In Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day, based on the 1938 novel by Winifred Watson, Adams plays another delightful character, Delysia Lafosse, an overly dramatic actress living in England pre-WWII and juggling men that might help her career including a club owner and a young theater producer. Pace plays Delysia’s piano accompanist Mike, a man of limited means who knows and loves Delysia more than the men she throws herself at. Along comes Frances McDormand as Miss Pettigrew, an impoverished governess who Delysia hires as her personal assistant to help keep her life and relationships in order, and you have the makings of a fun and whimsical romantic comedy like they used to make during the era.
The day ComingSoon.net talked to Adams, she bopped cheerfully into the room and started talking rapidly with another journalist from Atlanta, where her family now lives, before getting down to some questions about her new movie and career.
ComingSoon.net: Obviously, you don’t have to fake the energy it takes to do this role.
Amy Adams: I’m a little bit older, so there’s some pushing at times.
CS: How do you keep the energy level up for this role, because she doesn’t stop.
Adams: No, she really doesn’t. You just do it. You know, I enjoy it, and I played depressed characters, and there’s a benefit to that, but I have to tell you, this is much more infectious in your life. You go home with energy, you go home with more spirit. I get something from my characters as well, even though I’m putting a lot in. I get something from them as well, and she gave me a different perspective on myself.
CS: Is that something you look at when deciding what roles to take, whether you can get something from the character?
Adams: Not intentionally. I’m sure somewhere in the back of my brain, that’s why I’m responding. It’s because, oh, I’m feeling something when I’m reading this, whether it’s joy or some sort of simpatico relationship, something, I’m feeling something, and that’s usually how I choose it. What do I feel when I read that and is that something I want to explore, something I can relate with?
CS: How did you develop all of the physicality and pacing for this character?
Adams: I think the physicality, as far as being a dancer, that’s how I always approach roles. I first figure out how do they feel. It’s all very tactile and kinetic, and what does it feel like to be this person? So also being a huge fan of old movies and having watched a lot, you know it’s coming from stage, the older films are much more closely related to stage, those performances. It was something I really wanted to accomplish, that style of acting, so it was very intentional and Frances, once I saw what she was doing with Guinevere that really opened up all sorts of roads for me and a lot of permission to go there, ’cause she was being so physical. We understood that this was such a physical movie, and you sort of want people to get caught up in the whirlwind of this day, and in Delysia’s world, which is just moment to moment to moment, and it’s just endless. I was very tired.
CS: Could you identify with Delysia’s ambition and drive to become a star in show business?
Adams: I mean, to a certain degree. I can understand her reasons for wanting it and I don’t even know if she wants to be a star. I really had to consider that. What she wants is security. She wants stability, and that I definitely can relate to, that feeling of wanting some sort of certainty and some sort of control over your own destiny.
CS: The early scenes between you and Frances are so fast-paced and the dialogue is so rapid. Can you talk about shooting those scenes and did they involve a lot of rehearsal?
Adams: We did not have a ton of rehearsal time, so it was such a relief at the table read and in the time we did have to rehearse, to find out we were really on the same page about the pace of this, the energy, the tone, so there was never really that debate. There was never a tonal debate or a pacing debate. It was like almost too easy, you know what I mean? It wasn’t, but what was important for Frances and I was to create a relationship between these two women and to understand how they would be friends and what they had in common. They are really similar as far as their struggle for survival. They just manifest it.
CS: Did you still have to hit a lot of marks while doing all that dialogue? It must have been hard to shoot those scenes.
Adams: Oh, my gosh!! Yeah, it was very technical, but I don’t know why it did not seem hard. I don’t know if it’s because I worked on stage. It didn’t seem difficult, but also, the director created such a permissive environment, so there was no wrong idea. So you got to try a lot of different things and then everyone said, “Okay, this feels really good, this works,” and everything moved very quickly. It was such a blur really, ’cause it is so fast.
CS: The film is so choreographed and staged like a play, so did it require having a choreographer to get the timing of the movements in those scenes?
