You may have seen her on the silver screen twirling around as a Disney princess, kicking butt as a tough love babe from Lowell, or sparking controversy as a naïve nun. Or perhaps you were dazzled as she danced with Muppets, blogged as a young cook, and smiled, googly eyed, at Leonardo DiCaprio with her mouth full of braces. At the heart of each of these vastly differing characters she remains Amy Adams, a four-time Academy Award nominee and this year's recipient of SBIFF's Cinema Vanguard Award.
The Cinema Vanguard Award was created to recognize an actor who, through original style and risk taking, has carved their own path in film, making along the way a unique contribution to the cinematic arts. Past recipients like Nicole Kidman, Christoph Waltz, and Ryan Gosling have held the bar high, and Amy Adams' versatile repertoire surely meets their mark. The actress's twelve-year career has seen the mastering of characters of all varieties as she consistently displays excellence. As SBIFF President, Doug Stone, stated in his opening remark, "Amy Adams is a chameleon on the screen." She has the powerful ability to adapt to roles of all variety with a compelling presence that leaves viewers enthralled. Moderator of the evening, Pete Hammond (himself a five-time Emmy nominee and longtime friend to the festival), praised Adams' talents, which have earned her those four Best Supporting Actress nominations over the course of just seven years. "One year she makes a movie, the next year she gets nominated." Sounds easy?
Adams began the night's ceremony depicting her early life and how dance had a significant impact on her career development. She grew up observing her father, who was a singer, and found inspiration through him. "I wasn't quite Glee, but I really liked choir," she recalled. She always enjoyed performing (though she suffers from intense stage fright), particularly ballet, which led her to believe she wanted to pursue musical theater in New York. When she began acting, she had to work consciously at performing without always dancing, which was her natural instinct. "I still have to try not to fleet about [on set]. I try to wear heavy shoes," she laughed. Nevertheless, it was her dancing talent that helped land her first acting role in 1999 in Drop Dead Gorgeous.
Adams' tone grew serious as she addressed a pivotal moment in her career. At the turn of the century, she was unsure of her work as an actress and didn't feel like there was a life for her in Hollywood. When tragedies on September 11th struck, she decided to "quit acting and do something important." Luckily, for future fans, she recanted when someone told her, "you have to do what you love. That is what's important." Alas, this proved to be true as her role in the 2005 film Junebug was so compelling that it had life-changing effects on viewers. In this heartfelt film Adams plays the role of Ashley, a vivid, young soon-to-be mother who loses her child. Intense, emotional clips from the film were shown on stage and tears streaked down Adams; face as she revealed how personal this film is to her. "So many women have come up to me and shared their stories with me about losing children. I've had a child since [making the film] and can't imagine going through that…" Ashley really spoke words for what they felt. Her entrancing role in the film not only touched viewers but also propelled her career forward as Adams earned her first Academy Award and SAG nominations on top of countless other awards for her sincere performance.
Tissues came and went, and the whole theater lightened as Adams moved on to discuss some of her other widely successful films like Enchanted, Doubt, The Fighter, and most recently released, The Master. Her astounding performance in the latter is what garnered her recognition at this year's SBIFF. She touched on the honor of working with talented actors such as Meryl Streep, Clint Eastwood, Joaquin Phoenix, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and, now close friend, Emily Blunt. She described "miracle worker" Streep as, "the place where champagne bubbles take off," and of Phoenix (also present somewhere in the theater), she claimed to see "something in his soul that I loved." She also expressed the honor that she felt working with director Paul Thomas Anderson on The Master, revealing that he was at the top of her ideal "list of people to work with" that she assembled at the start of her career. She described collaborating with other actors to create truthful, dramatic art in what she believed to be the most striking aspect of filmmaking. "Having an intimate connection with someone you're not intimate with… that's a beautiful thing." The audience cooed and Adams giggled, admitting that she probably couldn't repeat her thoughts so elegantly again so "hopefully someone wrote that down."
The Master's director presented Adams with her Award and expressed gratitude for the "long and slow ascent [leading] to this point in her career… She has been around, it's just taken us time to realize how wonderful she is." He went on to admire the timelessness that surrounds her presence. "She has an extra few watts per cubic inch, and light does something different when it bounces off of her skin." This praise caused Adams to blush fiercely through the timid demeanor that she displayed all evening. It was truly amazing to fathom that this quiet, tame, stage-fright-stricken red head is the same sexy bombshell, singing princess, and dancing diva that we all love and fell captive to in theaters. A chameleon on screen she certainly is, though this night she consistently remained a shy yet grateful artist. Upon grasping her award she faced the audience and forcefully declared, "I am a fearful person. Being brave doesn't mean you don't have fears. It means you work through your fears. That takes having a person behind or beside you to work through that." To that she embraced her inspiration, director, and now friend, Anderson, who clearly contributed greatly to her work. The pair beamed proudly as cameras flashed and the theatre filled with applause. Adams then quietly danced off stage, humbled, inspired, and truly enchanted.