An actress with a knack for light comedy, Amy Adams was born in Italy and raised in Castle Rock, Colorado. After high school, she studied dance and worked in regional dinner theater until age 20, when she moved to Minnesota with her family after being spotted by a visiting Minneapolis producer and recruited to work in his dinner theater there. She landed her first film role in the satiric 1999 comedy Drop Dead Gorgeous, which was, appropriately enough, set in Minnesota. After appearing in the independent comedy Psycho Beach Party, Adams made guest appearances on a number of television series, including That 70s Show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and The West Wing; she was also cast as a regular in Manchester Prep, a TV spin-off of the hit film Cruel Intentions. Manchester Prep, however, was never aired when its network decided that the show's sexual content was too strong for television, although several episodes were eventually re-edited into a direct-to-video feature entitled Cruel Intentions 2. 2002 proved to be a very busy year for Adams, who appeared in no fewer than four features, including the eagerly anticipated Catch Me if You Can, featuring Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks.
Adams took a 2 year break following Catch Me If You Can, reemerging in 2004 to appear with Fred Savage in the low-key comedy/drama The Last Run. The next year she took a substantial role in the romantic comedy The Wedding Date, but the part that proved to be a career-shaping one was the very innocent, very pregnant Ashley in Phil Morrison's independent film Junebug. Adams was adored by audiences and praised by critics for her quirky, sensitive performance, and she netted a Best Supporting Actress nomination in the process.