Adams: We had a choreographer who worked with the dance numbers, but as far as the blocking, that was very much… Frances has really great instincts about that and the director had great instincts about that. Just to speak on the director again, I was so impressed at how he was able to tell a film from a female point of view. You would not necessarily think that that was directed by a man. I was so impressed with his understanding of the female point of view of this film, but he completely understood it. He was on board, and also we would spend time on the blocking before we would shoot the scene, so we would always do it in a very traditional way. We would walk in, and we’d spend sometimes an hour blocking the scene before we shot it, because we’re working in that apartment, just the scope of it.
CS: You and Frances are quite the Dynamic Duo, and I’d like to see you two do other movies together.
Adams: I would love to do like a whole series of movies? “Delysia and Guinevere!” (laughter) I love it! Let’s do it!
CS: What was the experience like for a young actress to get to work with her?
Adams: She’s amazing! You really can learn so much, and I’ve been thankful that I have the kind of personality that’s not too proud, so I go in there going, “I know that you know more than I do, and I want to learn from you.” What else that she had?and a lot of people have in the position that she’s in and I think it’s really good to know this?is that the sense of professionalism? they’re on time, they’re the first person on set, but there’s no ego involved, and they’re there for the work. They’re 100% there. When I’m working with someone, I always want to be the first person on set, I don’t want to keep anyone waiting. I have a lot of respect for them and I think they deserve for me to be respectful. But I could never beat Frances to the set! “I’m leaving right when they ask me, so how is it that you continue to beat me to set?” And she just looked at me and said, “I never leave.” (laughter) A revelation! “You never leave.” And so of course, I could never leave the set! “She doesn’t leave, I can’t leave.” (laughter) She just creates this wonderful environment, and she’s funny and free and open. The talent is unquestionable. I mean, I can go on and on about that, but the things that I take aware are the professionalism and the joy of the craft still, and that’s what I hope is that genuine joy. She’s just a genuine person.
CS: Can you talk about working with Lee? He spoke very highly of you.
Adams: Yes, he’s very charming. Didn’t you find, ladies? He’s a bit like? I don’t blush often, and I was like Phew! (pretends to fan herself) I think it’s that old Hollywood thing he has, and he’s so tall, and as an actor, I think the moment that stands out for me. I think it was even before we started, and this how we knew that were going to have a really great experience. We recorded the song at Abbey Road Studios? did he tell you that we got to see each other? I told him that story at lunch, so he stole that from me. (laughter) But that’s the thing, I knew when we were looking at each other and singing that song, I was thinking, “Oh, yeah, this is going to be fun.” He’s really good, a very good actor, and I just immediately felt that relationship between Michael and Delysia, and that he was the person who made her knees weak, who made her feel the most whole, the most genuine. He knew her as Sarah Grubb, and I knew that Lee got that.
CS: He said that all he had to do was fall in love with you.
Adams: (pause) And did he? (laughter) Sorry, that’s the Delysia coming out of me. I’m a little boy crazy.
CS: Of her three relationships, we see the least of her time with Nick, her boss at the club, who she also lives with, so why is she interested in him? Just to help her career?
Adams: He’s kind of brutal, and she kind of likes that. What I love about her is that her whole world is a stage, and every day is a performance, and with him, it’s that (gets into the character a little) violent, passionate relationship, he just overpowers her and she can play the damsel in distress and manipulate him with her feminine wiles and her ways. As much as it hurts her, I do think she really enjoys some part of playing all those roles with all of those men.
CS: It’s all a part of her being on stage at all times?
Adams: Yeah, and I think there’s deeper reasons for that, and that’s explained a little bit in the film when you get to know her, and you see glimpses of what’s really happening and why she’s doing what she’s doing. But she’s the kind of person that once she decides to do something, she’s going to do it full out.
CS: Miss Pettigrew fixes a lot of things in Delysia’s life. What would Miss Pettigrew fix in your life? Do you have multiple men and money troubles, too?
