Amy Adams TIFF Portrait LEAD
Credit: Matthew Brookes

Arrival might be a movie about aliens, but the story still feels surprisingly human, thanks to Amy Adams.

Adams plays Dr. Louise Banks, a linguistic expert, who is recruited by the U.S. military to ask and answer the tough questions after 12 alien spacecrafts land around the world. Her first order of business? To find out what they want and where they’re from. That’s no small feat, even when you have Jeremy Renner by your side.

For Adams, the film was a chance to take on an empowering role in the sci-fi genre, one that she’s been a fan of, but never really dabbled in until now. “I love this character because she saves the world, fully clothed and with absolutely no makeup on,” Adams said when we sat down with her at InStyle’s Portrait Studio at the Toronto International Film Festival. “She also stands up to men with information and facts, not petulance. It was exciting for me to play her because I really admire her intellect.”

Amy Adams Arrival EMBED 2
Credit: Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Exciting as it was, taking on the role of a linguist was also a challenge for the actress. “I thought that meant that someone was basically an interpreter, but it goes so much deeper than that,” she said. “They do anthropological and sociological research to understand different cultures. I realized that I was in over my head, so I met with a linguistics professor and she gave me a lot of great reference material. What I really wanted was Linguistics for Dummies. I’m sure that exists somewhere!”

Amy Adams Arrival EMBED 1
Credit: Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

All of that studying has started to pay off for the actress, whose name is already on the early short list for a possible Oscar nod. “My goal was to play the truth of each moment with this character,” she said. "In the beginning, she doesn’t really know what is going on. Then we learn more about her past and and the loss that she has felt in her life. There were so many layers to work with. Some people will connect to the emotional element of the story, some the political, and some the sci-fi element. I think it will surprise people in a lot of different ways."

VIDEO: Amy Adams Style Transformation

Arrival is in theaters today. Check out the trailer here.