thing I didn't. I definitely was not ready. I wasn't confident enough in my work, and myself. I still didn’t feel I belonged here. Whatever “here” Hollywood is.
GALLOWAY: Do you now feel that you belong?
ADAMS: I’m now just OK with it. I don’t know that anybody does, because it’s really not a destination. Hollywood's the city. There’s this actual city, there's a zip code; but [the movie Hollywood is] this idea. I guess it just depends on what works for you, what you can buy into, and I believe I belong in Los Angeles. I have a really great family here, but I still feel the idea of Hollywood is something that makes me feel very vulnerable. I've just learned to accept it.
GALLOWAY: Why vulnerable?
ADAMS: Because I tend to be as honest a person as possible, and therefore I feel a little more open to scrutiny and criticism. And you know, as an actor I think it's important to have a very soft heart and a very thick skin. I just don't want my heart to harden, and so you have to allow yourself to feel those things [and therefore] criticism and disappointment and all of those things can impact you.
GALLOWAY: Do you think it’s harder for woman?
ADAMS: In Hollywood? Just in general? Yes. No, in general I don't think Hollywood is a special place where it's hard for women. I think that, you know, we have a lot of privileges. We have a long way to go, of course, but you know, when I look at what's happening in the world, I'm not going to cry because of some, you know, small injustice I feel here about things. Definitely, you know, work to change it and try to be a good role model, but I think I have it in perspective as far as sort of a world view of how far we need to come as women and the rights that we should be fighting for.
GALLOWAY: How much do you follow what's going on around the world? You've traveled around the world now, I guess, just doing publicity and things like that. Has that changed your view of life?
ADAMS: I feel really lucky to live here. You know, I love traveling and I love being exposed to different cultures, but really it's the people that I've met along the way, not the places I've been, that have opened my eyes. I try to read as much as I can, but the computer — which I now read on, I guess — I could just not go on the computer; that’s novel — but it’s so full of negativity and it’s so full of just things that I understand that are entertainment — and I won't go into specificity — but that kind of get mixed up with what's happening in our politics and what's happening, you know, all over the world … It just gets all muddied in there and suddenly, what's important, you know, it's hard [to see]. Anyway, this is the bigger conversation.
GALLOWAY: What do you like to read?
ADAMS: I like reading The New York Times. I'm not a cover-to-cover girl — I can't, I don't have the patience for that. But I hand-pick some articles and do that. I'm on Huffington Post a lot. I watch CNN, much to my father's chagrin. Sorry Dad!
ADAMS: We don't need to get into it. He'd be very upset I said that.
GALLOWAY: Going back to vulnerability, I thought that Junebug had led to Enchanted. I didn't realize that you auditioned for that, and that you were number 275 out of 300 people who did.
GALLOWAY: How did you find out you had that part? And how did that change things for you?
ADAMS: Well, I do think it led to Enchanted, because they were nervous to put an unknown in that lead role, and it had to be handled really delicately. When they saw that Sony intended to launch the [awards] campaign, I think they felt a little more comfortable. “Campaign,” like “Oscar campaign.” It's actually called a campaign!
GALLOWAY: Right. Which actually begins at the beginning of September and then the Oscars are what, at the end of March or February/March?
ADAMS: I'm starting right now for something I shot. No, I'm kidding.
GALLOWAY: You've done, I think, four of the Hollywood Reporter roundtables. We start putting together in early September. And I've always been happy, because you've always got Oscar nominations.
ADAMS: Ah, yes, very nice.
GALLOWAY: You then had to fight for the role in Doubt, which you made in 2008?
GALLOWAY: Tell us how you got that.
ADAMS: I was working on Sunshine Cleaning, with Emily Blunt, and she was reading a script and she said, "You know, Amy, I'm reading a script, but I think this is very suited for you. You should read it, and you should talk to them about it." So I called my agents and they said, "Oh, well we just didn't send it to you because there's another actress already that they want to offer it to." And I said, "Well, I know the play, you have to send it to me." And so I called and I said, "Just tell them I'm in New York. And I want to meet [writer-director] John Patrick Shanley.” So, I was not in New York. [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: You really flew there?
ADAMS: I took a night flight, while I was shooting. My joke is that I lied to play a nun. [LAUGHTER] And I was like, "Um, just happened to be in New York, John, and let's meet at a cupcake shop." And I had a conversation and explained why I really liked the piece and why I was drawn to the character, and the other actress ended up falling out, which happens pretty regularly. And he came to me.
