• Image about Amy Adams

How Amy Adams went from being a small-town girl to being one of the most sought-after starlets of her generation.

Her friends call her by her full name, Amy Lou, and there’s no other name more fitting for her. True, such a down-home name doesn’t, at first, seem to befit the blazing red-haired screen siren we know as Amy Adams (though, in the spirit of full disclosure, her hair is naturally blonde). It sounds more suitable for someone like the wide-eyed Southern-sweetheart character Adams played in the 2005 indie film Junebug than for the actress who played her on the big screen and was then nominated for an Academy Award for her honest portrayal. But underneath the blockbuster beauty, the accolades, and the fame, Adams is still Amy Lou, the sweet-natured, small-town girl with strong morals from Castle Rock, Colorado.

Adams grew up the middle child in a family of seven children. She and her siblings were raised Mormon until she was 12, at which point her parents divorced and the family left the church. Her father was a military man who moved with his family from base to base until they settled, at least long enough for Adams to graduate from high school, in Colorado. Her mother was an amateur bodybuilder who worked at a gym. Adams herself worked at the Gap and even did a short stint at Hooters. It was hardly glamorous.

Perhaps that modest upbringing is what has made Adams the notoriously hard worker she is today. Though she’s just coming off the success of her critically acclaimed and Oscar-nominated turn in Doubt, Adams hasn’t been happy to sit on her laurels and bathe in the attention. Rather, she has worked steadily for the past year. But she’s certainly not asking for praise or sympathy; she knows that a little elbow grease and a few late nights are necessary to get where she wants to go. She’s just grateful to have the opportunity to get there.

“I’m not the lone actor out there working hard,” she says. “I think that everyone who is successful -- actor or cab driver -- works hard. I’m not that special. But I do feel beyond fortunate to have a job to go to every day, especially one that I love. Even when I feel like I’m so tired I could pass out, I will myself to keep going. It builds my character, my substance, and, of course, my career.”

It also builds her reputation as a legitimate actress, rather than as an L.A. party girl, as many young starlets have been labeled. Actors she’s worked with regularly compliment her drive and dedication. Meryl Streep, who worked with Adams in Doubt and will star opposite her once again in this month’s Julie & Julia, recently told Vanity Fair that Adams is “the real thing.”

Even if she had the time, Adams simply has no interest in lunching at the Ivy or shopping at Kitson, where there would surely be a mob of paparazzi cameras in her face. She’d much rather be camped out on her sofa with her friends or her fiancé, Darren Le Gallo, whom she met in an acting class and has been with for more than six years. She’d rather tune in to American Idol, which she tries to make time for every Tuesday and Wednesday night. She even watched it while she was filming on location in Dublin, Ireland, this spring.