TORONTO – Sitting down with Amy Adams last week during the Toronto International Film Festival, there was only one thing on the agenda and it probably wasn’t what you’d expect it be. No, I didn’t ask her about playing Lois Lane in the upcoming Superman reboot “Man of Steel.” And, no, there wasn’t time to ask her what she thoughts were of her “Trouble with the Curve” co-star Clint Eastwood’s now iconic speech to an empty chair at the Republican National Convention two weeks ago. Instead, the topic of conversation had to be regarding her incredible performance in Paul Thomas Anderson’s “The Master.”
Already one of the most acclaimed dramas of the year, the always challenging Anderson tackles a number of heavy duty themes in “The Master” including the duality of man and the failure of religion in society. Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman are deservedly receiving the lion’s share of kudos from critics, but it’s Adams performance as Lancaster Dodd’s wife Peggy that is the true revelation. Adams, a best supporting actress nominee for “Junebug,” “Doubt” and “The Fighter,” has always been a talent, but she displays a tenacity as the guiding hand behind Dodd in “The Master” that she’s never demonstrated before.
Sitting down with Adams the morning following “The Master’s” North American premiere in Toronto, my first question was regarding Anderson, a director whose name is increasingly being mentioned as one of the greatest filmmakers of our time. Adams has worked with Steven Spielberg, David O. Russell, Walter Salles and Mike Nichols in the past, but how did Anderson differ from those legends?
“It’s interesting because I could talk about the difference between the directors, but really there is this passion, this enthusiasm,” Adams says. “Paul? He is so funny. And that was something I wasn’t expecting. He’s got a great sense of humor and really allows for you to take time on screen which can be very sort of unnerving at times. He’ll just keep the camera rolling and let you find it and it’s very wonderful.”
Adams adds, “He allows you to bring what you’re going to bring. There is a lot of discussion during the take. This happened with Spielberg too. I didn’t realize how I’d been directed until after I left the film. It took me weeks to understand the manner in which he directed.”
Anderson shot the film in 70mm, a difficult endeavor in the 21st Century, but Adams believes it helped elevate the performances of the entire cast.
“I wanted her to be omnipresent,” Adams says of Peggy. “I love how it’s shot in that beautiful 70mm and how the focus and the depth – and how sometimes with the focus my character is fuzzy, but she’s there. She’s always there. And the all watching, all seeing. She doesn’t escape.”
Hoffman’s character is clearly modeled after L. Ron Hubbard – a fact Anderson only recently admitted. By the end of the film, however, it’s clear Dodd will make a decision Hubbard’s Scientology would never do (you’ll have to see the movie to discover what that is). Peggy Dodd is at the center of that decision and it made me wonder if there is anything she wouldn’t do to protect her husband.
“Not only just the husband, but the cause,” Adams quickly replies. “And what I believe what my husband is capable of and what he needs to do.”
Clearly, she’s one lady you don’t want to tangle with.
To watch my complete conversation with Adams, check out the video above.
“The Master” opens in New York and Los Angeles on Friday. It expands across the country on Sept. 21.