In Tom Ford’s dark thriller Nocturnal Animals, which premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival, Amy Adams takes center stage as an elegant art dealer named Susan. As the thorny plot unravels, Susan receives a novel manuscript from her ex-husband, Tony (Jake Gyllenhaal), and as she sits down to read the work in her stark, sprawling mansion, she starts to wonder just what her connection is to this twisted tale of violence and revenge.
Sitting down at the PEOPLE / Entertainment Weekly / InStyle Portrait Studio in Toronto, Adams explained how she tackled an aloof, sophisticated character like Susan.
For more on the Toronto International Film Festival, go to PEOPLE.com/tiff
“I understood the emotional existence of this woman, but I’m somebody who’s a bit more of an organic creature,” Adams said. “I’m not necessarily as poised as this character is, based on her upbringing and what she’s trying to project.”
Fortunately for Adams, she had the perfect character inspiration on set with her: Ford, the longtime fashion director turned filmmaker.
“Tom is very poised, so I used him a lot,” Adams added. “He’d be like, ‘Lay on the couch and read.’ I’m like, ‘Okay, well, you lay on the couch, and [show me] how you would read.'”
For more on Nocturnal Animals, read PEOPLE’s exclusive first look interview with Ford here.