Amy Adams remains the irresistible charmer who played a princess in the 2007 hit Enchanted.
In The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale–the true story of junior welterweight boxer “Irish” Micky Ward, whose memorable bouts in the early 2000s made him the pride of Lowell, Mass.–she plays Ward’s girlfriend, Charlene, a whip-smart, no-nonsense, working-class barmaid who can land a few punches of her own in a street brawl.

“You don’t mess with Charlene,” says Adams. “She says what she means, and I love that.”

In May, Adams gave birth to Aviana, her daughter with fiance and fellow actor Darren Le Gallo. Now she’s looking forward to celebrating her first Christmas as a mom.

“There was always a lot of energy around my house during the holidays growing up–a lot of food, a lot of football.The whole season has a magical feeling for me that I don’t think ever goes away,” says this middle child of seven kids, who grew up mostly in Colorado and whose parents split when she was 11.

Her level-headed attitude has made Adams such a relatable star–and it’s one reason director David O. Russell wanted the two-time Oscar nominee (for Junebug and Doubt) to play Charlene in The Fighter.

“She’s the last person you’d think of for this part,” he admits. “But she’s fearless, and it’s great to see her bring her sweetheart qualities to a very strong girl who’s going to say the tough things and help the guy in the tough situations.”

The role required Adams to wear short shorts and a crop top for the bar scenes and lingerie in the bedroom with Wahlberg.

“David said, ‘This is kind of how we see her dressing,'” she recalls, “And I said, ‘I’m getting in a gym, ’cause there’s no way I’m going to end up not looking my best.'”

But Russell KO’d that impulse, telling her he didn’t want her to look like an actress who’d gotten in shape for a role. “He said, ‘I want you to look like a girl who drinks beer,'” the actress recalls with a laugh.

Adams’ discovery that she was pregnant, just as she finished filming The Fighter, brought back memories of her role as an expectant mother in Junebug–not all of them pleasant.

“Because of how that film ended”–with a delivery-room stillbirth–“a lot of women have talked to me about their own similar experiences and how much that character touched them,” she says, clearly moved. But “having played somebody who went through that, I was terrified.”

To combat her anxiety, she threw herself into research. “That’s how I prepare for anything–I read whatever I can get my hands on, talk to people. I’m a bit of a nerd like that.”

She took birthing classes with Le Gallo, who provided the support she needed for a natural, drug-free delivery. “He was really calm,” she says.

Adams says, she’s been learning to focus on the moment and not be too hard on herself.

“The best advice I’ve gotten as a parent is, ‘You’re not gonna be perfect,'” she says with a chuckle at the understatement. “Take today–she’s teething and I want to be in there with her. But I also want to do a good job here for everybody who worked on the film.”

She pushes back a lock of her naturally strawberry-blond hair. “I actually love my work more now, ’cause I feel if I’m going to be away from her, I’d better enjoy it. I’m trying to be more present in each moment of my life. She’s taught me that.”
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