At the peak of her career, Amy Adams is easily among the most accomplished actresses of her generation. She is also one of the busiest and most versatile performers working today. This year alone, she has appeared in three films that couldn’t be more different: As a linguist in the acclaimed sci-fi Arrival, as an unhappily married art gallery owner in Nocturnal Animals, and in the blockbuster Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice.
Within the past decade or so, Adams has been nominated for seven Golden Globe Awards, winning two consecutive Best Actress – Comedy or Musical Globes (American Hustle in 2014; Big Eyes in 2015). Last fall, Adams received two prestigious career tributes, at the Telluride Film Fest in the Fall, and last month at the Gotham Awards in New York.
Physically attractive, Adams exudes subtle authority and natural luminosity in every art she has played, which explains why she has become an iconic actress and the quintessential performer of her generation. Witness Arrival. There are many reasons to see the highly acclaimed sci-fi film, directed with great panache by Canadian born director Denis Villeneuve, but prime among them is Adams’ towering performance. Adams plays expert linguist Dr. Louise Banks, who must find a way to communicate with the mysterious multi-limbed creatures that arrive on giant oval spacecraft, causing the world to verge on global war
Villeneuve says that casting Adams was the easiest thing in his career: “Amy was the actress I was dreaming of for this part, because I knew that the audience would believe in this movie if the actress believed in it—everything is happening through her eyes.” As for Adams, she wasn’t planning on taking on any new projects but she couldn’t refuse the part: “It was the heart of the story. I didn’t know what I was going to do next, and it was at a time where I wanted to take a break and just be a mom for a while (Adams has a six year-old daughter). Then I read the script, which spoke to me really deeply in the core of who I am as a woman, and I felt that I really had to do it.”
“We meet this civilization, those beings coming out from outer space, through Amy’s eyes,” Villeneuve says. “I needed an actress that would be strong enough to make us believe that—someone with the vulnerability, sensitivity, strong intelligence and range to bring that onto screen. Her character is going through a very strange mourning process and there are a lot of different subtle layers of that mourning process. I needed a strong actress. Amy fell in love with the screenplay and got on board right away. I was so excited.”
“One of the questions I ask a director when they offer me something is: ‘Why do you want me to play this?,’” Adams says. “Denis told me: ‘I need to see what she’s thinking! And I can see what you are thinking when you act.’ It helped me know what Denis wanted from me.” Adams also notes that Denis “trusted the audience to go on this emotional journey, which is so beautiful.”
Issues of communication and emotion have dominated all discussions of this non-conventional, highly emotional film. The characters, both humans and aliens, need to communicate with each other despite the boundaries that are created by not actually understanding each other. For Adams, “one of the great things about the movie is the way they come together in a very key way that involves anxiety, anger, and fear.”
“Denis is another huge reason I was attracted to this,” says Adams. “The way he saw it was how I read it – he really wanted to tell it as an intimate story of this woman, it just happens to be placed in this amazing sci-fi universe. I knew Arrival would have a deep heart—and yet be visually interesting. He had such a wonderful way of describing to me what the aliens would look like and how the language would be expressed. Denis is a very special director and a very special man.”