Amy Adams has one of the widest ranges of any Hollywood actor. She can carry a hit fairy-tale romance like
, she can convince as a nun in
and a sexy con artist in
. Yet she has never won an Oscar - even if she's been nominated five times.
"You know, I don't worry about it," Adams, 42, admits, citing older deserving actresses like Annette Bening, Glenn Close and Michelle Pfeiffer, who've never won either. "I have this thing, and I try to focus on it for my daughter, that you don't chase what doesn't belong to you.
"It's like when I was a teenager and I wanted more than anything to be the beautiful American dancer with the long legs and big extension. I chased it and chased it - but it doesn't change anything. If it's not mine, I can't chase it. I can just continue to work and be grateful for what I do have."
Even so, in 2017 the odds are in her favour as Adams has delivered two strong lead performances, which again are vastly different. In
, the Spielberg-esque sci-fi drama that Denis Villeneuve directed before moving on to his remake of
, Adams plays Dr Louise Banks, a linguistics expert who devises a way to communicate with aliens; and in Tom Ford's second directing effort,
, she plays Susan Morrow, a driven gallery owner, much of whom the US fashion designer says he based on himself.
Adams is in with the big guns and that's not unusual. Yet a less prepossessed actress you will never meet. In our Venice Film Festival interview she realises she has to provide a lively follow-up to her gregarious and, at times, outrageous good friend and
co-star, Jeremy Renner, who has just left the room.
"Jeremy gets away with acting like that because he's Jeremy," Adams chortles.
You don't exactly figure on the poised, beautiful redhead being friends with the guy who played Hawkeye in The Avengers, and the gung-ho disposer of IEDs in The Hurt Locker. Yet they've been close since they met as struggling actors at a karaoke bar in Los Angeles.
"I'm pretty sure I did These Boots Are Made for Walking and I'm fairly certain he did some screaming, awesome, heavy metal song!"
Renner: "When I'd get home at night, probably a little bombed, I'd go to bed, wake up in the morning, take a shower before going to the gym and then I'd do it all over again because it didn't cost me any money. That was my entire social life."
Renner, though, was not just a karaoke singer in his youth. He delivered babies and knows a fair bit about them.
"I birthed my sister and my sister's child and I had my own child," he explains, adding that nothing in his life is going to "trump" being a father to Ava, 3. "As the eldest of six children I had that amazing opportunity, and don't get me wrong, I wanted to go to soccer practice but my mum told me, 'We're going to the YMCA to learn about birthing'. It was the last thing I wanted to do - but what a great gift I was given."
Can Adams beat that? "I actually gave birth! That's pretty cool. I did!"
After the Hollywood buddies appeared among a large ensemble in
they were keen to partner up for a more intimate movie. Renner was happy to take a supporting role as a mathematician and physicist who supports Dr Banks with the aliens in this adaptation of a short story by Ted Chiang.
"It's a beautiful story about a strong, intelligent woman," says Renner. "If it's unusual that the main genius who solves the problem is a woman, that's disappointing."
The childbirth theme has come up because
's story revolves around the birth and death of Dr Banks' daughter. When filming such delicate scenes, Adams says she is careful to keep her own life, with daughter Aviana, 6, and husband, artist Darren Le Gallo, in a very separate space. Even so, she says this was her hardest role to date.
"I really connected to the mother side of the story and Denis wanted to tell the story from an emotional, intimate place. Even with the aliens he didn't want to have the distance, a tonne of special effects, the Hollywood gloss. He wanted it to feel very real, almost as if the audience was in there with us.
"The film is not about aliens really, it's about us as humans. I like that my character is someone who's more pedestrian. She's not glamorous; she carries the weight of being human on her shoulders."
Even if today Adams looks stylish in a full-skirted white Pucci dress embossed with lilac and blue flowers which complement her dazzling blue eyes, it's nothing compared with the elegance captured by her apparel in Tom Ford's movie. Again she points out that the woman isn't her.
"Working with Tom helped me know I'm never going to be a muse," she says, with a chuckle. "It's not in my make-up even if I'd love it to be. Tom's aesthetics are so particular to Tom and getting to play a woman who lived inside his aesthetic and with that much detail about herself was fascinating. To Susan it's like armour, a shield against feeling reality."
Happily the iconic fashion designer was not like one of his creations. Adams says he was very giving when directing the film, which he adapted from Austin Wright's novel,
. The story is framed around Susan lying on a brilliant red sofa reading a biographical book sent to her by her former lover, Jake Gyllenhaal, and lamenting how she dumped the struggling writer in favour of her current rich philandering husband (Armie Hammer). Ford dramatises the novel as a story within the story and as with
there are many surprises.
"Tom was really involved in every aspect, the look of the film, the textures, the lighting," Adams notes. "He really focused on the subtleties of the character. He really let things play out and let things breathe. One time he would leave the camera rolling, nothing, nothing, just me reading for a long time like going through an emotional journey. He's fascinated by everything and is very respectful of the craft. You can tell that he really loves it."
So too does Adams who, as ever, has numerous films in the works, including reprising her Lois Lane role for Justice League and Giselle for Disenchanted.
Just don't believe that she's one of the richest actors in Hollywood as a recent
"I don't know where they're getting their information," she says, horrified.
Still she's probably happier in her life and work than she was back in her karaoke days.
"It wasn't that I was unhappy back then; I was scared that I wouldn't be able to pay my rent. I have different anxieties now. I am happy in my life and I'm very fortunate for the time being. I'm also not foolish enough to believe that you escape the pain of being human because you're having a moment of success."
Who: Amy Adams
What: Her new films Arrival and Nocturnal Animals
When: Both films hit cinemas November 1