Adams: No, I’m such a practical person, for the most part. Maybe she can clean my closet out, because I’m messy, but I think what would be nice if I had somebody who could come in and? for me, I just sit and nitpick and worry about little things. We can all I’m sure relate. You get a bedset at Bed Bath & Beyond and then you wake up in the middle of the night thinking, “I should have gotten a patterned one.” (laughter) Like for an hour! Like debating patterned sheets, and thinking, “Well maybe if I? ” and if somebody could just make me stop doing that, I think I could accomplish a lot more in my life. Do you guys have that? Do you know what I mean? It would be so great. What would my mind be capable of if I just wasn’t thinking about? throw blankets!
CS: How does it feel now that you’ve kind of made it?
Adams: Well, I think as Delysia would have learned, there’s no such thing as security. Like truly, your mind would find something else to worry about (laughs)? and also, I think sometimes when you get what you want, you realize what you wanted isn’t what you needed, and I think that’s what Miss Pettigrew shows her. I’ve talked about it before, but I always consider, “Is this really making me happy?” and I don’t think any one thing can make us happy. Singularly focusing on career can’t make us happy, so what I’m trying to do is achieve balance in my life, and I’m doing a pretty good job. I fall short at times.
CS: You helped launch one of Disney’s bigger hits last year, in between their two big sequels, so have they approached you about appearing in a sequel to “Enchanted” yet?
Adams: Not yet. I think we will see. I was told yesterday that the director said that “Yes, there is going to be a sequel” but I have not heard that. I’m the kind of person that until ink is dry and it’s posted on a banner saying “Hear ye, hear ye” I don’t ever (believe it).
CS: Can you talk about how you got your big break and got to this point?
Adams: How long do we have? (laughter) Have you seen that thing on VH-1, I’ve only seen it a couple of times, where it’s a sixty-second biography? That would be fun to make one of those? about somebody else. Well, I moved to Colorado and started working in dinner theater, I was a dancer so we’d do musicals, and then from there, I moved to Minnesota where I was cast in “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and that gave me to the chutzpah to move to Los Angeles, and then from there I’ve been doing everything from dayplayer roles now to Delysia.
CS: Is singing at the Oscars your first live performance in some time?
Adams: I haven’t done it recently enough to feel comfortable doing it, but it’ll be a fun challenge. You gotta do things that scare you and that are outside your comfort zone, and that’s definitely outside my comfort zone, but I’m going to have fun no matter what.
CS: How was it to do the cover of “Vanity Fair”?
Adams: Yes, it was so much fun. Well, I’ve always loved Annie Liebowitz, and as long as they’ve had that Hollywood cover, for me, that’s always been, “Oh, that would be so much fun.” It was, and I was really happy. I have so much respect for all the girls I was on there with, and Emily Blunt and I worked on a film together, so she’s like a sister to me, so that was really special, to get to do that with her. I think the world of the other two girls as well, and it was a really fun shoot.
CS: And you’re doing “Julie and Julia” with Meryl Streep next. How’s it been working with her?
Adams: It’s amazing. I’ve been really fortunate and at one point in my life, I really wanted female mentors, and working with Frances and working by Meryl, just following by example, I just feel like I’ve gotten that wish. It’s based on a book called “Julie and Julia” written by Julie Powell, a woman who blogged her way through Julia Childs’ cookbook “Mastering the Art of French Cooking”, all the recipes in one year and blogged about it online. I’m excited to tackle that, but we do not have scenes together.
CS: Has there been any downside for you in terms of success you’ve had in the last few years?
Adams: I’m really homesick, but you know, I’m trying to make the most of it. You never know how long of a run you get, so I’m really trying to make the most of it, and I really love working.
CS: Do you have to deal with paparazzi and all that?
Adams: I don’t deal with it, very rarely. If you go to an event, there’s usually some, but I don’t go to that many events and they don’t follow me home, they don’t follow me out to dinner, they don’t follow me walking down the street, thank goodness, because I walk my dog down the street in my PJ’s. Now they will! Because I have a puppy that if you don’t take her out first thing in the morning, and I mean first thing in the morning, you’re picking up stuff in the house. (laughter)
Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day opens nationwideon Friday, March 7.