One of the most accomplished and versatile actresses in Hollywood today, Amy Adams, who’s 44, has been nominated for nine Golden Globes, in both the lead and supporting categories and won two. Working at the peak of her abilities, this season she is a double Golden Globe nominee in two separate categories.
In the political satire Vice, writer-director Adam McKay conceived of Lynne Cheney as the driving force behind her husband’s ascent to vice president: “She’s much more than the typical political wife and cheerleader, intelligent and strategic, living her ambitions through her husband and eventually achieving her own significant accomplishments.” However, even before McKay sent her the script, Adams relished the opportunity to again work with Christian Bale, with whom she co-starred in two Globe nominated roles (The Fighter, American Hustle). But despite the strong material, she felt daunted by the challenge. “It wasn’t merely that I’d be playing Lynne from ages twenty to seventy, but that I needed to create empathy for the character’s laser focus and driving ambition.”
In her thorough preparation for the role, Adams read Ms. Cheney’s books on the Constitution and her memoir, watching numerous interviews. Adams found a personal way into the character. “Lynne reminded me of my grandma who grew up in Provo, Utah, an agricultural town, not so different from Casper, Wyoming, where the Cheneys lived. She was not on the surface a warm person. But she was a survivor and I understood the instinct of survival of Lynne, who had been raised without much opportunity. Through her writing, I came to respect her intellect and how she became a self-made woman. She achieved everything she went after, while at the same time, standing beside this man whom she helped ascend to power. I just liked her chutzpah.”
What impressed the actress most about McKay’s writing is its unpredictability. “The unexpected is Adam’s signature. There's so much surprise in what he does, unique filmmaking techniques. He's fearless, I came to trust his instincts. He created this freedom for us to be bold.”
The Cheney family dynamic is a significant part of McKay’s story and how it diverged and intersected with their political ambitions. “Lynne and Dick were partners, and as is true in successful relationships, they respected one another’s opinions,” she says. “Especially when you're in a town like D.C. with so much power and scrutiny, you have to create a solid front with your partner.” Adams’ insight into Lynne’s quest for power was based on the issue of control. She contends: “It wasn’t simply power for power’s sake. If you’re not in control that means someone else is. It was about controlling your own destiny. Also, Lynne had ideals. She loved America, and that’s the point of view through which I approached her.”
But it was the personal moments between the Cheneys that resonated the most: “The intimacy between Lynne and her husband is something I identified with. The goals they set as a couple were one thing, but they were also living their lives, as a married couple, as parents. The power dynamic ebbed and flowed.”
A Shakespearean bedroom scene between Lynne and Dick, which could have been inspired by Macbeth, was her favorite sequence. During Cheney’s ascent, he tables his ambition in order to protect his daughter Mary (Alison Pill), who has recently come out as a lesbian. But later, when Cheney’s daughter Liz (Lily Rabe) is running for office, the family circle is broken. With the support of her parents, Liz is against gay marriage. “When they saw his new opportunity for power, it was incredibly enticing and dangerous,” says Adams. “It’s that danger that had Shakespearean elements. What would they do with the opportunity? What would be the consequences? Many of the decisions we make have far-reaching consequences, and I think that’s what the film shows us.”
Despite disagreeing with Lynne’s political views, Adams imbues the part with empathy and humanness. With commendable skills, she shows that the best partnership between husband and wife is the one in which you spur each other to be your best self. Says Adams: “It was a true partnership – Lynne was not just a figure in the background. Her hold on Dick’s emotional life is so powerful that at times you feel she’s driving the story. She makes us believe how deeply she loved her husband, their shared idea of what they stood for, and how they wanted to project themselves.”
Adams returned to television with Sharp Objects, HBO’s miniseries based on Gillian Flynn’s novel. Also serving as exec-producer, she starred as Camille Preaker, a self-harming reporter who returns to her hometown to cover the murder of two young girls. For the part, Adams gained weight and went through hours of prosthetic makeup to create her character's scarred body. She read A Bright Red Scream to learn about self-mutilation and researched the psychological conditions of Munchausen syndrome by proxy. The dysfunctional part was so demanding that she found it difficult to distance herself from it and suffered from insomnia.
Next year promises to be just as rewarding. Adams will star as an agoraphobic woman who witnesses a murder in Joe Wright’s The Woman in the Window, based on the mystery novel of the same title. And she will reprise the role of Giselle in Disenchanted, a sequel to the smash hit, Enchanted.