GALLOWAY: So, just to set this scene up, it's right at the end of the film, and in the film, you have Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Meryl Streep, and Amy Adams, in this triangle where Hoffman is a priest who's been accused of molesting a kid. Meryl Streep is the vicious nun who’s after him. He eventually resigns. We don't know if he's done it or not. We never know. Do you know?
ADAMS: Well, I don't know.
GALLOWAY: But Phil Hoffman knew, right?
ADAMS: He did know.
GALLOWAY: And finally, this innocent nun and this scary nun, played by Meryl Streep — [LAUGHTER] — well, she is, wait till you see it, if you haven't. You finally have this conversation where Meryl Streep reveals her feelings — and I want you to watch this and I just want to say, after, what I really love about it.
ADAMS: Meryl Streep, can we just — !
GALLOWAY: I want to ask you about her. She taught you how to knit.
ADAMS: She did.
GALLOWAY: Can I tell you what I liked? You know, the Meryl performance is somewhat theatrical and quite ornate and there's an enormous amount going on. And you keep it so still and so utterly simple. And I was thinking, if you act with Meryl Streep, the temptation to do too much must just be great. Am I right?
ADAMS: Not if you're smart! No, I'm kidding. You let her do it. It’s something that I've learned. When I show up on set, I can have all the intention in the world of what I want to do with this character, what I'm coming into the scene with. But ultimately — and it depends on the character — in this situation, very much, I always saw her as being so devastated that there'd be these tears. And then, when I sat down and started doing the scene, I was like, "No, no, no. This is about her breakdown. This is about her doubt. I'm here in service of this moment for this actress or this character.” Sometimes I think the right thing to do is to be still and to let that person come to the extraordinary moment that they're meant to have. I'm not there to service that moment for my character. Does that make sense?
GALLOWAY: Yes, absolutely, and it's such an intelligent decision. This is why great actors have to be very intelligent, because to come to that decision, to say, "I'm going to play it simply and still, and modestly," that's just wonderful acting. Was she intimidating?
ADAMS: Only because she's Meryl Streep. You know, in my mind, what was crazy is, by the time we started working I was all right, but oh man, did I put myself — can I swear?
ADAMS: I just mind-fucked myself, going into this. I was like, "Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep? Tony Award-winning, Pulitzer Prize-winning.” By the time I got to rehearsals, I was a disaster. And I had to get to a scene where I was yelling at Meryl. And I was looking at her, going, "I can't, I can't yell at her, I can't." And I couldn't physically get the words out. It was this utter stage fright, because I’d rehearsed for two weeks, which was such a privilege, with Philip and with Meryl. And I learned so much by watching them. But goodness, I went to John, I said, "I don't know, John." [LAUGHTER] I said, "I can't. I just feel so lost and I don't know what to do, and I want to make you proud, I want to make them proud, it's so…" And he goes, "Ha-ha-ha. This role's really getting to you!" [LAUGHTER] And I was like, "I'm exactly where I should be." I surrendered to wanting to feel powerless around these powerful actors, and let myself be weak, because, really, what I call mind-fucking was opening up my vulnerability, and so when I walked in the room with these people I wanted to impress, I was just Sister James. And she's not impressive. She's open and she's porous, and she's vulnerable, and she's confused, and so on. Once I figured that out, I was still completely terrified. But I allowed it to just live. But Meryl is not intimidating as a human being.
ADAMS: She's lovely. And she, the words of support — you know, John wanted the words [to be] precise, which he has every right to. He got great acclaim for his writing and he still — I saw him on Facebook — he writes beautiful things every day. I’m just like, “Oh, you're amazing.” But he wanted certain words and I kept flipping them. And so it took me 11 takes to get [the] big yelling. "Well, I like Frosty the Snowman and I — ” That took me 11 takes and —I'm rambling on —
GALLOWAY: No this is riveting.
