EXCLUSIVE: My colleague Mike Fleming Jr has been chronicling in recent days the ongoing flap between the Today show and actress Amy Adams, who was unceremoniously bumped from the show Monday as she was about to do a short interview during the show’s 9 AM hour to promote her new film, Big Eyes.
During a special Weinstein Company-sponsored Oscar-voter heavy screening of the film at the iPic theatre in Los Angeles last night, Adams herself for the first time set the record straight for me during an exclusive interview as the film was playing. This was shortly after Harvey Weinstein (who has never been shy about unexpected publicity opportunities to promote his films) gave a ringing endorsement to his star in introducing the movie. “In real time and in real life we had a little contretemps with the Today show and Amy stood up for friends, for her opinions and for what she thought was right. And as much as I loved her during all those movies I made with her I think I have never admired her more… This is a quintessential actress and even better, a quintessential human being who showed incredible courage this week,” Weinstein told the crowd who heartily applauded the star.
As for her part, Adams probably wishes the subject would change from what happened on the non-Today show appearance and more to the exceptional work she does in portraying artist Margaret Keane in Big Eyes. But she agreed to clear the matter up since there have been varying, as Fleming wrote, “Rashomon”-like accounts of the incident.
In a nutshell, the program told her it was going to ask about the Sony hack, an issue she has nothing directly to do with (other than her name showing up in leaked stolen emails regarding her role and salary in last year’s Sony film, American Hustle). She said she wished they wouldn’t and had nothing to say on the matter. As she was just about to go on, following a segment in which the anchors show how to brush your dog’s teeth, Today, citing journalistic integrity as a “news show,” bumped her segment and sent her packing.
In a statement yesterday to Deadline they said, “As a news program, the Today show doesn’t allow guests to dictate restrictions on interviews. In this case, after hours of discussion we felt uncomfortable with the demands being made and we determined the best course of action for all parties involved was to cancel the interview”.
Adams, whom I have interviewed on many occasions and found always to be completely professional and warmly engaging and forthright, was taken aback at the treatment she received, especially after what she told me was just a great week she spent at 30 Rock hosting Saturday Night Live. “The events that have occurred have been really surprising and very confusing for me, and it’s not normal conversation we would be having,” she said last night. “It’s so out of the norm of the events that I have ever been a part of. Must be a slow news week if I am in the headlines,” she laughed. She went on to explain, in her own words, exactly what happened:
“I was very uncomfortable speaking about it (the Sony hack issue) and I still, even with you, don’t want to lend my voice to that conversation. And that’s still my stance. And they had their stance which they publicly have stated and I respect that that’s their stance. I had agreed to go on and they pulled the segment…I told them I would say that I had ‘no comment.’ My issue was that we only had four minutes and I wanted to stay focused on the film, and I just asked if they would not ask the question and they said, ‘No, they would not (agree)’. I was actually up on the stage when they pulled the interview. But I had already agreed to what they said and I just said ‘well OK I will say no comment’ and that had been my plan. Due to my relationship in the past with everybody, I can just only see this as some strange, blown-out-of-proportion miscommunication. It’s hard to understand how these things happen.”
But is this all part of being a celebrity these days, being at the mercy of the media and whatever they want to ask? “Again, this kind of thing is something I don’t lend my voice to. I feel really grateful to be where I am and I feel like my responsibility, publicly, if I am going to lend my voice I am going to lend it to the Rape Crisis Center or to St. Jude’s. That’s where my voice is best used, not on the Today show talking about a scandal,” she said.
So will she be doing Today ever again? “I am a ‘never say never’ kind of girl. Like I say I have no intention and no desire to drag anyone’s name through the mud. I would not want to drag anyone I dealt with (at Today) name through the mud. Nothing. So if they want to pursue something, I can’t control that. But I have no desire to speak out against them. They held firm to their stance and I held firm to mine. I really like to be a team player and I will do pretty much whatever is asked of me because I really believe I am fortunate to be where I am. But this was a situation that I didn’t believe in what they were doing,” she said.
What she did believe in doing was the stranger-than-fiction Big Eyes, the story of Walter and Margaret Keane. whose Big Eyes paintings in the 1960s became a pop culture sensation but led to huge problems for the couple when Walter took full credit for her creations, signing his name to them. Both Adams and co-star Christoph Waltz have received Golden Globe nominations in the comedy lead acting categories for their work in the film. Margaret Keane is still, at age 87, very much alive and helped Adams find the core of the character.
I gave Adams the opportunity (she didn’t get at Today) to discuss the responsibility she felt in playing the role.
“When you are playing a true story of someone’s life you feel that responsibility. But then having met her and seeing her true nature it really hit home how much it would mean to her to have a true portrayal.” she said. “I have done true life characters before where I kept a distance from that person, but Tim Burton had met Margaret and he really encouraged me to meet her because there is just something about her, she’s so alive within her quiet nature. She is so strong within a person that is so soft-spoken and it’s something you have to see to understand. There’s a complexity, and a lot of contradiction in which I find so human. None of us is just one thing. So getting to play someone who really embodied that was really exciting to me, and to do it in a way that I hoped was really respectful to her.”
The story of Big Eyes really has to be seen to be believed, particularly the big courtroom showdown between the couple. But that was taken from actual transcripts of the trial and was toned down by director Burton and writers Scott Alexander and Larry Karasewski to be credible as a movie. You can’t make this stuff up. Adams is very proud getting the chance, in a subtly affecting performance, to do right by Keane and give her this kind of spotlight her late ex-husband Walter tried to take away. Still it’s hard to believe it’s all true.
“It did happen, and she takes responsibility for her part in it,” Adams said. “She even says she was an abused woman and there’s a cycle you get into where you don’t feel like you can leave, and you have to participate in some way and you feel complicit. And she still feels complicit. It’s remarkable to see that. She’s a woman of such great character that she’s really inspiring to me.” She added that it’s been great fun to see how Margaret has been enjoying the attention she’s getting now. In fact, Adams and Keane did a Q&A together recently in downtown L.A. after a screening.
“She was on fire. What’s really fun is seeing her come out of this private shell and enjoying the attention she has always deserved,” Adams said. “She said the most clever thing. They asked what it was like to have Tim Burton direct the film and she goes, ‘Well I directed the film and Tim keeps trying to take credit for it’. She got this huge laugh. It was amazing.”
Even though this story of a husband taking full credit for his wife’s work and keeping her quiet seems incredible today, Adams thinks it has real contemporary relevance. “I think as a society information has become so available and we think we know everything about everybody,” she said. “So it’s hard to believe this could happen today, but at the same time women being in a situation like this feeling that they can’t have a voice, that’s very relevant. In that way I found Margaret’s story to be very modern.”
There can be no question after the unwanted events this week that Adams definitely has a voice. And continuing in the line of playing real-life characters, she is hoping finally to play the life of a very different kind of voice: rock icon Janis Joplin. “That’s the great desire that this thing gets off the ground. We are working on a script right now,” she said and laughed, in a nod to her own problems with the Today show, that Joplin would be on the same page.
“Janis would not have answered those questions either. She would not!”