Interview with Enchanted's Amy Adams
by Alex Billington
November 25, 2007
She's that charming red head you've seen in everything from Drop Dead Gorgeous to Catch Me If You Can to Junebug to Talladega Nights and now Enchanted. In Disney's Enchanted, Amy Adams plays a princess named Giselle who accidentally ends up in the real world, and her comical ignorance and her character's warmth are what make the performance one of the best of year. Amy Adams' career has really blown up recently, being nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress in Junebug and onto this big mainstream role. She's certainly capable of carrying a movie on her own, as is obvious in Enchanted, and she's also just as charming in person as she is on screen! If you've seen Enchanted by now and are curious to learn more, then you'll want to read our interview with Amy Adams on everything from singing to the white wedding dress to James Marsden and more.
How did you get comfortable with the character Giselle and know who she was?
Amy: Well, when I first read the script, I felt like I knew who she was and I felt that it was something I understood, oddly enough. I think that I've always been attracted to characters who are positive and who come from a very innocent place. I think there's a lot of room for discovery in those characters and that's something I always have fun playing with. And I didn't treat it like it was a joke. I treated it like it was Chekov and maybe they sensed my sincerity.
What were the challenges of shooting out of continuity and finding your place?
Amy: It's always challenging when you're shooting a film. Shooting things out of order and keeping continuity on all levels is always for me the most challenging thing. In this character in particular, we paid really close attention to how her emotions tracked and her different levels of vulnerability and her physicality was something we tracked very closely.
Did you watch every Disney animated film since 1937?
Amy: Well, I wish I could say that I spent hours in front of them but the truth is that I had done so much of that in my childhood and my teenage years that I already knew them so well. There was no need to study. So if anything, I kind of tried to avoid them because I didn't want to do an imitation of one of the previous princesses. I wanted to create a new character. [Director Kevin Lima] had done such a wonderful job. He did art and he had it all along the walls of Disney. He had us come in and prerecord our voices so that he could storyboard out the whole film. So for each scene, I knew exactly what he was looking for in the physical nature of the character and the emotional nature of the character, and what shots he intended to use. It was really helpful for me.
What did you think of the cartoon version of yourself?
Amy: I was flattered. I was a little intimidated, because her waist is a lot smaller than mine so I thought there'd be no late night Mexican food binges while shooting this. But I thought they did a really good job at capturing some of my quirks and my movements. I run pigeon toed and she does, too. Sometimes you get self-conscious because you know they're looking for what will define this character. I just think they're so wonderful. Like I said, I grew up watching those films and James Baxter's animation, so it was a huge compliment to me to be animated by him.
Did you perform for the traditional animators?
Amy: We did, we actually recorded the scene of me arriving to the wedding. We treated it as though we were shooting a film and recorded that scene so that they would have it for reference for the animation.
What was the biggest challenge? The rain or the big white wedding dress?
Amy: I think it's a toss up. Any scene where I had the white dress was grueling. It weighed about 45 pounds and the entire weight was on my hips so occasionally it felt like I was in contraction. But also doing the last sequences with the dragon, it initially was a much longer sequence, which I guess terrified the kids too much, so I spent a lot of time wet in the rain in a harness hanging off the sword trying to climb. I did not look very graceful so that was somewhat grueling but it was also fun and challenging.
Was the best experience in Central Park?
Amy: Yeah, I recommend to all of you to go sing - you might not get the same results as Giselle but there's something so freeing about it, really. No, that scene was just exhilarating. I think when we come around the Bethesda Fountain, I remember arriving on that day and just really remembering my first time visiting New York and seeing the Bethesda Fountain and to realize that I'd now be doing a musical around it which for me is fantastic. I just really had a really wonderful time.
What could you not do in the big white dress?
Amy: I know what you're getting at and I'm not going to say it. I'm a lady.
No, no, could you even sit down?
Amy: You know, to allow me to sit down, they had to get these big sort of crash mats, is what they're called, these big blankets, and they laid them out in the middle of the street. I would basically fill up the whole street and I would lie back. I often played-- I acted weird. I would lay back and then sit up as though I was rising from the dead. It was fun.
Was it challenging to find the right balance in the character?
Amy: It was. That was one of the things that interested me about taking this role was that challenge of making her fun and coming from the animated world so that you would believe that, but also that she was grounded and human and based in enough emotion that she would resonate. That was a really big challenge and something that I was very conscious of.
How do you follow up this gig? Is it hard to find something as challenging?
Amy: I think every role is challenging in its own way. I've already done a couple of movies since then and they've had their own challenges and wonderful moments. I'm getting ready to go work on a film called Doubt. That's a challenge in itself, acting opposite the great Meryl Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
How different is it to the play?
Amy: I'm not sure. I'll see. I hate to make definite statements before we've begun rehearsals.
What are the other films?
Amy: I did Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day with Frances McDormand where I play a 1930's cabaret singer. A very ambitious girl who Frances McDormand's character sort of, we meet each other and have this fantastic day together. And then I did Charlie Wilson's War which is being released [in December]. A couple of "little actors." I play a congressional administrative assistant to Tom Hanks' character, so she's sort of His Gal Friday.