ADAMS: — It was like three days. And he was block shooting, and [with] block shooting sometimes you shoot one direction — you guys know what this is — and then you turn around and you do the whole scene from the other direction. But it was three days. So we did it all, and now this was the very last part of three days of working on this scene. And I was like, "Of course I'm messing up the lines," and Meryl Streep, she didn't falter. In her performance, she never looked irritated, she kept giving it to me, she kept giving it to me, she kept giving it to me. And at the end I got it! And she goes — [SIGHS] — what was funny was, right before — now that I know I can swear… [LAUGHER] I won't swear too much, Megan, I know you're out there — She goes "Gee, Amy." But I got it wrong again and I was saying, "Don't cut! Fuck me!" And then I did it, it was very strange to come from that into "I like Frosty." I figured out, that's the key to me getting the take: swearing. No, that's not true. But, afterwards, she just rushed up to me and gave me a big hug, and she goes, "Do you know how hard it is, what you just did? So you need to be kind to yourself, because that is a very hard thing to do, what you just did." And this is Meryl Streep, you know? She's given me a lot of advice, in her way, over the years.
ADAMS: Some of it's personally. She would talk about her daughters in such a way that I knew that it was important for me to take time with my daughter when I had one, and I just think she's a great example, the way she handles herself. She has such grace. I've seen people try to trap her in interviews to say something, and she remains professional. And she's wonderful. She's a very good example.
GALLOWAY: The character you play was based on a real nun.
GALLOWAY: When John Patrick Shanley wrote the play, which was a Pulitzer Prize-winning play, he didn't know this woman — he'd been in school with her — was still alive, and then one night he heard she was in the audience. Did you meet her?
ADAMS: I did. She was on set often, yeah. And she still works for the Sisters of Charity. It's a wonderful organization and…
GALLOWAY: What did you learn from her?
ADAMS: I really just picked her brain about what was it like, why did you go into it? Just the backstory that John had talked to a little bit, [that] I was curious about. I've always been curious about what women's choices were at different given times. And that was one of the choices: you can be a nun. And I've always been so fascinated [by different careers] — when I did Catch Me, being a nurse, a candy striper, what was going on with women in that time period.
GALLOWAY: What surprised you about that life, when you were doing research about being a nun?
ADAMS: Oh, everything. Not being able to go see your family. Really cutting yourself off, and only getting visits every now and then. You can kind of conceptualize it — 'cause I saw The Sound of Music, so… [LAUGHTER] No, you guys caught me on a really goofy day. [LAUGHTER] But I didn't quite understand how much you are cut off from your previous life. Especially for a young nun like I was playing, to not have any counsel outside of this situation. No family, she can't talk to anybody. The only people she has are these two powerful presences in her life, these two people. It's so daunting to be going through this, and I'm sure that there were nuns in that situation, [and] as we've all come to learn, there was actually quite a bit of molestation going on. And the women weren't listened to the same way, which is so hard to perceive as a woman today — and [the were] just not regarded the same way.
GALLOWAY: You started working from 1999-ish with an acting coach. Are you still with him? And how, did you work on this role with him?
ADAMS: It's a girl. Her name's Warner [Loughlin], so it's fair to think that it might be [a man]. I didn't work on Doubt, 'cause I knew we'd be doing rehearsals. And I don't always work with her. But what I do is: I don't run lines. I just need a place to go to be disciplined, because, with my daughter and with life, I'm very easily distracted. And so for me just to go somewhere and be able to do my work, and have someone hold me accountable — or not, you know what I mean: she's not holding me accountable, but it's a great place to go and bounce ideas, and sometimes I don't even read the scenes, but I just like to get to the heart of who the character is before I walk onto set.
GALLOWAY: When you started working with her, she said, "You have to go back and create a history of each character from the age of three." Do you still do that with each part?
ADAMS: I do. That's why it hits me so hard, because I know exactly what Ashley is crying about. It's still the way that she works that works for me, if it still leaves me open for any ideas the director has. 'Cause there's nothing so steadfast in the history of someone that [with] new information you can't adapt and change a little, here and there. It gives me somewhere to go, and reasons to go there, so I don't feel so lost.
GALLOWAY: Have you ever strongly disagreed with a director?
GALLOWAY: And how do you resolve that?
ADAMS: Depends on the director.
ADAMS: I have some funny stories about Paul Thomas Anderson. I was doing a scene with Joaquin. And, oh gosh, it made me so mad, 'cause looking back I would have done it so different, but I was so stuck on how I wanted to do it. I was like, "But he's not waking up." And he's like, "I know, he's not, is he?" "Paul, you have to tell Joaquin to wake up! You're doing it in one take, but it says in the script, you know, he wakes up." And he's like — and you know Joaquin, I love Joaquin so much — he's like, "I'm, I'm just drunk, ah." I'm just exasperated. Now I'm like, I would hit him, I would throw water in his face, I'd be down. "OK, you want to play that game? Let's. I'll wake you up." But Paul was not going to tell Joaquin to do it. He left it up to me and I was like, "Ah.” I was so indignant. Hopefully I handled it more maturely than that. I'm exaggerating. But I felt like a little kid inside: "No, you have to tell..." It’s funny, anyway. [LAUGHTER] But it was a good lesson.
