Once upon a time, in a Southern California town populated by surgically enhanced celebutantes, there lived a fair maiden named Amy Adams. The damsel toiled away for years in roles both fortuitous (you may remember her brief stint as Jim’s girlfriend on NBC’s The Office or as Leonardo DiCaprio’s Southern love in Catch Me if You Can) and forgettable (you may not remember her in Cruel Intentions 2). But last weekend, moviegoers waved their wands — er, wallets — and helped transform the 33-year-old Colorado native into a bona fide star: Her latest film, the lighthearted Disney fairy-tale send-up Enchanted, opened to a whopping $49 million, the second-highest-grossing Thanksgiving debut of all time. And she didn’t even need a fairy godmother to pull it off — though she probably does have one hell of an agent.
Buzz has surrounded Adams ever since her Academy Award-nominated performance as a pregnant naïf in 2005’s Junebug. But the success of Enchanted — a live-action/animation hybrid that brought in throngs of little girls and plenty of adults, too — made her not just a Disney icon, but an actress who now has her pick of Hollywood’s most in-demand projects. ”I love playing characters who have big hearts and really believe in something,” Adams told EW in August. ”I’ve been in a lot of smaller films that weren’t appropriate [for] my niece and nephew. I needed a movie to get to bring them to.”
But how can Adams ensure that her fairy tale ultimately has a happy ending? A diverse collection of roles in quality films always helps, and so far she’s off to a good start. She’ll next play a secretary to Tom Hanks’ title character in Dec. 25’s political drama Charlie Wilson’s War (which is already gathering awards-season buzz, sight unseen); in March, she appears opposite fellow 2005 Oscar nominee Frances McDormand in the period comedy Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day as a singer juggling three different suitors. Adams will then switch genres and star opposite yet another acting heavyweight, Meryl Streep, in the film adaptation of John Patrick Shanley’s dark 2005 Tony winner Doubt. (They’re also both in talks to reteam for the film adaptation of the nonfiction best-seller Julie & Julia, about a foodie’s attempts to cook like — who else? — Julia Child.) It’s a strategy to prevent her from becoming known as the actress who favors animated rodent costars — not that there’s anything wrong with that. ”She can be quite eclectic,” says Pettigrew director Bharat Nalluri. ”She’s careful about what she chooses, and she’s picking diametrically opposed projects. No one will be able to pigeonhole her.” And one top studio exec says that Adams’ breakthrough can’t help but bring back memories of another red-haired beauty’s arrival nearly two decades ago. ”If I was redoing Pretty Woman,” says the exec, ”I wouldn’t hesitate to put her in it. [Enchanted] is just one facet of what this girl can do.”
And by the way, it turns out that Adams was preparing for the role of Giselle — a tricky part that required her to sing, dance, and not look like a complete fool running around the streets of New York City in a poufy ball gown — since she was a teen. ”I was the dork in high school who was singing The Little Mermaid down the hallways,” she says. ”So I’m well studied.” And, it now appears, even more well prepared for superstardom in the fabled land of Hollywood. — Additional reporting by Steve Daly, Lindsay Soll, and Nicole Sperling