Sundance Film Festival

Amy Adams' road less traveled leads straight to Oscar

Amy Adams in JUNEBUG

It was, at the time, the pinnacle of Amy Adams’ career.

By 2005, Adams had appeared in a handful of television shows (The West Wing, Smallville) and logged a minor role in Steven Spielberg’s CATCH ME IF YOU CAN. But her open-hearted performance as sweet and simple pregnant Southerner Ashley in Phil Morrison’s JUNEBUG put her on the map, establishing her as one of the brightest new stars in Hollywood. The buzz began with a Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival, and continued as she won an Independent Spirit Award, multiple critics’ group nominations, a Critics’ Choice Award and an Oscar nomination.

History tells us it should have been all downhill from there.

Yet Adams somehow has avoided the slump that typically hounds actors who peak early and attract white-hot critical attention. Remember the staggering amount of buzz around MARIA FULL OF GRACE star Catalina Sandino Moreno? And then there are these four words: Mira Sorvino, Oscar winner.

Adams had such praise heaped at her doorstep. But she took the road less traveled in Hollywood, and in the process avoided the traps that swallowed talents like Nikki Reed (THIRTEEN), Thora Birch (AMERICAN BEAUTY) and Natasha Lyonne (SLUMS OF BEVERLY HILLS). What’s most surprising about Adams’ success is that she has comfortably existed in both the commercial and indie worlds. The film industry usually pushes actors toward one or the other. You’re either Parker Posey or Sandra Bullock, but rarely both.

Adams is an exception. The Colorado native credibly sings and dances her way through campy Disney musicals like ENCHANTED, then scrubs crime-scene filth alongside Emily Blunt for SUNSHINE CLEANING. She’s just as comfortable trading tense barbs with Meryl Streep in DOUBT (which earned her a second Oscar nomination) as she is romancing Ben Stiller in a NIGHT AT THE MUSEUM sequel.

Rarely does an actress peak so early in her career and maintain that high level of artistic output. Take a page out of Adams’ playbook, Shailene Woodley (THE DESCENDANTS) and Brit Marling (ANOTHER EARTH). In an industry that’s often looking for the next hot young thing, Adams perseveres, improves and regularly excels.

Adams delivers another stellar performance alongside Philip Seymour Hoffman and Joaquin Phoenix in Paul Thomas Anderson’s THE MASTER (in theaters on September 14). This could be the year that the three-time Oscar nominee finally breaks through the Oscar barrier and claims her coveted (and well-deserved) Academy Award.

Not that she needs it. It likely wouldn’t change her career path. With or without an Oscar on her mantle, Adams will continue to create memorable, funny, touching, surprising characters, as she did in JUNEBUG. An Oscar win for Adams is inevitable. But it certainly isn’t a necessity.

Catch JUNEBUG tonight at 8P and 9:45P and all month long on Sundance Channel.