Amy Adams gets what she calls “the feels”—visceral vibes sparked by a sound, a smell, a setting, a certain something that triggers a memory. New York’s Central Park is loaded with feels for her. Adams knows every inch of this 750-acre haven. She can introduce you to each statue and fountain, the under- and overpasses, and all the best places to get lost. She could rattle off every movie scene filmed in these groomed wilds. “Walking in Central Park is my favorite thing to do here,” says the actress, leading the way, blending in with park visitors in her big sunglasses, white tee, Lululemon leggings, and Nike tennis shoes, a Starbucks Americano in hand. “There’s something about the serenity inside of the chaos; I love that juxtaposition.”
This serenity has a life of its own, with the rhythmic clopping of horse-drawn carriages, the scent of sugared-nut carts, bikes whizzing by, and music drifting through the air. Over in the band shell, tap dancers tap, tap, tap away. “Where else are you going to see that?” asks Adams, smiling. Stopping suddenly, she points to children running in the distance. “That playground gives me the feels. My daughter, Aviana, broke her foot there. So the feels in this case is an anxiety bubbling up,” she says, emitting a jittery trill. “It was scary. She had a buckle fracture on all the bones across the top of her foot. She was about 4 or 5. We started calling her Wolverine, she healed so quickly.
“My husband and I went for a run while Avi was playing with the nanny,” Adams continues, walking on. “And when she saw us, my daughter started running toward us and fell down. We had to run back to the hotel, and Darren was carrying her, and in my mind I was like, Oh, my gosh, this is so 'Kramer vs. Kramer!' He looked like Dustin Hoffman when he was running out of the park with the child in his arms, and I thought, Amy, what’s wrong with you?” She laughs. “That was my mind’s way of dealing with my daughter being injured: coming up with a movie reference!”
You can’t blame Adams, 43, for having movies on the brain. She’s made nearly 30 films since breaking big in the 2007 live-action fairy tale Enchanted, her perfect oval face, dimpled chin, and wide azure eyes able to capture any type, any era, in every genre, from Disney princess Giselle to comic-book reporter Lois Lane to real-life artist Margaret Keane and Vice President Dick Cheney’s wife, Lynne, in the biopic Backseat, opposite Christian Bale, out in December.
As major as she is, Adams is more actor than star; while her peers can’t help but bring a bit of themselves along for the on-screen ride, she’s up there without a tic or a trace of who she really is. The only constant in her work is the intense economy with which she pulls it off. “Amy can convey so much with the subtle movement of her face; she has the most expressive eyes,” says Tom Ford, who directed Adams in 2016’s delicious film noir Nocturnal Animals. “She can literally telegraph her feelings.”
In her five Oscar-nominated performances, the actress induces all kinds of deep feels, embodying a pregnant chatterbox in Junebug (2005), a guileless nun in Doubt (2008), a tough Boston barmaid in The Fighter (2010), a Lady Macbethian cult leader’s wife in The Master (2012), and a swindling siren in American Hustle (2013).
Odds are she’ll add an Emmy nod for her work in HBO’s series Sharp Objects, an eight-episode adaptation of the best-selling novel by Gillian Flynn (Gone Girl), premiering July 8. Adams, a co-executive producer, stars as Camille Preaker, a self-mutilating, sex-addicted, alcoholic newspaper reporter fresh from a psych ward who is sent to cover a pair of creepy child murders in her creepy hometown where her creepy estranged family lives.
“It is the slimmest of my books and the one that’s gotten the most screen time,” Flynn says. “I worried as a two-hour movie, it would all be procedural; Sharp Objects is a character study hidden inside a mystery. It’s not a whodunit; it’s a ‘who-is-she?’”
She’s someone who couldn’t be further from the actress playing the part, and yet “Amy has this dark quality that is always there, even after five, 10 minutes,” observes Jean-Marc Vallée, who directs the series in the acute documentary style he used to such great effect on HBO’s Big Little Lies. “Camille has so much pain and shame, pouring liquor all the time over her demons; she carries all these scars. Amy didn’t judge her. She approached her with humility, humanity.”
“There’s something freeing about playing somebody who’s a mess,” Adams admits. “But the depth of pain that she’s constantly in is tricky. I felt like I had to not back away from it because so many people have a personal experience with this book.”
Not the least of whom is Flynn, who confesses,“It holds a lot of my own little demons. What Camille carries with her—that’s my appetite for self-destruction. It’s been very hard and cleansing watching Amy take on this character. She looks like a china doll, with this beautiful angelic voice, but she has this real grit to her, this uncrumble-ability, a resilience. She’s a ballerina with a steel spine.”
Here, a few highlights from her July cover interview, on newsstands June 21:
On the creative freedom of becoming co-executive producer of HBO’s Sharp Objects:
“To know you could be part of a creative conversation that you’re not invited to was frustrating. So, being an executive producer, I felt that I had the agency to offer my voice and that was exhilarating.”
On exploring her dark side:
“There’s just so much truth in the darkness and the sadness and I’m willing to explore it now in a different way. Before, I thought people wouldn’t like me or they would think I was crazy. Now I know I can navigate my own personal darkness and it won’t consume me.”
On husband Darren Le Gallo's relationship with their daughter:
“It’s sexy to see him raising a girl and teaching her how a man should treat her in a lovely way.”
“I want to do everything I can that does not involve needles or knives.”
Featured video music: "Ocean Lover" by Gia Sky
Read the full interview and see more photographs in the July issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands June 21.
Lead photo: Dior top, skirt, and shoes