“I feel very normal, and I try to live as normal a life as possible,” she says. “I’m just so grateful for where I am today. I would never take that for granted.”
Where she is today is a pretty good place: two Oscar nominations under her belt, working with the cream of the Hollywood crop, and a slew of projects in the hopper. So, how did this self-proclaimed “normal” girl become one of the most promising rising stars in Hollywood? It all started with her father, who instilled in her an appreciation for music early on. He loved to sing, and in his spare time, he performed at various clubs and bars around town.
“I grew up around singing and dancing, which is why it’s my first real love,” Adams says. Though her parents split when she was still young, her father’s passion for music stuck with her. Adams sang in her school choir, and after graduating from high school, she got a part in a Colorado community-theater production of Annie. Though the gig was unpaid, she enjoyed it enough to consider making performing her full-time career.
“I always wanted to be a singer or a dancer,” she says. “It just seemed the natural fit for me. I absolutely loved performing.”
Still, Hollywood was the furthest place from her mind. At the time, her sights were set instead on Minnesota, where the director of the Chanhassen Dinner Theater had recruited Adams to come perform in a show and where she would unknowingly get that proverbial big break. While there, when Adams suffered a pulled muscle that kept her away from the stage, she decided to give screen acting a try by auditioning for the part of a ditzy cheerleader in a movie called Drop Dead Gorgeous, a dark comedy about Midwestern beauty queens that starred Kirsten Dunst and Kirstie Alley, which was filming in Minnesota. She got the part.
Alley took an interest in Adams on set and encouraged her to refocus her attention on acting. That gave Adams added incentive to move to Los Angeles to try her luck. She found steady work almost immediately, but that plum role that would launch her to superstardom was a little more elusive. Ever the perfectionist, Adams even enrolled herself in an acting class, which is where she met Le Gallo. “I struggled to make it an extremely long time,” she remembers.
After a few years, a few failed projects, and even a few choice parts that somehow still didn’t catapult her, Adams was nearing 30. She was almost ready to give up on acting when she nabbed the part of Ashley Johnsten in a teeny, tiny independent film called Junebug that had a budget of less than $1 million. It would become the role that would land her her first Oscar nod and solidify her position as one to watch.
The high-wattage projects started rolling in after that. She tried her hand at comedy in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby opposite Will Ferrell. Then came the chance to show off her singing and dancing prowess as the lead in the modern-day fairy tale Enchanted, which costarred Patrick Dempsey. That was followed immediately by a role in the Tom Hanks–Julia Roberts vehicle, Charlie Wilson’s War.
In 2007, when Adams was offered the part of good-hearted nun Sister James in Doubt, she was ecstatic. Not only did she love the layered script, which was based on a play written by John Patrick Shanley, but she also thought, How often does an actress get the chance to work with none other than screen legend and actor’s actor Meryl Streep?