Actress Amy Adams's Rise Continues With Her Role in 'Doubt'

By J. Freedom du Lac
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, December 12, 2008

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. Bounding out of a suite at the Four Seasons, just after lunch, she floods the hotel's 14th-floor hallway with radiance, red hair and Carole King lyrics.

"I feel the Earth. Move. Under my feet," she sings joyfully.

She shimmies, then makes jazz hands, as if life is but a musical.

Break into song for no apparent reason much?

"Yes!" Amy Adams chirps. "It's actually a pretty common occurrence to find me doing that." She giggles. "I'm getting over a cold, so I've got a gravel in my voice that I don't normally have. It's kind of fun to hear how your voice sounds, so I thought I'd sing a little."

Not that she needed an excuse. As a child in Castle Rock, Colo., she says, "everyone could be having a conversation, and I'd be off twirling in the corner, just singing and dancing in my own world." In high school, she was "the dork who sang 'The Little Mermaid' in the hall." Eventually, the dork became the belle of Disney's ball, starring last year in the studio's big feature "Enchanted" -- a role that called for Adams to break into song in Central Park. Nice work if you can get it: After beating out 300 other actresses at an audition, she found herself singing on the Academy Awards and hosting "Saturday Night Live" within a span of two weeks.

The Earth is still moving under her dainty little feet: Yesterday, Adams received a Golden Globe nomination for her supporting performance in "Doubt," which opens today.

She's a late-arriving It Girl who last month, at the age of 34 -- after doing dinner theater for eight years, then scuffling for several years in Hollywood -- found herself on the cover of Vanity Fair, looking all Rita Hayworth. The sexually charismatic come-hither look was an outlier, though, for the appeal of Amy Adams is about something much more innocent and pure.

If she is, in fact, America's beloved new sweetheart -- and she seems to have ascended to the position while Jennifer Aniston was off brooding about Brad, and Julia Roberts was off being semi-retired on some New Mexico ranch -- it's because Adams is probably the most incessantly and infectiously cheerful actress in the business. That, and she's beatific, like Ingrid Bergman, and has the endearing, goofy charm of Meg Ryan, both on- and off-screen. "I laugh a lot and tend to be really silly," Adams says.

She's a sunny delight, an open-hearted Good Girl who tends to play the part on-screen, whether it's Princess Giselle in "Enchanted," a ditsy, braces-wearing nurse in "Catch Me if You Can," a perky congressional aide in "Charlie Wilson's War," or an effervescent, super-pregnant chatterbox in the indie comedy "Junebug," a role for which Adams received an Oscar nomination. "I call them my lovely girls," she says.

Adams plays another lovely girl -- a lovely nun, actually -- in "Doubt," the adaptation of John Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play. Set in 1964, it's about a severe, cynical Catholic-school principal, Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), who is convinced that the charismatic priest, Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman), has sexually abused the first black student to enroll at the Bronx school. As Sister James, Adams plays an ingenue who believes in the goodness of humanity but gets caught in the crossfire of Sister Aloysius's crusade against Father Flynn.

"Amy's inherently bright and cheerful, which makes her extremely right for the role," says "Doubt" writer-director Shanley. "Movie stars have a story that's larger than any story that they're in; it goes on. Amy's story is that she knows that the world is good, and the people around her don't, whether it's in 'Enchanted' or 'Junebug' or 'Doubt.' She brings that intelligent innocence to each of these parts and is able to gradually bring people into her worldview, through the power of her knowledge of goodness."

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