GALLOWAY: Have you been disappointed with the way your performance was edited?
ADAMS: Sure. Sure. But ultimately I understand that going in; it's not an actor's medium, it's a director's medium, and they're going to create the film, unless I have a producorial role or unless I want to go sit in the editing room and create that, whatever that would be.
GALLOWAY: Is that why you're starting to produce?
ADAMS: Yeah, it is. But it's a tricky thing, producing, because really I'd like to produce for other people. I would love to produce for other actors. I'm constantly recasting myself. I love some of the actresses when I get to watch their work and I never get to work with them.
GALLOWAY: Who in particular?
ADAMS: Jessica Chastain. Could we play sisters? Like, twins? [LAUGHTER] I could be your annoying little sister — I meant to say, older sister. Julianne Moore. I could keep going. Actresses don't always get a chance to work together, because there aren't a lot of roles.
GALLOWAY: We talked about directors. I wanted to start talking about a great and complicated director.
ADAMS: Oh, you don't even have to say. I think everyone knows.
GALLOWAY: So, for those who don't know, David O. Russell. Let's take a look at a clip from The Fighter.
GALLOWAY: So you don’t have to say, but I know how difficult David is. How did the role come about? He said to you he didn't think you could throw a punch, when you met him.
ADAMS: I had met with David on some things and I was meeting him on something completely different. And we just really got along. And I really loved, even in the meeting, how he was able to transport me into whatever character he wanted me to play. Because he's so intense that you're just like: I'm either going to leave or we're going to do this. I was like, that would be really interesting: to work with somebody who's so present in each moment that he wants you to participate in it, and can get you there so quickly with his intensity. But that didn't manifest, [and then] The Fighter came along and he got me to agree to do The Fighter with one scene, the fight scene. [LAUGHTER] Like, I'm the girl in the fight? Are you serious? 'Cause so many directors had seen Doubt, they'd seen Enchanted, they'd seen Junebug, and it was sort of: “Can you be tough?” And I'm like: “Well, I can't sit here in a meeting and be tough. You know, I could swear at you and walk out, but then you'd just think I was annoying.” So it was hard to prove myself past what I had done. And David just [said]: “I think you should do this.” He likes the challenge of twisting what people think of actors and actresses a little bit.
GALLOWAY: I think he told you to watch Robert De Niro in Raging Bull.
ADAMS: He did. And he also told me to watch The Real Housewives of New Jersey.
GALLOWAY: Did you?
ADAMS: Yes. So I watched The Real Housewives of New Jersey. He's like, “I want you to be like that woman! There’s a woman that just doesn't care. She doesn't fucking care.” It was really a lot of fun doing The Fighter. It was amazing.
GALLOWAY: How much is improvised and how much do you rehearse?
ADAMS: It's not so much rehearsal with David. It's just doing it. And he wants to see it and he wants to see where you're coming from. But every moment that you're involved with David, from the moment he casts you on, he wants to see the character. I don't even think he knew “Amy” on The Fighter, because I came in one day for rehearsal, and I was thinking of being very gentle and intellectualizing things. He was like, “What the fuck are you doing?” So the next day I put on a baseball cap and he came up and asked me something, and I said, "Why don't you go fuck yourself?" And he was like, "What?!" And I was like. “This is what you want, right?” After that, it was all good. It's weird being an actor. You're like, “Well, I guess I better put on a baseball cap and go swear at someone to get them to like me.”
GALLOWAY: Was this a difficult scene to pull off with Christian Bale? I'd never seen him like this. I'd never seen either one of you like this.
ADAMS: Gosh, no. By the way, acting with Christian makes every scene, not difficult, but it just takes you there. 'Cause if you're willing to go on that ride with a good actor, they just take you there with them. It's magical working with Christian. Really, really transformative.
GALLOWAY: You also have the scene with all the sisters. I didn't know till I was preparing this interview that you had all these siblings yourself.
GALLOWAY: How much did that help, dealing with the scenes with the sisters?
