what will it take for amy adams to win an oscar?

In 2019, Amy Adams has acquired the same meme-friendly underdog momentum as pre-Oscar Leo.

by Philippa Snow
14 January 2019, 7:00am

In February of last year, film critic Jon Adams tweeted: "Thinking about how Amy Adams has never received the Leonardo DiCaprio-level industry narrative of being 'robbed' or 'overdue' for an Academy Award despite accruing more nominations in a shorter period of time and delivering higher quality performances". Assuming that a ‘like’ implies tacit agreement, roughly 59,000 Twitter users were thinking it too.

This year, all 59,000 of them, give or take, got their wish: after receiving not one but two nominations at the 2019 Golden Globes, and winning neither category, Amy Adams has picked up the same meme-friendly underdog’s momentum as DiCaprio earned just before he won the Best Actor Oscar for The Revenant.

It would appear that Twitter, like God, loves a trier, and that even if most aspects of the Hollywood game feel unfairly weighted towards men, stanning a five-time Oscar loser is an equal-opportunity pursuit. Except: this year, if Amy Adams ends up with a Best Supporting nomination for her role in the unglamorous and not especially well-reviewed Dick Cheney biopic, Vice, and loses, she will have been overlooked a total of six times.

In 2016, at the age of 41, Leo won on his sixth try, receiving the award he should by rights have earned as Jordan Belfort in The Wolf of Wall Street (ask me, after several drinks and with 15 spare minutes, my opinion on the subject; ask me in advance, and I might make a PowerPoint.) Adams, the same age and a later starter in the industry by 20 years, has racked up nominations faster, meaning that her lack of wins has crept up on her internet supporters suddenly, at speed. Her biggest fans might say that this is the way Amy Adams generally creeps up on you: discreetly, unexpectedly, then all at once. “She’s not very spectacular in real life. She’s just sort of... there,” Paul Thomas Anderson told GARAGE magazine, about his work with Amy Adams in The Master. “Turn the camera on her and it’s lighting a very large firework. It’s a gigantic explosion of talent and skill and creativity and charisma… She’s my favourite, as you can tell.”

A director like Paul Thomas Anderson does not refer to an off-duty actress as low-key to make a point about her looks or her charisma, but to emphasise how utterly she vanishes into her role when the camera rolls. Other men have made note of this quiet mutability of Adams less elegantly. “Women no longer need to be beautiful in order to express their talent,” Stephen Marche wrote, in a widely-mocked Esquire profile of the actress Megan “not an ancient Aztec” Fox. “Lena Dunham and Adele and Lady Gaga and Amy Adams are all perfectly plain, and they are all at the top of their field.” To believe that Amy Adams, who was cast as a literal live-action Disney princess in Enchanted, is “perfectly plain” is to buy into the borderline-insane idea that to be a real A-List actress, one must also be on permanent, showy display.

Google “Amy Adams candid” and the image of her as a mum uninterested in injecting outsized glamour into day-to-day life bears up. Like DiCaprio, who rarely sits for interviews, and whose Instagram happens to be filled with activism rather than hot babes on yachts, her private life feels like that rare thing: something private. Both, when they’re off-screen, remain largely out of sight, and out of mind. It’s possible that this does not grab the attention of those voting for awards in the same way as, say, telling the world about your suitcase full of butt plugs.

There is another, more contentious reason Amy Adams may not have won an Oscar, which is that she may not yet have had the opportunity to earn it. I personally -- very personally! -- don’t agree with John Adams that Amy Adams has “deliver[ed] higher quality performances” than Leonardo DiCaprio, although she has certainly delivered fine ones. It does not help, however, that most of the prestige roles she has filled are those of women bolstering or loving men: patient wives, smart con-girl mistresses, mothers deciding inexplicably to allow Jeremy Renner to impregnate them (twice, too, in Doubt and in Julie and Julia, she has appeared alongside an especially Meryl-Streep-y Meryl Streep.) In The Master she’s beatific and mysterious and occasionally quietly threatening; she also happens to be flanked by Joaquin Phoenix and the late, great Philip Seymour Hoffman, making her role as the heavily-pregnant wife of a cult-leader secondary in comparison.

A TIME study from 2015 revealed, as if most women did not know already, that while female actors’ careers peak on average somewhere near the age of 30, and begin a fast decline at 35, male actors reach their zenith somewhere around 46. Until an average age of 51, they stay there. This may help to explain why Jennifer Lawrence, who is currently aged 28, has played women in their thirties three times for David O. Russell, who has said about her -- creepily and somewhat stupidly -- that “Bradley Cooper and I would always say, ‘Is she 10 years old or 50 years old?’ She’s both, and that’s a special thing." There can be 100 people in a room who don’t believe a 25-year-old can play a middle-aged mother of two, but all it takes is Bradley Cooper and David O. Russell to convince the audience that actually, she can.

No wonder, then, that a mid-forties actress in Adams’s mould -- neither an ingénue nor a fully-established powerhouse a la Julianne Moore or Meryl Streep -- might find it difficult to land an Oscar-worthy role with true grit. Her loss of the Golden Globe this year for Sharp Objects may have been felt so keenly by those who adore her because in it she was not a wife or parent, but a fucked-up daughter with a mother like the devil, a smart train-wreck with a gorgeous head of hair in something written by a woman, mostly loved by women, and so feminine in style it hardly mattered that it was directed by a man.

Perversely, I’m not sure that Amy Adams has ever been better in a role than she was as Princess Giselle in Enchanted, a film meant for children with a curious, occasionally-sardonic vibe best suited to adults: hysterical by virtue of playing her sugary unworldliness completely straight, she adds a sly jolt of subversion to what might have otherwise been sickly-sweet. “What she brought,” director Kevin Lima said, “and what I was looking for the whole time was someone who didn’t judge the character’s naïveté, an actor who could disappear into the role and never wink at the role while they were playing it [and] never think that what they were doing was ridiculous. And she was a revelation.” If DiCaprio can win an Oscar for The Revenant as compensation for the previous year’s mistake, it seems to me entirely reasonable that this year -- barring the existence of Olivia Colman -- Amy Adams could be retroactively rewarded for her services to Disney. Failing that: there’s always 2020, and Enchanted’s much-anticipated sequel.

This article originally appeared on i-D UK.

Leonardo DiCaprio
Amy Adams