In the truth-based Julie & Julia, Amy Adams plays Julie Powell, a woman facing the prospect of turning 30 and not feeling too good about herself.
Powell was a struggling New York secretary who in 2002 started The Julie/Julia Project, a blog in which she devoted a year to cooking all 524 recipes in Child's 1962 classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1. Later, she used the blog as a basis for her first book, Julie & Julia.
Here are chats with the real-life Powell, now 36, and Adams, 34, the actress who plays her.
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The year before her 30th birthday, Adams, much like Powell, wasn't feeling very positive about her own career. At the time, nearly six years had gone by since the actress had moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis, where she had been working in dinner theater.
She had gotten some roles — most notably in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (2002) as a nurse whom Leonardo DiCaprio's character falls for — but her career had never caught fire. In fact, she didn't get another part for a year after Catch Me.
"I felt I was getting caught up in trying to please people," Adams says. "My whole pursuit was about getting jobs, and I was sort of losing my love for the craft. So I made a deal with myself — either to enjoy it or not do it and find a way to love what I did."
When she did turn 30, Adams was making a small independent film being shot over 21 days called Junebug, in which she portrayed a chatty, pregnant, Southern homebody. The role helped to relaunch her career, with Adams receiving a best supporting actress Oscar nomination. Later came Disney's 2007 big-budget animated/live-action film Enchanted. In it, Adams played Giselle, an animated character suddenly thrust into real-life New York City. The film took in more than $340 million.
Earlier this year, Adams picked up her second best supporting actress Oscar nomination for Doubt and critical acclaim for her role in the indie hit Sunshine Cleaning. She even squeezed in the part of Amelia Earhart in the comedy Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian.
So Adams is pleasing people these days, even if she's not as worried about it. Considering that the actress wasn't even a big star in dinner theater, the last few years have been a whirlwind.
The actress says she had no grand plan when she moved to L.A. in 1999 after winning a small role in Drop Dead Gorgeous when it filmed in Minnesota.
About her recent success, Adams says, "Yeah, it's heady if I think about it. But I just don't think about it because I just keep going.
"I'm just that sort of person. I put my head down and keep moving forward, you know. So if I take time to sit and think about it, yeah, it's pretty remarkable."
She currently is keeping things going by shooting David O. Russell's Fighter in Boston with Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg. In between that and Julie & Julia she squeezed in the indie rom-com Leap Year, which was filmed in Ireland.
Making Julie & Julia, directed by Nora Ephron, presented its own challenges. Since many of her scenes involved her slicing and dicing in the kitchen or typing on the computer, she often was acting alone.
"It was probably the most isolated I've been on the set."
Asked if she has any lonely pursuits — like cooking or blogging — herself, Adams laughs. "Being an actress is a lonely pursuit. I knit — that's a bit of a solitary pursuit. That's something I'm going to seek out in the next year — some hobbies. I have far too few hobbies."
Question: How much were you involved with the movie? Did you help select Amy Adams to play you?
Answer: I really wasn't involved with the movie at all. Early on, I had a couple of lunches with Nora (Ephron, the director-writer-producer). She had printed out my whole blog — on pink paper — and had made all these notes in the margins. She tried to call me out on my b.s. and make sure I was being honest. She's such a delightful — and terrifying — woman.
I loved having Amy Adams play me. Then, of course, I had to look in the mirror afterward. She's so teeny tiny, and red-haired. She did a great job, especially capturing my hysteria and crying jags.
Q: A critical scene is when you find out that Julia Child wasn't exactly enthusiastic about your project. Why do you think she reacted so negatively?
A: When that happened, I was devastated. She inspired me to change my life, and I had. I was a secretary, and now I was a writer. But I have my inner Julia Child — her legacy, her spirit (Child died in 2004).
I had to reckon with the idea that my Julia Child understands that what I was doing was only about heartfelt gratitude and tribute. I didn't want to follow in her footsteps, I just wanted to turn my life around. And she helped me do it.
Q: Did you ever hear from her at all?
A: I wrote her a letter several months after the blog was over and I was beginning to work on the book. I received a cordial, formal reply. I don't know if she actually really wrote it or an assistant did.
Q: Blogging was in its infancy in 2002, when you did the Julie/Julia Project. Do you still blog? Twitter?
A: No, and no. Blogging has become a full-time job. I don't have the wherewithal. And I don't tweet. Hate it. I know that makes me sound like I'm 82 years old. But I love Facebook.
Q: OK, no blogs, but your next book, Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat and Obsession, is due out in the fall. Why butchery?
A: It's such an old-time skill — I've been fascinated with butchers since I moved to New York. ... And then there was my personal life — it was a darker, rougher period for Eric and me. But we got through. We are still married — 11 years — and still together. I'm thinking of fiction next. Two memoirs before the age of 40 is quite enough.