ADAMS: [LAUGHS] It helps. There's a certain energy to a big family, though with Charlene, she was the outsider. I understood their point of view. But I just had fun. It was really liberating and David was just so immediate and he was funny, 'cause on this one he kept going, “Lower! Tougher! Lower! Tougher.” And I was like, “My voice won't go slower, lower, all the time.” He has a thing with high voices, I guess.
GALLOWAY: How did American Hustle come about?
ADAMS: David was like, “Hey, I'm making another movie. You want to do it?” [LAUGHS] “All right. We're going to have a good time,” He told me the outline of what we were going to be doing, and then we dove in.
GALLOWAY: There was a script before his. Were you shown that before he started changing it?
ADAMS: I started reading it, and he immediately told me to stop reading it, [LAUGHTER] because it was not going to resemble that. Or it was going to resemble the script, I don't know. I just stopped reading it, 'cause he would have known.
GALLOWAY: You'd have been in trouble.
GALLOWAY: Let's take a look at a clip from this, because it's such a different character and film. And here you are with Christian Bale again. There are so many great scenes. I wanted to show the scene where Jennifer Lawrence kisses you in the bathroom, you know. But the one I ended up choosing: we were going to show a nine-minute clip and we really can't. So, Annie, our producer, found the perfect cut for this. So this is the scene where Amy's character, who's masquerading as an English lady, reveals to Bradley Cooper, who is the wackiest FBI agent ever, that she's not who she seems. So let's watch the scene. It's just incredible filmmaking. American Hustle.
ADAMS: I haven't seen that since I saw a preview of it. That's a really funny scene.
GALLOWAY: That's amazing.
ADAMS: Bradley's hilarious in that scene.
GALLOWAY: It's a long scene. And it just doesn't cut and end it where you think he does, but continues. Describe making that scene. What went into it, how you created the character, and how many takes? Walk us through it.
ADAMS: American Hustle, I've said before, was the hardest thing I've ever worked on. I can't state why. I just think I was really, really raw and David was really, really demanding. And the combination of the two things weighed on me heavily, even in that scene. It was much longer, and David demands it to be real: “Hit him!” And Bradley's like, “Hit me!” And I'm like, “Oh, I don't want to hit you.” [LAUGHTER] There's a part before I smash him with the [plate], where I actually slapped him, and they cut that. That's why I never really watched it again, 'cause I was like, “I don't want to watch that.” And then after the scene was done, I was crying: “I didn't want to hit Bradley and it shouldn't be like this.” I know, I'm a little nutty. Nutty noodle. [LAUGHTER] It was a tough shoot, let's just put it that way. David was extremely demanding. He wasn't the same on The Fighter, for me, anyway. But, having a daughter, I just didn't want to go home like that. I couldn't. I didn't want to do that anymore. I've never really talked about that before. And David does do such great work. It was just a difficult one.
GALLOWAY: Have you not seen the film since?
ADAMS: I've seen it once.
GALLOWAY: Can you now go back and see it with some distance?
ADAMS: Perhaps. I might. You know, I don't watch my work a lot past the once or twice.
GALLOWAY: It's really so great. How did you prepare for this?
ADAMS: I knew I was doing it for a while. I got real skinny. [LAUGHTER] No, I'm kidding. I know it sounds funny, but I really ended up shrinking during the process of making the film. But I just worked on Sydney. I worked on this girl who felt the need to create this character for herself that she could project to the world and feel powerful.
GALLOWAY: Did you work with a voice coach?
ADAMS: I did. I worked with a voice coach. But David doesn't have accent coaches on set. So he'll be throwing out lines, and you're trying to translate it into an English accent. Typically, when I work with an accent coach, they have them on set and they work with you on specificity and stuff.
GALLOWAY: But it's a tricky thing, because the character’s not really English.
ADAMS: No, she's not.
GALLOWAY: So you don't want to be too perfect.
ADAMS: [LAUGHS] I’d still want to be perfect.
GALLOWAY: OK. And between these films, you made The Master. And I just think it's a masterpiece. For those of you that haven't seen it, this is about the leader of a cult, a Scientology-like cult, played by Philip Seymour Hoffman again, who’s married to this woman who seems to be kind of a follower. And what I love is: at some point you start to see the strength in her. I’m going to show what's become a famous scene, which follows the scene where he has an orgy, and gets these women to be naked and dance around. And after that, his wife talks to him in the bathroom.
GALLOWAY: How do you feel watching that scene?
ADAMS: I miss Phil. That's all I can think.
GALLOWAY: Did you get to know him well?
ADAMS: We were work friends. I really loved Phil. But watching the scene, too, it makes me laugh, 'cause I'm able to think of the memories [LAUGHS] of having to rehearse that scene. And Phil being, “Really, Paul? Come on, how many times are you really…?” Paul has a really great sense of humor and [for] anyone who gets to meet or work with Paul Thomas Anderson, he's so awesome. It’s nice to be able to have really wonderful, beautiful memories of that relationship.
GALLOWAY: What makes him awesome as a director? From an actor's point of view, what is an awesome director?
ADAMS: Each director is different. David and his demands make him an awesome director, and his immediacy. And Paul — what I imagine he was doing was tricking me, and I didn't know it. He would figure out how to get each actor to do what they needed to do without [saying, “This is what you’re going to do.” So we did a scene where I was yelling at Philip about a party that had gone poorly, and for two weeks leading up to it Paul was saying, “I want this to be huge. This is your scene. I want you to tear up the scenery. Feel free. Just chew it up.” So we get in there, and I put all this pressure on myself, and I get in and we start. And I'm going around and packing up and all of this. He's like, “I don't know. I just don't see it like that.” “OK. What should we be doing?” “Can you just stand still?” “OK.” “And can you turn around?” And I'm like, “You want my back to the camera?” “And just sit on the edge of the bed” — which was probably how he was intending on doing it the whole time.
GALLOWAY: Oh, right. [LAUGHTER]
ADAMS: But now what he's done: he's got me to prepare the scene to fill up an entire room, and now he's asked me not to move and to turn my back to the camera. And in the moment, I was not smart enough [LAUGHS] to realize that this is what was happening. Then he gave me a second half of the monologue to do. So instead of just running lines, I was actually learning new ones. And I realize now, what he was doing is he was getting me out of my head. He could tell I'm someone who gets really in my head. And he got me out of my head. It was kind of a trick, and it worked. And it wasn't until months later that I was like, [GASPS] he's so sneaky! [LAUGHTER] But it worked, because I felt really free. But I also felt super-contained, like I was going to explode, because he had prepped me to do a scene that would fill up an entire room, then asked me to sit down and not move.
GALLOWAY: How did you rehearse this scene, and how many takes did you do?
ADAMS: This one we just did the night before. He had just come and walked [through] the scene and stuff like that. And Philip was [saying], “Dude, I'm not rehearsing the scene, Paul.” They were really close and it was very, very funny. But I think we did three takes.
GALLOWAY: Did you know it was going to play [in just one unbroken shot] when you did the whole thing? Or did he come in for close ups?
ADAMS: No, we knew it was going to be one take. One take. I want to say, “take from behind,” but then it sounds wrong. [LAUGHTER]
GALLOWAY: Do you then watch what you've done on playback?
ADAMS: Sometimes I do. It depends. On Superman I did, because Zack [Snyder]'s really technical. So I would watch it to make sure, because sometimes I wasn't acting like there was an explosion. I was feeling there was an explosion. He's like, “No, I need to see that you see an explosion.” And I was l[saying], “But I feel an explosion.” “No, I need to see that you see it.” So I would watch it to gauge the level that he was looking for. Or if I'm fearful that the take wasn't good, and I'm beating myself up, to be able to walk away I'll sometimes say, “Do you mind if I just watch it? Just so I can sleep?” I'm a bit of a perfectionist.
GALLOWAY: You've shot Batman v Superman now. Have you seen it?
ADAMS: I haven't seen anything of it, except what everybody's seen.
GALLOWAY: Was it an easy shoot?
ADAMS: They're kind of hard. They're over the course of six months, so it's a lot of time dedication, but really, really fun.
GALLOWAY: What was your favorite moment?
ADAMS: Oh, I can't give too much away, but I'm coming into a scene and Batman and Superman are both in the scene, so I can say that. And it was just fun. Because they had been working together for a couple weeks and just running it, seeing this dynamic. I'll talk about this when we're promoting the movie and we can tell more. But there were definitely funny moments involving bat-suits and such.
GALLOWAY: Have you seen the trailer?
ADAMS: I have, yes.
GALLOWAY: It's really good.
ADAMS: Yeah. And Holly Hunter, I'm so glad. I love her so much. I love that Zack is into ladies, you know?
GALLOWAY: Her work is extraordinary.
ADAMS: She's so lovely. I was quivering, meeting her in the makeup trailer, you know. She was one of my great influences when I started out.
