Amy Adams on body image, the gender pay gap and playing a woman with no vanity in Arrival

I didn’t have to play
 younger, I didn’t have to
 play coy, or try to attract or
 distract someone. I wasn’t
 trying to explore a love interest. 
It’s unusual”


The reason for my meeting with the five-times Oscar-nominated Amy Adams is to chat about her new film, Arrival, in which she plays a professor of linguistics hired by the military to decode alien communications.


It’s a strong, intelligent lead role for a woman, so I’m embarrassed to confess that our conversation begins with her gravity-defying breasts. The actress is wearing the same plunging neckline that defined her role in American Hustle and I can’t resist asking if she worries about wardrobe malfunctions?

She laughs. It’s a damp, autumnal London day and Adams says she is more worried about getting cold than exposing her breasts. “I think it comes from being a dancer for so many years. I’m not self-conscious about my body but maybe I should be. My daughter got upset by my chest-baring in American Hustle.” But it didn’t stop her from turning up to the London premiere of Arrival in a diaphanous white robe with a neckline to the waist.

In sharp contrast, her character in Arrival is make-up free and wears nothing but plain T-shirts and combat trousers. “It was great just rolling out of bed and going to work, not having to worry about hair and make-up. It’s refreshing to play a character with no vanity. I have always felt an expectation
 to look my best. I often play characters who are younger
 than me so I worry about
 that. But with this role 
I didn’t have to play
 younger, I didn’t have to
 play coy, or try to attract or
 distract someone. I wasn’t
 trying to explore a love interest. 
It’s unusual.”



Arrival plays to one of our greatest fears, the threat of planetary extinction, but does so without resorting to the action-packed hysteria of most Hollywood films. Jeremy Renner plays a supporting role as the mathematician on the team. His credits include The Hurt Locker, The Bourne Legacy and the Avengers films, and he was keen to work with Adams again after they met on American Hustle.

It would be interesting to know how his fee for this role compares to hers.

It emerged via the hacking of Sony emails in 2014 that Adams and Jennifer Lawrence were paid less for American Hustle than their male co-stars. Renner, Bradley Cooper and Christian Bale all received a greater share of the film’s profits. Lawrence was furious and hit back with a scathing essay online about sexism in the film industry. Adams kept silent.

“I’m happy speaking up on behalf of women in general, but I’m not great at speaking up on behalf of myself. I don’t feel bad for me. I knew when I accepted the job. I’m not sure Jennifer did…” Her voice tails off and for the first time in our interview she looks awkward, and then adds, “Let’s get our teachers paid, let’s find a liveable wage for teachers. The principle is about the way women are treated – once we think women are worth less, then it’s easy to treat them less well.”


American Hustle

Switching back to Arrival, Adams is the only significant female character in it – how did that feel, being the only woman in a male world? She smiles. “It feels like most films I do, unfortunately. I have had the pleasure of working with other actresses but it’s not the norm.”

She spent last summer in London with her husband, Darren Le Gallo, and their six-year-old daughter, Aviana, while filming superhero blockbuster Justice League, in which Adams reprises the role of Lois Lane from Man of Steel and Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. “We lived in Primrose Hill, which was lovely, very close to Regent’s Park. So we took my daughter there, had picnics and threw frisbees. It was a perfect summer.”

I confess to seeing pictures of her on Mail Online enjoying a pint of Guinness in a local pub and snogging Le Gallo. Did she get annoyed by the tabloid attention?

“No, they didn’t bother me at all. I’m not going to complain about being caught making-out with my husband – that makes me the perfect wife. And I’m a dark beer girl, so what?”

Her husband is an artist as well as an actor, which was good preparation for her other big film released earlier this month, Tom Ford’s thriller Nocturnal Animals, in which she plays the owner of an LA art gallery.

Ambitions for the future include doing a stage musical – Adams spent eight years as a dancer and chorus girl touring small American theatres with Broadway musicals. She’d also like to do more TV work and in March starts shooting a new HBO drama called Sharp Objects.

The series is based on the novel by Gone Girl author Gillian Flynn, and Adams will not only play the lead but also acts as an executive producer. “I asked them to bring me into the fold so I could learn the production side of things. I haven’t done TV in a while because I kept getting fired.” She says this in a jokey way but then tells me how she got fired from the drama Dr Vegas in which she played nurse to Rob Lowe’s doctor.

“I was told they were ‘taking it in a different direction’, but Rob wrote a book recently in which he talks about the producers saying, ‘We don’t think Amy Adams is sexy.’ I didn’t see my character as sexy. I saw her as a really smart nurse who was Lowe’s equal.”

I point out that she is unlikely to face similar issues as a producer on her new series. “I think TV has changed in the past decade. There are many more great roles for women now. Women are watching a lot of TV so content is being made for them and I want to be part of that.”


Arrival hits UK cinemas today, Thursday 10 November