Q&A with AMBER HEARD: "I am not a one-note person"
Amber Heard talks about the American Dream, turtles, and why it's hard being a woman in Hollywood.
Q&A with AMBER HEARD: "I am not a one-note person"
She was hunted in All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, possessed in Zombieland and raped in North Country. Yet sharing the big screen with superstars like Jesse Eisenberg, Nicholas Cage and Seth Rogen (in Pineapple Express, for which she received the 2008 Young Hollywood Award) isn’t daunting for Amber Heard. The Friday Night Lights actress has created quite the name for herself, even co-producing a horror-mystery And Soon the Darkness. Now she’s swimming naked in the ocean as Chenault, a sexy socialite stuck in a materialistic world. She stars opposite Johnny Depp in The Rum Diary, a film based on Hunter S. Thompson’s novel about journalist Paul Kemp. And next year, Heard will star in Syrup, a film about young people viciously clawing their way through the corporate world.
City Paper: How did you prepare for the role of Chenault?
Amber Heard: I did a lot of research on what was going on at that time, what Hunter S. Thompson was living through, and how those around him affected him. There’s a wonderful biography on him that I read, which was very helpful. I’ve also been a Thompson fan for a long time. I’ve read the book before and loved it. So with all of that, I came into the movie as prepared — and yet as open — as I could to be.
CP: What drew you to your character?
AH: I decided to audition for Chenault because it was a project that I believed in, a message that I supported, a novel that I loved, written by an artist I immensely respected, going to be a movie directed by a director I loved, to play opposite one of the best actors alive, and to be in a beautiful place like Puerto Rico. I did it for every reason. And it didn’t hurt that my character gave me room to build as an artist a real character. I always struggle to find three-dimensional roles for women who are just beautiful or sexy and nothing else. The opportunity to really be able to make something out of a blank canvas was interesting. My character appears — at surface level — to be the archetype for the ’50-’60s trophy fiancée. She’s very much a member of this elite class who came to Puerto Rico and saw the beautiful beach and just saw money. She and Sanderson (Aaron Eckhart) are very much a part of this system but are also imprisoned by it. She’s in a gilded cage. She’s a commodity that men like Sanderson seek to own. On the surface, she’s the icon of the American Dream, like the Corvette, yet there’s much more to her. She is flawed and slightly broken and troubled on the inside, but also fiercely intelligent and independent and rebellious. In many ways, she’s the opposite of what she looks.
CP: Do you think Chenault is the embodiment of American Dream because people like Sanderson ascribe that to her, or do they worship her because she was already like that?
AH: I think it’s both, one feeds into the other, it’s a cycle. People like Sanderson aren’t forcing any other characters to be one way or another. I believe that Chenault came from a wealthy dad and is expected to marry a wealthy man. The problem is that that lifestyle doesn’t make her happy as we meet her, and in her rebellious nature she learns that there’s a whole lot more to life.
CP: What is it about Kemp (Johnny Depp) that makes him so attractive to Chenault?
AH: Well, Kemp represents the antithesis of Sanderson. She’s attracted to him because he’s everything you can’t buy. Who wouldn’t fall for that? And it’s Johnny Depp. He’s easy on the eyes.
CP: Any funny moments on set that you can share?
AH: There’s a lot. It’s an absurd situation to be in. It’s been a wonderfully wild ride that fortunately has translated into film.
CP: You’ve been in stoner-slapstick movies like Zombieland and Pineapple Express, as well as more serious films like North Country. What do you look for in a screenplay?
AH: The character. I like to do everything. I am not a one-note person. I am a complex, very complicated woman and as an artist, I love making characters come to life. So I hope each one of my parts in each one of my movies are vastly different from each other. I wouldn’t be doing my job the way I want to if I was doing the same kind of stuff. I’m a shape-shifter [giggles], and I like it.
CP: In most of your films, you’ve played the protagonist’s love interest. Would you like to dabble in other types of roles?
AH: Yes! I’d love to play the antagonist, not the love interest. It’s sad for a woman: All the opportunities are wrapped up in being a love interest. If you fit into a category as beautiful, sexy or cute, then you’re going to be the love interest with a romantic responsibility. It’s frustrating for me because there’s a whole lot more to me as a person than what I’m interested in romantically. I’m capable of much more as a performer. Who I am with does not define me — on or off camera — so for me to be a love interest, it is sometimes frustrating. Yet it’s hard in Hollywood to find the roles that don’t hinge on the fact that you are a love interest. As a woman, I have a responsibility to try and change that through the projects I work on, and I challenge those assumptions. As women, we must get sick of the way we’re seen on film, romantic or not. The latter affords a much wider range of qualities and attributes that is much more fun to play and expound upon. It’s a shame that if you fit into the former category, you’re not allowed into those other things.
CP: Can you talk about your character Six in the upcoming film Syrup?
AH: Six is a cutthroat, fast-talking, no-B.S. type of gal … in very many ways an antagonist. Although I don’t believe anyone is just one way or another in real life. So I strive to protect the integrity of that third dimension that won’t allow us to assess someone as fully antagonist or protagonist. She’s fierce, intelligent, confident and strong. I know people will watch it and label her as a bitch, and the problem is that we do that if a woman is all of those things. But I hope that this movie will challenge. People will fall into the trap, but then they will find it hard to commit to that label since Six is more complex than that. That’s why I like playing her.
CP: Do you have any regrets regarding your professional career?
AH: I have not been proud of every project I’ve done, but I’ve had no regrets. Each one has given me the experience, the opportunity and the power to either move forward in my career.
CP: If you weren’t an actress, what would you be doing today?
AH: That’s a wonderful question. I am a producer and I would love to continue to produce. If I was not in this industry at all, I would probably be working in the political sphere. Journalism, perhaps.
CP: A song that has been stuck in your head for the past week?
AH: [Laughs] Keith Richards and Johnny played at the after party of The Rum Diary première, so I’ve had their music in my head.
CP: Last question. This is a serious one. Do you think bejeweling Sanderson’s turtle shell should be considered animal abuse?
AH: [With a straight face] I don’t. In fact, the turtle told me that it complements its skin tone [chuckles]. Actually, I think that the turtle is Chenault.
Read Anna Pan's review of The Rum Diary at citypaper.net/movies.
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