GALLOWAY: OK, student time. Welcome to the LMU students.
ADAMS: Hi guys. Thanks for being so lovely.
GALLOWAY: Don't forget to introduce yourself. Thank you. Yes.
QUESTION: I'm a senior here. I study theater and screenwriting. And what I wanted to ask you about is: we've talked a little about how you've worked with the same actors multiple times, like Bradley Cooper, Philip Seymour Hoffman. And what’s it like to come back with these same actors as new characters, creating new relationships and a new world? What are the challenges with that and what are the benefits?
ADAMS: Primarily for me, it's just benefits, because you're already over the impact of their awesomeness. You're able to just get down into the work. And you have such a trust in them. And hopefully they have a trust in you, so you can really invest emotionally more easily, open yourself up and understand: there's safety in knowing somebody and knowing the way they work.
QUESTION: I'm a screenwriting and production major. You talked about women in film and how to set an example. So what advice do you have for women who are starting a career in the film industry?
ADAMS: Be patient. Really. Move forward with strength. Don't allow yourself to feel victimized. If you do, speak up. Work hard. And don't get discouraged. Or do get discouraged, and go out for cocktails with your friends! And then get back to it, you know? [LAUGHTER] Allow yourself to feel discouraged, but move through it.
GALLOWAY: Is there a point where somebody should say, “OK, this isn't right for me,” and walk away? And if so, how would they know?
ADAMS: It just depends. Each person's different and each person wants something different for their life. For me, it was never about, “I need to be a huge movie star; I need to win this or win that.” I really wanted to make a living in an industry or do something that felt right. So when it didn't feel right, I wasn't happy. And it wasn't about not being a star; it was literally just, I didn’t like the struggle. I didn’t find the struggle sexy. I just found that it made me a miserable person. I was trying too hard to be somebody else in order to be successful.
GALLOWAY: Do you still dream of doing musical theater?
ADAMS: [LAUGH] Like, every weekend, like karaoke.
GALLOWAY: Do you have a favorite role you’d like to? You did Into the Woods?
ADAMS: I did. It was really fun. Honestly? I always want the roles I’ll never get. Like, I want to be Elphaba in Wicked, and everyone’s like, “Elphaba? You’re clearly a Glinda.” Which I know. [LAUGHTER] Sorry. But Aldonza in Man of La Mancha, but me playing a Spanish whore is also, “Like, really?”
GALLOWAY: I heard you always sing one of the Man of La Mancha songs to yourself when you’re feeling down.
ADAMS: [LAUGH] Yes.
GALLOWAY: Which one?
ADAMS: I sing a lot of them, but I know you’re trying to get me to sing —
GALLOWAY: No, no, no, don’t worry. I bet you sing a lot better than anybody here.
ADAMS: I just love how dramatic it is. [SINGS] “I was spawned in a ditch by a...” you know?
GALLOWAY: Well, you did. Thank you! Wow, I would never have thought you’d fall for that!
ADAMS: Thank you.
QUESTION: I’m a film production major, screenwriting minor. I just want to know what makes you the happiest? And if you could describe the perfect day, what would it be?
ADAMS: Well, my daughter does make me the happiest. And really a perfect day is the Sunday when we never get out of our pajamas. But if we’re talking about work, I love being creatively inspired by the people I work with. And I love watching people move through this beautiful way of storytelling gracefully. And the commitment, it’s inspiring. I love getting to work with really amazing actors and I think that’s my favorite thing — working with other actors. But really, it’s pajamas, and the Broncos, you know?
QUESTION: I’m a senior theater major. We’ve seen you play a huge range of diverse roles, from my favorite — Princess Giselle in Enchanted — and then going to American Hustle, and then Night at the Museum 2. What is your process in choosing these diverse roles, and how have you kept yourself from falling into what a lot of actresses get into, being typecast so often?
ADAMS: I don’t know that it was intentional or just I like to try new things. I’ve always wanted to scare myself in the roles that I choose. So, that’s one of the things: “Am I scared to do this?” And then, I like to follow my gut mostly. There’s a second part to the question —
QUESTION: What is it like when you choose all these different roles? Do you have a ton of scripts and you want to just challenge yourself? Or what is that process like for you?
ADAMS: There’s a lot of roles I haven’t played that I let go for really good reasons, and then I watch the film and the actress just soars in it, and I realize, “That’s exactly why you don’t do something, because it was never meant to be yours.” I really believe in that. And things that haven’t worked out. In choosing roles, I do just want to feel challenged, pretty much.
