Thanks to Oprah, the yoga boom and a slew of zen-tinged self-help books, we’ve been hearing a lot lately about the importance of “being present.” The idea is that the key to human happiness is to fix one’s focus firmly on the here and now. It’s a strategy that makes a certain amount of sense, especially if, like Amy Adams, your here and now is pretty fantastic. But the 34-year-old actress readily admits that living in the moment is not something she’s very good at, despite all the hours she has spent on a yoga mat. At the Oscars this past February, for instance, while millions of television viewers watched her sitting in the front row, wearing a claret-colored Carolina Herrera dress and a killer Fred Leighton necklace, Adams was, in her mind, thousands of miles away, in the Atlanta mall where she worked after high school. “I just was so reflective the whole evening on how I came to be sitting in that room,” she recalls a few weeks later. “At one point my fiancé was like, ‘You feel distant.’ And I said, ‘I am! I can’t even talk to you!’ I was there at the Oscars thinking, What if I never left the Gap?”
Adams spends a lot of time dwelling on what-ifs. A worrier by nature, she says she’s prone to obsessing about “What if the plane crashes? What if I have the rare disease I just saw on Mystery Diagnosis?” And, when her fiancé, actor Darren Le Gallo, lets their dogs out into the yard of their Los Angeles home after dark, “What if my puppies get eaten by coyotes?” But “What if I never left the Gap?” is a particular favorite. “It’s a game I play with myself all the time,” she says with a roll of her big blue eyes. And it’s not hard to understand why. A member of that peculiar Hollywood subspecies—the decade-in-the-making overnight sensation—Adams saw her career floundering just four years ago. Now she’s a two-time Academy Award nominee (best supporting actress for Doubt and Junebug) with her own Disney doll (modeled on her Giselle character in the 2007 blockbuster Enchanted) and a new movie (Julie & Julia, coming this August), in which she stars opposite Meryl Streep for the second time. The recent triumphs, along with the acclaim garnered by her indelible onscreen charm, have given her a degree of confidence, but as someone who has found fame in fits and starts, she’s well aware that things could have turned out differently.
Sipping a Tanqueray and tonic in the rooftop lounge at New York’s Gramercy Park Hotel, dressed in jeans and a black sweater and wrapped in an enormous gray scarf, Adams looks less like a movie star than a pretty grad student at least a decade younger than her age. She admits to being blessed with a baby face, though not without adding a self-deprecating—and characteristically neurotic—dig. “I ordered a glass of champagne on the plane today, and the flight attendant asked, ‘Are you old enough to drink?’” she says, her auburn ponytail bouncing as she laughs. “I was like, ‘I’m old enough to worry about being infertile, so yes!’”