Arrival is a smart, provocative science-fiction drama, and director Denis Villeneuve (Sicario) says it was a challenge to cast the lead role. "I needed an actress with a real wide range," he says, "and a lot of intelligence to her eyes." On reading the script, Amy Adams was hooked. "The first five minutes of something usually makes me decide whether or not I'm going to like a script, and this one begged me to keep going," she says. "When I got to the end of it, I had to go back and read it again. It's about the way we communicate with each other, the relationships that we have, the way we move through the world."

Amy Adams in the new film Arrival

Adams tends to play complex women, and she says it's tricky finding characters as sharp as Arrival's Dr Louise Banks. "I think sometimes females are written as if they're smart," she says, "but then not given anything smart to do or say. So the fact that she gets to be smart, not just act smart, is awesome."

On the other hand, Adams jokes that, with her "tiny little artist brain", she never quite made sense of Arrival's concepts. "I know from years of struggling with mathematics that at some point you just have to accept who you are," she laughs. "But when the character's mind works so differently from mine, I have to connect with the emotional truth of what they're doing, and the intellectual truth just kind of falls into line."

More: Read a review for Arrival

And after playing super-glamorous roles in films like Nocturnal Animals and American Hustle, she loved Louise's more casual look. "One of the things I loved about the role, and it sounds so base, was feeling OK to just roll out of bed in the morning and go to work," she laughs. "I've played roles where I've lost my vanity before but this one was different because she was so intelligent. It was incredibly freeing to me."

Next year, Adams returns to the role that made her famous, Giselle in Enchanted. The sequel is titled Disenchanted, and it finds the princess questioning her happy ever after. Disney has been pushing her to do the film for years, she says. "Five years ago I was like, 'I just don't think it needs to happen.' But now, especially considering where the world's at, we need another one of those feel-good moments."

Watch the trailer for Arrival: