Kathyrn and Rich Adams' fourth child, five-year-old Amy, begins starring in family productions, written by Rich. "My father liked to write songs and plays, and we would act them out," she later tells the New York Times. At 11, her parents get divorced and the family – which includes two sisters and four brothers – leaves the Mormon church. In 1992, Adams graduates from Castle Rock, Colo.'s Douglas County High School and juggles jobs at the Gap and Hooters while working as a dancer and waitress at Boulder's Dinner Theatre.
Adams snags her first screen role, alongside Kirsten Dunst (right) and Kirstie Alley, in Drop Dead Gorgeous, a satirical film about a small-town beauty pageant. Alley soon encourages Adams to try her luck in Hollywood. Alley "more or less put that voice in my head," Adams later tells the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. "I was originally saving my pennies to go to New York."
After arriving in L.A., Adams lands the role of Brenda Strong, Leonardo DiCaprio's fiancée, in Steven Spielberg's Catch Me If You Can (left). "Amy got tons of attention for [the role], and she deserved every bit of it," Spielberg tells Elle in 2008. "That was the part that should have launched her career."
After meeting Darren Le Gallo (right) in an acting class, Adams begins dating the fellow actor. "It's really important to have someone to remind you who you are," she tells USA Today. "I'll run all over but come back to him, and I know who I am." In 2008, Le Gallo proposes to Adams with a diamond by French jewelry designer Jean Dousset.
Adams' career explodes when she plays the sweet, very pregnant Ashley in the indie film, Junebug (right). Her performance earns her an Academy Award and Screen Actors Guild nomination in the supporting actress categories. "She's meticulous like a conservatory actor, but at the same time she doesn't have a lot of pomp and circumstance to her," director Phil Morrison tells Newsweek. Although Adams doesn't take home the Oscar, she does win a Critics Choice Award.
Adams stars in Disney' homage-to-Disney-fairy-tales flick, Enchanted. "What I was struck by is that she looks like a Disney character," director Kevin Lima tells the New York Times of Adams, who plays Giselle, the fairy tale princess who comes to life. "I was the dork in high school who was singing The Little Mermaid down the hallways," Adams, who does all of her own singing and dancing, tells EW. "So I'm well studied." The film, which costars Patrick Dempsey (left), opens to $50 million, the second-highest-grossing Thanksgiving debut of all time.
Adams costars as the title character's chief of staff in director Mike Nichols' Charlie Wilson's War. In this real-life political drama, Adams stars alongside Tom Hanks (right) and Julia Roberts, whom a top studio executive compares Adams to, according to EW: "If I was redoing Pretty Woman, I wouldn't hesitate to put her in it."
Adams appears on the cover of Elle and Vanity Fair's Annual Hollywood Issue, with Jessica Biel, Emily Blunt and Anne Hathaway. "I wouldn't say that I'm Hollywood royalty but I feel like I'm now part of the court," Adams, who's worked with Frances McDormand (Miss Pettigrew Lives For a Day) and Meryl Streep (Doubt), tells Interview. "I can go and watch the royalty, and that's fun."
Adams earns a Screen Actors Guild Award and Oscar nomination for her supporting role in the drama Doubt. The actress portrays a well-meaning nun who ends up caught in the crossfire of Meryl Streep’s and Phillip Seymour-Hoffman's characters in the adaptation of the Tony and Pulitzer Prize-winning play. "Amy's inherently bright and cheerful, which makes her extremely right for the role," writer-director Shanley told The Washington Post.
Adams learns to cook for her role in Nora Ephron's Julie & Julia, which reunites her with Meryl Streep (who plays famed chef Julia Child). Adams says she identified with her character Julie Powell. "Thirty was a big deal for me," she says. "It was the age where I reevaluated everything – how I approached life and how I thought about myself."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Everett Collection; Everett Collection; Richie Buxo/Splash News Online; Everett Collection; Everett Collection; Universal Studios; Everett; Jonathan Wenk/Sony Pictures