How fun was that?
Amy: It was so much fun. Just to be on that set and learn from these people and get to watch Philip Seymour Hoffman and Tom Hanks do these amazing scenes together, directed by Mike Nichols, it was like going to school.
Did you work much with Julia Roberts?
Amy: We had a scene together. One very fun scene.
Are you prepared for this movie to catapult you to a different level?
Amy: I haven't thought about it.
You should start!
Amy: You know, what can you do about it? I honestly have had so many - I've been nominated for an Oscar and still managed to live in relative anonymity and did Catch Me If You Can. I guess I'll have to deal with it all as it comes.
Did Junebug's Oscar nomination open a lot of doors for you?
Amy: I don't know if it's the nomination or the attention that it brought to Junebug, but it also I think brought people's attention to my previous work. I went a long time without people making the connection to all my different films and all my different acting things so I think it's the firs time where I was really identified. I think it absolutely has brought amazing opportunities and introduced me to so many people and it was just a really wonderful experience.
How does it feel to have a doll of yourself?
Amy: It's pretty surreal. My mom called yesterday morning and was like, "I keep looking at that box and that picture looks like I dressed you up for Halloween as a princess." Leave it to your mom to put it in perspective. "It's just so unreal."
Is she still at the coffee shop?
Amy: No, she's not. She's not working at Starbucks anymore.
How do you stay grounded at this point?
Amy: Yeah, I feel - I'm so busy. I also just surround myself with people who are pretty honest with me. I'd like to believe they're honest with me. They're not afraid to tell me no and that to me is the most important thing, or to let me know when I've stepped out of line and I have a really great support group. I think that's the key.
Who's your favorite Disney princess?
Amy: I like Cinderella. She had a good work ethic, you know.
Are you signed for a sequel?
Amy: I believe that's in the contract.
Have they talked to you about one yet?
Amy: No, they haven't really pitched any ideas to me. I kind of don't want to speculate yet. Unless they're really interested in me coming into a creative meeting which we'll see, but I would rather enjoy this process right now rather than think about that.
How was it working with Alan Menken on the song and was there an additional song that got cut?
Amy: No, all of the songs that I worked on are in the film. I was terrified. I was so scared. I don't know, not scared, I think I just was so anxious, I really wanted to do a good job. I grew up listening to Alan Menken's music like "A Part of Your World" [from Little Mermaid]. I tormented the high school with that song for years, so I really wanted to live up to that standard so I did do a lot of training on my voice. I've done musical theater prior but I've been more of a dancer so I wasn't considered a solo singer. I did work very hard and they ended up, I was afraid they were going to be such toughies, but they ended up being so gracious with [James Marsden] and I. I think they were just so thrilled that we actually sang. They were really supportive and really allowed us to feel as though we could succeed in doing this. I mean, I knew Jimmy could. He's flawless.
What was it like singing a duet with him?
Amy: It was great.
Did you know he sang when you first met?
Amy: I didn't, no, and then I heard his voice and I was like oh, I was a puddle. Any girl would be. He's just dreamy.
Do you have a favorite song?
Amy: Of my three songs? I think I like "That's How You Know." That was the hardest one for me to sing.
Do you have any musical aspirations outside of movies?
Amy: No, I won't be doing an album. I would love to do musicals. I'm realistic about where my voice sits and it doesn't sit in the pop world. I could try but it wouldn't do well.
How did you get the musical tone of the character right?
Amy: I did listen to a lot of Disney princesses because they wanted the first number to be reminiscent of a Snow White feel, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, softer, more lifting. And as she becomes more real, into the real world, we bring it up to a more current style with "That's How You Know" which is much more of a Broadway showstopper style of song. If you'll notice, the songs continue to progress throughout the film. It goes into "So Close" which is a lot more poppy and then we end up with Carrie Underwood's "Ever, Ever After" which is a country rock ballad. So the music continues to evolve and I did pay a lot of attention to that and that was part of what I trained to do was try to sing in that sort of operetta style, then also doing a more Broadway style.
Working with all the animals, how many were there and how many were CGI?
Amy: We had a whole room full of live rats and pigeons. Not all of them. You can't train them to scrub a toilet. I've tried. I would love if you could train animals to do the dirty work, but we did have live rats and pigeons and no cockroaches. I don't work with cockroaches.
Any bad moments during those days?
Amy: The pigeons were testy. They would start picking at each other. I think a couple of them were trying to meet some gals, if you know what I mean. There were a couple that were like these tough guys and you'd have to put them away because he would fluff up. There was this one and he was just [imitates bird call], you know that loud noise that they make? So, he had to go. He was too frisky.
Thanks to Amy Adams and everyone at Disney for the opportunity to interview the gorgeous and charming Ms. Adams about Enchanted, one of my favorite movies of the year. She's just such a wonderful actress and I can't help but smile and laugh and cry with every scene in Enchanted, all because of Amy Adams.