QUESTION: I’m a freshman and film production major here. And my question for you is: What is something that you have learned or come to know that you wished someone had told you 20 years ago?
ADAMS: That’s a very good question. Wow, there’s a lot. To I think just relax. [LAUGH] I mean, there’s only so much you can do — and you have to work hard — but a lot of things happen by chance. And I wasted so much time doubting myself and so much time being upset or feeling hurt or not good enough, just because something wasn’t working out. When you really don’t know all the components that go into it. Just try to live a good life, and don’t get too caught up in all of the minutiae of the industry.
GALLOWAY: Do you manage to avoid the industry? Are your friends outside the industry? I certainly find, from my point of view, you get fed up with it, you know?
ADAMS: I don’t know. I have a nice mix of friends. I started working a lot later, so a lot of my friends are from different parts of the industry. I have a great friend who’s a costume designer, a really good friend who’s a graphic novelist. I’ve met a lot of different people and those are my core group of friends. And then people I’ve met along the way in my work, I also like to hang out with. I’m waiting for Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer to invite me to their party! [LAUGHTER] So, I hope I was funny today so they will invite me to their next boating party! I’m a little more neurotic than both of them, but I think that would be — they need a little of that, and they’re both so cool and I could be the “not-cool” person.
GALLOWAY: You’re pretty cool. Next question?
QUESTION: I’m a third-year grad student here in film production. You touched a little bit on what you think makes a great director, so I wanted to know if there are any directors in the industry that you haven’t worked with that you really admire and what you admire about their work?
ADAMS: Sure. The list, of course, that is vast, goes out of my mind as soon as you talk about it. I think it’s different, because I can like their work, but I’ve walked away from directors I’ve wanted to work for forever, because I couldn’t connect with the role. And that’s been really hard, because there’s been people — and I won’t say them — but that I’ve really wanted to work with, and I just knew that I was not going to be a success. I knew that it wasn’t going to be a good fit. I think at this point in my life what I look for is a little different than what I used to. Because I used to be really hungry to be the best that I can be, and I still want to be the best that I can be. But I want good set experiences. I want people who can be leaders and be challenging — like Spike Jonze: man, he is challenging, but he does it in a way that’s like, I can go home to my daughter and feel like a successful parent. You know what I mean? I want a director that respects a balance. That’s what I look for now, which I know isn’t sexy for students. So, go out there and be hungry and challenge yourself. But right now I’m looking for somebody who really respects the balance that I’m looking to create in my life.
GALLOWAY: How much do you bring the character home with you?
ADAMS: I got really good at not doing it. American Hustle taught me not to do it, and I really learned not to do that. It used to be a lot harder. But I just got better at it.
QUESTION: I’m a sophomore film and TV production major. And my question is: you talked a lot about how you’re kind of a perfectionist, and just looking at your body of work you seem to do everything. As a young woman both in the film industry and just in society itself, what would you say to someone where society kind of pressures a woman to be everything, to be smart, to be pretty? What would you say to people who are younger, that are maybe looking to you for advice on how to be flawed or to be what they want to be in life?
ADAMS: You just have to accept your flaws. It’s such a long answer for me, and having a daughter I get really, really emotional about it. Because it is so hard for younger women. I can’t imagine growing up now with all the images and all the expectations. An actress once said, “You can have it all. You just can’t have it all at the same time.” When I heard that that made a lot of sense for me, you know? But, get off the Internet, don’t read comments. That’s another thing that I’ve learned. I would say that — but really I wish I could go give everybody a hug, give every girl a hug and just tell you, “It’s going to be OK,” because I have tried being perfect; it doesn’t work, and it’s very frustrating. But you do get inundated with, “Be perfect on the red carpet,” and then you also have to show up on time, and you have all of these expectations that, the way that it’s projected to us, are not expected from the male counterpart. You just can’t do any comparison, just run your own race. Don’t compare yourself to what men are getting or not getting, or what that girl’s getting or what she looks like; just run your own race. Put your blinders on. You’re not racing against anybody but yourself. I guess that’s the more finite way to answer that question: only race against yourself.
GALLOWAY: Thank you. You were a wonderful interview.
ADAMS: Oh, you guys were so great. I’m so grateful to be here and to get to do what I do. So, it’s nice, and I wish you all the best of luck in the industry, and don’t get discouraged.