Amy Adams doesn't believe in the "big break," but that's what others are saying about her exuberant performance in the new film Junebug, in which she plays Ashley, a very pregnant Southern gal who initially comes off as naïve and annoyingly perky, but who earns the audience's respect, admiration, and sympathy over the course of the story. Ashley's joy for life is infectious, but the loneliness and
sorrow beneath her sunny surface will break your heart. Adams was awarded a Sundance Film Festival prize for her acting—a trophy she felt strange winning, partly because she had never won anything before, and partly because she feels her work in the film is based on the strength of its ensemble cast, which included Celia Weston, Alessandro Nivola, Embeth Davidtz, and Scott Wilson.
"It was surreal," she recalls of learning she'd won the Sundance honor. "I've never won anything performance-based. For me, winning is getting a job."
The challenge in portraying Ashley, says Adams, was "to make her fun, and to create a character without creating a caricature, and to keep her grounded." She continues, "There were so many challenges: to capture her spirit, to capture her thought process and have that register, because you almost see it on her face. She doesn't have a lot of inner monologue; everything is shown. You know what she's feeling; you know what she's thinking. So I really had to just let go and sort of let things flow through me, and a lot of times as actors we're so tempted to control it, and manipulate it, and kind of massage it into something. That works for so many roles, but with Ashley, I couldn't do that. I had to just let her come in, and let it go out, and keep her open."
Adams knew this was a character rich with possibility when she first read the script. "I had only gotten the script on a Friday, and the audition was on a Saturday, and it was a lot of material they wanted, because Ashley talks—a lot. So it was a lot of material to memorize…. I knew that there was so much more to be done than I could do overnight [preparing for the audition]," she says, adding with a laugh, "I sometimes think that if I can do the work overnight, I'm not sure I should be doing the role."
The role of Ashley was an opportunity for Adams to show a side of herself she hadn't revealed in her previous work, which most notably includes Catch Me If You Can, in which she plays Leonardo DiCaprio's adoring fiancée, Brenda. "Here it was supposed to be my big break," she says of Catch Me. "And I was unemployed for a year after that. So it's not always what it appears. Looking in, you're, like, 'She's worked with Spielberg,' but I'm, like,
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