Chasing Amy: Actress returns to musical roots

Amy Adams has come home again. Sort of.

Two years removed from her Oscar-nominated turn as an infectiously sweet Southern belle in the indie drama “Junebug,” the 32-year-old native of Vicenza, Italy, where her U.S. serviceman father was based, is enjoying her most luminous role to date in the Disney musical “Enchanted.”

Adams, who studied dance in her hometown of Castle Rock, Colo., and worked briefly at Hooters to earn money for a car — “I was a dancer, so I was used to running around in tights and a leotard,” she once told People magazine, “but it took me a while to figure out that Hooters was a little different” — went on to hone her musical talents at the Chanhassen Dinner Theatres in Minnesota. For her, “Enchanted” was a welcome opportunity to return to her roots as a performer.

“Early on, I did a lot of musical theater, and at some point I had to decide between moving to New York or Los Angeles,” she says. “I decided on Los Angeles, and once I committed myself to film, I started working with a lot of coaches and spent the next few years doing nothing but screen-work. Part of the appeal of ‘Enchanted’ was getting back to musical theater. It reminded me how much I miss it.”

As Giselle, a cartoon-fantasy princess magically banished to real-life New York by the evil Queen Narissa, Adams is playing a role not entirely unlike the one that earned her the San Francisco Critics Circle’s award for best supporting actress. Giselle, like Ashley “Junebug” Johnsten, is naïve, boundlessly energetic and relentlessly upbeat — in other words, a throwback to the classic Disney heroines of “Cinderella,” “Sleeping Beauty” and “Snow White.”

Yet Adams was reluctant to draw on those characters for inspiration.

“I love the old Disney movies, but I tried not to watch them because I didn’t want to imitate those characters,” she says. “I wanted to create my own, and stay true to my vision and [director] Kevin Lima’s vision of how Giselle should be played.”

While Adams credits her “dream cast” — including James Marsden and Patrick Dempsey, whom she calls “consummate professionals” — for helping to make “Enchanted” such a gratifying experience, she is quick to add that it was similar to “Junebug,” which was shot hurriedly on a limited budget, in at least one way.

“We had four months to film, and not a lot of time to rehearse. It required a lot of hard work,” she says. “That was the common denominator between the films, so in that sense the difference between an indie and a blockbuster isn’t always that big. But ‘Junebug’ was a small film, with a simple script. I don’t think this movie could have been made as an indie. It was too big a production.

“What I enjoy most about any project, whether it’s an indie or not, is investing myself in my character and capturing her perfectly. If the film is great, too, that’s a beneficial byproduct. In the case of ‘Enchanted,’ I love the film. But even if a movie like ‘Junebug’ hadn’t turned out as wonderfully as it did, I still would have loved the experience of performing in it.”

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